Are You Looking For Agricultural Land For Sale?

Well, the term farming includes a wide range of agricultural production. So if you say that you want to start farming, there are a few things that you need to consider before that. There are a lot of people who plan to switch to farming from a mundane 9 to 5 job but what they need to realize is that there will be an equal amount of hard work that you would need to put it.
Before looking for agricultural land for sale, you need to decide on which part of the country you would like your farm in. this will in turn depend upon what kind of crop you would like to produce; for instance, whether you would want a dairy farm, a ranch or plain organic farming.
The thing that you need to figure out is how much you would like to produce on a yearly basis. This will help you to have a clear idea about the size of your farm and how much of it you would like to reserve for the animals and how much for the farming itself. For this, you have to analyze the quality of the soil. If the ph content of the soil is extremely low, then you have to put in a lot of effort to bring back the balance. Different kinds of fertilizers and manures would enable you to do just that.
If you live in the city or the suburbs, the suburban countries that surround the metropolis are a good place to look into as far as agricultural land for sale is concerned. While you are location hunting, you need to check whether there is enough water available in the particular area. Also try to find out if there has been any flood in the region. A flood can be disastrous for agricultural land. If you planning to sell your farm produce in the market, kindly check the proximity of your land from the target market.
In case you are finding it extremely difficult to find an agricultural land for sale, consider hiring the services of real estate agents. They specialize in this area and will be able to help you find some of the best lands.
For superior quality agricultural land for sale, visit Dalhart Real Estate. These guys have a lot of experience in the subject and they will make sure that your search ends at their website.
Agricultural Land For Sale - Whether you are looking for dairy farms & agricultural land for sale, Dalhart Real Estate will provide you a finest agricultural land & farm properties in the northwest Texas panhandle.

Stone Homes - The Environmentally Friendly and Aesthetic Habitat

Stone houses are environment friendly structures that display an aesthetic sense of its owner. Easily available, stone can be considered as one of the most durable construction materials with a wide range of texture options.
In ancient times, various civilizations made use of stone to build their houses. This was because stone was probably the only available building material excluding mud and trees. Even in the modern era, eco-friendly houses have gained immense popularity because of their magnificent properties. Houses constructed with the help of stones are capable enough to resist fire, wind, water as well as various insects including termites.
Some stone houses provide a natural, unique appearance that reminds one of the European castles.
To avail the maximum benefits of these artistic constructions, it is suggested to use durable stones such as granite and avoid stones the wear down over time, such as limestone. Furthermore, purchasing of previously chopped stone is a wiser alternate to escape from the time consuming and laborious phase of stone cutting. However, the top suited stone for home construction is one, which is available in the respective local area so that transportation does not become an issue.
Sustainability and durability adds an extra spark to the elegance of these stone homes without costing much for maintenance and care. There are many historical examples to speak about sustainability of simple yet graceful stone houses where they have witnessed many centuries.
Pyramids, made up of stone, attributed to be a one of the beautiful creators, across the world, are best examples to display stone's strength. Various historical stone buildings, especially constructed following the European-style stone houses have been around for thousand years and will probably remain the same for centuries.
Beside environmentally friendly abilities, stone homes also deserve a round of applause for their natural beauty that does not demand any painting or siding. In addition, the stone homes are comfortable nests and if constructed with passive solar design, they have ability to store heat within its walls. The absorbed heat is likely to radiate throughout the house, all night, creating a cozy and warm environment for the users. Above all stone homes are easy to clean and can be washed with simple water.
Proper planning as well as availability of a construction expert plays an important role to maximize stone home benefits. Furthermore, it is crucial to choose a quality stone along with proper technique to assemble them. It can be seriously harmful to choose an inferior quality stone that is not strong enough to support the required weight.
In spite of an array of benefits, the stone home owner also faces some difficulties with them. Customization is one such issue. For older homes, replacement of stones may present a particular challenge.
Some expensive stones, commonly used for flooring, including tiles may be cold and very hard under foot. It's not recommended to use softer stones because they are prone to strains, moisture and scratches.
All in all, however, the owners of stone homes are generally happy with the strength, durability, security, energy savings, environmental soundness and natural beauty of these structures.

Are PassivHaus' The Way Forward To Zero Carbon?

Passive houses are a German design but can have a British location with a tropical climate, how is this possible? Because PassivHaus' are super efficient and their construction makes for warmer homes which translates into lower energy bills for the homeowner. Sounds too good to be true doesn't it. So if a PassivHaus offers this why aren't all new builds built this way?
Passive houses, as they are known in the UK, were designed in Germany in the 1990's by the PassivHaus Institute. Since then more than 30,000 homes, schools and offices have been built to their standard, although most of the builds have been in Germany and Austria. One of the first certified PassivHaus' in the UK was a three bedroom house in Denby Dale, Yorkshire and was completed in May 2010. The owner of the house says that it is as easy to run as any house as the technology is in the building of it. The PassivHaus is ideal for new builds as the high levels of energy efficiency are embedded into the house when it is being built. The end product is a house which uses 90% less energy than a standard house. The owners admit that the only big difference between their house and a normal one is the bills.
The first gas bill that the couple had for the house was just £26 for the quarter and the electric bill was even lower at £17. Compare these bills to the couple's last ones when they lived in a 300 year old terraced house where their bills were £1,800 a year and you can really notice the difference, as the owner said the difference was "phenomenal".
So what sets a Passive House apart from a typical eco-house which is becoming popular now? A PassiveHouse has no obvious green giveaways as it is the invisible components of the house that make it green. A PassivHaus works like a tea cosy, wrapping the house in continuous insulation rather than just the loft and walls. The company also insists on stringent levels of air tightness to create minimal thermal bridging or "the tea cosy effect". Like other eco houses a PassivHaus is designed to optimise the heat generated from the sun and they also have a MVHR system installed. This system provides the house with fresh air and helps to warm it by recovering heat from the extracted air and transferring it to the incoming air. Heat from inside the house, generated from humans or cooking etc. . is then retained within the building. Therefore this means that the house needs very little heating or air conditioning.
The owner of the house said that when the house was being built he visited it at night, it was -14C in the garden but the house was 10C. The Denby Dale PassivHaus is a pioneering project as there was, at the time, nothing similar in the UK. They visited ones in Austria instead and found them modern and light. It is possible to import them from Germany but builders over here are not familiar with erecting them and planning can be an issue. So the house was built locally with the stone from the builder's yard up the road and this house has cavity walls so it is like a traditional British house but with a Passive twist. The budget was £141,000, which proves those eco houses are not just for the wealthy. They have been tried and tested for twenty years and have proven methodology in achieving low energy buildings.

So What Is a Passivhaus Exactly?

Passivhaus is a term we are all likely to hear more often as we become ever more focused on energy efficiency. As you might have guessed from the spelling Passivehaus has its origins in Germany being part of the countries building standards. Any house meeting the standard will have been built to take advantage of the sun's heat and any other freely available source - including people, household appliances and regular fresh-air. One of the main factors which help to reduce the need for traditional heating is super high degrees of insulation as well as air tight windows and doors. The entire fabric of the house, including floors and walls, work by storing heat to help maintain warmth in winter. The addition of Solar panels and heat pumps may also play a part in supplying efficient forms of heat.
The main aim of a Passive House is to have low impact on the environment and as such will usually require around 75% less heating than a regular home. Although build costs can be up to 8% greater than a normal build the big benefit is obviously the savings the homeowner can make on fuel bills. On top of this the owner can also be fairly smug about their carbon output.
Air quality is usually controlled through mechanical means and heat recovery systems. For anyone who loves to be warm this is undeniably the house for you as temperatures are maintained at a constant level. Dust and pollen particles are filtered out of the air which is an added bonus to anyone who suffers from related allergies.
Adhering to the standards can be tough. Anyone keen on building a Passive House will need to consider the design and layout from the beginning. Planning permission will need to allow for large south facing windows and ventilation etc, so the right plot of land is essential. Consideration should also be given to internal lighting, appliances and any other energy demanding equipment you intend using in the house. When choosing an architect look for someone who understands the Passivhaus Planning Package (PHPP). This will enable the architect to gauge energy performance at the design phase. Ultimately you will need to have the house certified by the Passivhaus Institute, the BRE or the Scottish Passive House Centre so getting the design right is essential.
There's a lot to go though before you sell up and call in the removals company. Ignoring extra build costs, the Passive House philosophy has to be the logical position for all new home builders to aspire. Once you've considered the long term benefits, especially in such a windblown island as the UK, to build anything less is to build a house which effectively leaks heat. The Passive House is almost the exact opposite to a heating leaking house. By concentrating on minimising heat loss the need to constantly pump more heat into the house is virtually eliminated. Granted, all those tight fitting doors and windows and super efficient insulation don't come cheap, but it's exciting to think that technology can now deliver a much smarter home as well a more comfortable one.

Building A Luxury Eco-Friendly Home

It seems that the affluent "eco worriers" are helping the self build market boom. Programmes such as Grand Designs have had an impact on the self build market which is witnessing the luxury end of the self build market growing faster than ever before. It seems that the Waitrose generation, who are being classed as the well off eco worriers, are looking for their dream plot so that they can build their dream home.
Typically it is 20% to 30% cheaper to build your home rather than buy it ready-made, this creates a premium once the house is completed. Sometimes the premium is a lot higher than the self builder originally thought. One such example is Warwick Raymen who runs a glazing firm. He bought 12 acres of land in Croydon, Cambridgeshire so that he could build an eco-friendly farm house. The cost of the land was £590,000 and the cost to build the house was around £300,000. However the end value of the farmhouse is an astonishing £1.25million which is an uplift of 40% more than the entire cost.
A self builder also pays less tax because if you buy a home you have to pay stamp duty on the value of the house. However if you build one then you only pay the duty on the value of the land if the land cost more than £125,000. If the land cost you less than £125,000 then you do not pay anything. In terms of the building materials that you use throughout the build, you can also claim the VAT back on them.
For some of these self builders money is no object especially if their plot involves demolishing an existing house to build again. Because there are a shortage of premium plots, especially in places like London, buying an existing house only to demolish it and start again is becoming increasingly popular. However doing it this way is not really eco-friendly. Other options are previously commercial or light industrial sites as you can find these sites in residential areas such as London. The only hurdle is getting the local planning authority to change the use of the site.
Mortgage companies are lending to self builders. Property developers may be finding it harder in this economic climate but if you are building the house as a family home then you can get finance. Some facts around the self build market are:-
£220,000 is the average cost of a self build project in the UK, so your eco-friendly home may be within your reach and is not just for the really rich.
In the coming few years the self build market is expected to double in size.
There are more than 20,000 homes built every year in the UK as self build projects.

Codes for Sustainable Homes

The Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG) launched the Code for Sustainable Homes on 13th December 2006. They are a national standard when constructing new homes so that sustainable design can be incorporated. The whole home is measured through the Code and it assesses its sustainability through nine separate categories.
1. Energy/CO2
2. Health and Well-Being
3. Water
4. Pollution
5. Materials
6. Water
7. Management
8. Ecology
9. Surface water run-off.
The Code intends to signal how Building Regulations will be directed in the future in regards to home carbon emissions and energy use. The Codes are rated between 1 to 6 star rating and it shows the overall sustainability rating of any new home. Minimum standards are set in regards to energy and water use and allow both builders and homeowners' access to valuable information in terms of sustainability.
The Code Levels for energy efficiency are:-
· Code Level 1= 10%
· 2= 18%
· 3= 25%
· 4= 44%
· 5= 100%
· 6= Zero Carbon
Guidance for solutions to meeting the energy efficiency requirements for level 3 and above are below:
As of 2010 code levels 1 and 2 were made redundant as the Code Level 3 was made mandatory for new builds in both the public and private sectors, this includes both house and flats. Code Levels of 4 and above are voluntary but in the future increases in each step will take place, some landowners and agents are already selling certain sites asking for a certain Code Level. All new homes need to have an Energy Performance Certificate so a new home will have a rating against the Code anyway. This gives builders and developers an incentive to reach higher ratings. If no assessment is done on the new build then the new build is given a zero rating.
Many Housing Associations now require a Code Level 4 as a minimum standard for their houses, the reason that they require a high level is that the end product is suited to their tenants. Energy efficient homes will not only be kinder to the environment but more importantly for their tenants they will have low energy bills.

What Is a Passive House?

Passive houses are very well insulated, virtually airtight, buildings which minimize energy loss and improve occupant comfort. Passive house design considers the entire life-cycle of the building and uses a variety of 'passive' building solutions to eliminate conventional 'active' technologies that consume wasteful fossil fuels.
Passive Solar Design
Passive solar design is specifically used to exploit free energy from the sun, to provide warmth. A passive house is orientated so that large south facing windows absorb energy from the sun. The rooms are laid out so that the solar heat is distributed from these windows through the interior of the home. The process of capturing the solar energy is considered to be 'passive', since the building does not generate the energy itself. The heat energy comes from a natural source and is not generated exclusively by artificial means.
Provide Thermal Mass
Passive house buildings can be constructed from either dense or lightweight materials. In the case of lightweight construction, like timber frame, some internal thermal mass is incorporated. Thermal mass allows dense construction materials, typically concrete, stone, brick or tile, to store the free heat. During the day, when external temperatures are highest, a large thermal mass inside the insulated envelope will absorb the sun's heat. When the external temperature cools down in the evening, the thermal mass will naturally radiate that absorbed heat throughout the rooms.
Install Super Insulation
Insulating the building envelope is one of the most important passive house measures as it has the greatest impact on energy expenditure. In the average house, well considered and expertly installed insulation can reduce the amount of heat lost through the building envelope, by at least half. In addition, a high standard of thermal insulation will considerably improve thermal comfort for the building occupants.
Make the Building Airtight
Effective airtightness is another important contributor to passive house design. Warm air leaking from the building is a major cause of heat loss, which results in wasted energy. Improving the building's airtightness reduces the uncontrolled air flow through gaps and cracks in the building fabric and must be addressed by the designer early in the planning process.
Fit Triple Glazed Windows
High performance windows are a key contributor to the overall efficiency of the building envelope, as they are manufactured to deliver high thermal values. In passive house buildings, it is usual to combine triple-pane insulated glazing, low emissivity (low-E) glass and argon or krypton filled air gaps. Expertly designed and installed triple glazed windows will significantly reduce energy usage and improve occupant comfort.
Make Use of Waste Heat
In addition to using passive solar heating, passive houses make use of the waste heat from lighting, domestic appliances like refrigerators and washing machines, and the body-heat from the occupants of the building.
Install Heat Recovery Ventilation
Heat recovery ventilation is the process of exchanging heat energy contained in the air which is extracted from a house and transferring it to the incoming replacement air. This system can comprise either a central extract system or individual room fans. Although this ventilation method is an 'active' technology, using a small amount of electricity, it is considered to be a worthwhile contributor to energy saving. It provides the building with essential fresh air, improves occupant comfort and conserves the building's heat.
Fit Renewable Energy Heating
An underlying objective of solar passive design is the desire to dispense with conventional heating systems altogether. It is usually necessary to provide some supplementary space heating to maintain comfortable conditions on particularly cold winter days. Often this can be achieved via the low volume heat recovery ventilation system that is provided to maintain air quality. As an alternative to this, a renewable energy technology like a wood burning stove, solar heating, air source heat pumps or ground source heat pumps, may be preferred.

Eco-Friendly, Green Home in Florida

Florida Green Building Coalition and Green Home in Florida
Many of us have recently been hearing about growth in a few areas of our economy. For example: social media and on-line shopping are growing and there are predictions that tourism and travel are going to take off. Prognosticators are forecasting an elevated demand in the market for "Green Homes." It is intriguing, not because "Green Homes" deliver great lifestyle for Americans, but surprising simply because it is taking place so quickly. The time has arrived! I will do my best to present what every future owner of "Green Homes" should know as we enter a new era of eco-friendly homes.
Now, what exactly is a "Green" Home?
A Green home is typically designed to be eco-friendly, ingesting less water, using renewable materials, generating less waste, being energy-efficient, and delivering healthy livable space for homeowners. Owning a Green Home possesses both tangible and intangible benefits.
Tangible benefits:
• Savings in Energy: 50 - 70 %
• Savings in Water: 30 - 50%
Intangible benefits:
• Enhancing air quality
• Health and well-being of the residents
• Conservation of scarce of national resources
• Effective waste management
• Day lighting
• Enhancing marketability of the project.
What's the Florida Green Home market offering today?
Well, the quickest answer is, not too much. There are a few construction companies that are offering certified green homes to a marketplace, which is definitely considered to be a good niche. Many builders and landscapers are using selected "green" features, such as solar panels, energy-efficient lighting, waste water treatments, landscaping designs, etc. Even though all these are all welcome improvements, simply contributing a few eco-friendly features is not enough for a home to be considered "GREEN". We might call it eco-conscious, but it cannot be certified as "green" on these criteria alone.
Any homebuyer looking for a Green home ought to realize that there is a lot of "green washing" in the market. Nearly every single builder these days promises he "builds green" by demonstrating few of eco-friendly features. However, in reality, very few builders perform due diligence, with respect to protecting the environment, prior to marketing their project. There are virtually no checks and balances on the life-cycle of building materials, whether or not the design and style of the house is energy-efficient, the level of chemical contaminants being released into the environment during construction, and what is the actual durability of the building and all systems in it. This approach may sound confusing for a home buyer, however it doesn't have to be.
What are the requirements for being certified "Green"?
A holistic perspective is needed when preparing for the construction of an eco-friendly home. Besides being energy-efficient, the builder must ensure that there is negligible disruption to the home site. In addition, it also should provide excellent indoor eco-friendly quality for its residents. When buying or constructing eco-friendly homes it is beneficial to verify that the project is actually CERTIFIED GREEN.
Nowadays, virtually any developer and every private homeowner has the option of having their project Certified Green. These certifications are providing home buyers with information of how "green" the Green Home really is. There is an organization in Florida that currently offers such a certification, the Florida Green Building Coalition (FGBC). In accordance to the FGBC, every "green" homebuilder needs to cut down the burden on the natural environment and increase value of the home via a voluntary Florida Green Home designation. The purpose of the FGBC is to provide each builder/developer with the guidance and tools required to become a Florida "warm and friendly" builder.
The FGBC has developed a rating system which draws from the LEED green building rating system for every type of development. The FGBC rates green homes Silver, Gold, or Platinum Certified based on the greenness of the building. As the name indicates, Platinum is regarded as the peak of efficiency, health, comfort and quality. Such a qualification is practically impossible to achieve without having the holistic approach previously mentioned. This approach is a win-win for both the developer and the buyer.
* For the homebuilder such a rating may well improve the marketability of his/her project.
* For the homebuyer it will provide a specific assurance of good quality for his/her investment.
What should the homebuyer know before investing?
Despite the increased cost and planning involved in the construction of a certified green home, the benefits far outweigh the initial difficulties. Acquiring such a certification involves an incredible amount of study, planning, focus on detail, and persistence. Green home plans involve extended designing time to make sure that the final package is the most energy-efficient possible. Hence, it is natural that builders may charge a little bit extra for a green home, in comparison with a conventional one. It is essential for the homebuyers to understand that this type of certification contains a certain premium linked to it. A homebuyer should expect to invest from 6% to 15% extra initially. Considering a home as longterm investment, every homebuyer should realize that this preliminary cost will pay for itself in spades, via savings on water and energy costs, increased durability, improved productivity, and superiority of waste management. The resulting minimization of impact on the environment and decreased CO2 pollutants are simply the "cherry on a cake" of owning a Green Home.

Cordwood Houses - A Green Alternative

Cordwood masonry construction consists of taking uniform lengths of wood and stacking them to form some sort of wall held together by masonry. It's really that simple, but there are lots of variations.
The name "cordwood"comes from the material: uniform lengths of wood like the sort you'd find in a firewood stack, which, of course, is measured in "cords" and hence sometimes called "cordwood". The technique is also called "stackwall"construction or "stovewood" construction.
The pieces of wood are stacked just as you would stack a pile of firewood, except that with each course you lay down two parallel lines of mortar along the outside edges of the stack. The mortar is roughly 4"wide. If you're using 24" long pieces of wood you end up with a space between the mortar, inside the wall space, of about 16". This should be filled with some sort of insulation. You can use fibreglass, rockwool, sawdust or just about anything else that will restrict air flow and heat loss. If you're going off grid and trying to be low impact get creative.
If you're building in a remote area with little manpower remember: getting a 10" thick 15 foot log can be pretty tough. Ropes, planks, pulleys and extra hands can help you accomplish it, but if you've only got one or two people imagine how much easier it is to build the same 15' long wall with 16" pieces.
Before you begin building you need to collect materials. You will need a source of wood rounds, some sort of mortaring materials (cement, lime, sand, sawdust and paper can be used, but other materials will work as well). If you're able to, do yourself a favour and get a small cement mixer. You'll also need some lumber to frame windows and doors, and you'll need some sort of structure for the roof. If you can acquire whatever windows and doors you're going to use, all the better, as you'll be able to frame the rough in holes properly.
The wood should be dry, and de-barked. Remember that cutting, stripping and drying the wood to optimum conditions could be a three year project. Also remember that you can build with green wood if utilitarian shelter is the goal (you can build the cordwood mansion once you're established)
Like all building, you need to start with a foundation. The type of foundation depends on where you're building. Something that's going to be inspected and has to meet a building code will almost certainly require some concrete work, even if only sono-tube piers. A more remote area will allow you more flexibility. In fact, in a very remote area it would be feasible to dig a shallow trench along the perimeter of the building and fill it with rocks a few inches higher than grade level, and then start building the wall on top (the key in this sort of environment is to get past vegetative soil and into mineral soil - sand, gravel or hardpan - which won't deteriorate and move after you've built on it. A rock filled trench will not transfer moisture above the water line.
You could also right on rock, if a large enough space is available, or construct a frame of timbers or logs laid on top of large rocks. Keep an eye on drainage, and remember that you can build a level interior floor afterwards, whether of wood or fill.
Once you have the foundation you can begin building the walls. Walls run from corner to corner, corner to an intersection with another wall, or between two intersections. Corners and intersections are structural opportunities. If you've created a frame of large timbers your structure should be solid before you start filling in the space. If you aren't using a timber frame you'll have to figure out how to tie corners and wall intersections together. It's possible to create interlocking corners, log cabin style, with lengths of wood long enough to be structural but small enough for one person to handle and place.
The walls can consist strictly of log rounds, of split rounds or a combination of the two. Placement of each piece of cordwood can be random or planned, in order to accomplish a tight fit and an eye pleasing design.
Doors and windows start by placing a frame on the wall at the lowest level of the opening, and then stacking and mortaring the cordwood to the side and then over the top of the frame. The frame can be temporary, and removed once the wall has set, or it can be the permanent frame to which the doors and windows get attached.
Thickness of the walls depends on climate. In warm areas thinner walls are acceptable, but the further north you go the thicker you need to make the walls. In some parts of Canada a two wall system (one exterior and one interior) are sometimes used.
The style of roof depends on personal taste, location, the environment and the structure. If snowload is high it makes sense to use a steep roof, if water collection is part of the plan then different materials will be needed, and a large roof are will need a string structure to keep it up. One common characteristic, however, is big overhangs. The less weather touches the walls, the better. Make it a minimum of 16 inches.
Roofing material can be almost anything. There are tin roofed cordwood homes, as well as earthen roofed ones. Again, creativity, strength, safety and low impact are the goals. There are many solutions available.
Cordwood home technology has been around at least 1,000 years, and probably longer. They can be very affordable to build, and can be built by one person if need be. As such, they are an excellent option for someone going off grid.

Green Roof Benefits

Progressive modern times and advances in home building technology and materials have shifted attention to the many advantages of having a green roof installed on your home. Why should homeowners consider this alternative to regular roofing? Read on to find out the many benefits of having a green roof for your home.
There are many beneficial relationships for the environment and the home owners when it comes to installing a green roof, or a vegetative roof. Ecologically, working with nature instead of against it is always a better option. The developmental impacts of construction and building could be reduced through the natural design of a vegetative roof. In urban environments where concrete covers nearly every ground area, there is not much nature left in the environment, or any porous surface left. Green Roofs increase and help restore the ecological settings of an urban open space, especially in dense communities. The greater the roof space, the greater the ecological advantage. This is due to the innate nature of a green roof to act as an effective storm water management system.
The loss of nature and green spaces in our urban living environments can be significantly reduced if more and more buildings and homes install green roofs. Nearly any horizontal surface, like roofs can be transformed into a vegetated roof, which can be used to grow many lucrative plants. It's like having your own self sufficient garden on your own roof!
There are many economic gains in installing rooftop gardens. Investing in this type of roof will reap many biological benefits, not to mention a more durable, energy saving, better insulated, and sustainable building materials being utilized. On a daily basis, the area on top of your roof was being wasted and unused, whereas a green roof opens up the space into a more livable, breathable, usable environment and space.
Psychologically, humans have the tendency to perform at peak mental capacities when surrounded by natural beauty and diversity, and being surrounded or exposed to natural landscapes and gardens. Tending to an intensive rooftop gardens has the power of calming and de-stressing, and also acts as a leisure activity. Incorporating ecological design into our homes creates a more aesthetically pleasing space and provides greater visual appeal.
Insurance companies also offer insurance rate reductions, some companies up to 33% for installing green roofs. The promotion of green roofing systems and green building technologies has never been so prevalent and researched, with new strides in sustainable building, there are many incentives to alternative green building practices, of which can save you money on your home insurance plan, increase your health, save you money, and contribute to a healthy green environment. The green industry is well on its way, and the day dense cities adopt green roof building practices, will have the greatest environmental impact. Hong Kong and Vancouver have already greatly explored this alternative, and soon major cities will follow suit. More resistant and sustainable roofing technologies will be the norm soon.
Free-lance writer with a passion for Writing and Research.
Amanda Rodriguez
Definitive Guide to Home Insurance

Top Reasons Why Green Rehabs Will Create Long Term ROI And Market Advantage

Trends in Green Real Estate Investing or Green Rehab investing are quite telling for what is to come in the future of the real estate and construction industry. Of course, not all properties are going to fit the criteria needed by investors to implement a green rehab, but there are thousands that will and having the knowledge you need to successfully pull off a green remodel will differentiate your properties on the block getting you more buyers while simultaneously producing an asset with a much higher long term ROI.
What does the future of a green rehab look like? Whether you're in commercial, residential or multi-family properties, investor's, developer's and managers are adopting greener business practices (along with the rest of the world). The drive for such behavior is based on favorable financial returns on greener buildings as energy prices begin to soar and owners realize the significant savings afforded by thoughtful sustainable design strategies and renovations.
As an investor you can cash in on the coming demand for energy efficient properties through a green rehab. The rapid wealth and economic development is driving huge growth in energy consumption and green house gas emissions, which in turn is changing the perception of lenders, developers, investors and just about all trends in the construction industry.
According to an article, "Globalization and Global Trends In Real Estate Investment", the top markets for green rehab properties are mostly concentrated in North America and European economies, although significant potential for new green construction and retrofits exists at along all parts of the world.
As I've mentioned before, one of the greatest opportunities for green building investment and green rehabs is in the United States as the stock of older inventory becomes obsolete when next to energy efficient homes saving thousands in a given year. Although the U.S. is going to see a surge in this economy, other major players in the green construction and green rehab industry will be the United Kingdom, Germany, and Japan.
So what does all this mean to you, the investor? Investors know and understand risk, as well as how to mitigate risk. One of the larger advantages to green rehabs and green construction is minimizing the risk of owning obsolete properties in the future, along with a much higher ROI for longer term strategies.
If you're not convinced that green rehabs are going to become a major contender in the real estate investing marketplace then consider the following three influencing factors which are being seen in the marketplace today and will continue to gain more traction as time progresses.
1. The Market - There is a rising interest and application for green standards in hundreds of municipalities. Through forcing new and existing building standards to a higher level, non compliant buildings will certainly depreciate relative to the new mix of green real estate.
2. Regulatory incentives and forces - We have just begun to see the influence the government has and will continue to have in the rising of renewable energy sources, tax benefits and manufacturer incentives for energy efficient measures to new and existing homes. As investors become more educated around the benefits of green investing we will see more competition begin to emerge, which is why this is your time to gain the competitive edge and become a major player in the energy efficient market place.
3. Finally, environmental concerns play a factor, although, as investors we all know this can be one of the most overlooked aspects of our profession. Sure, we all want to save the environment and produce a future for our children's children, a green and vibrant built environment, but it comes down to business. The good news is, dollar for dollar, green real estate investing and green rehabs come out on top for the right property and investment strategy.
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Construction And The Environment - Effects On Soil

Soil is definitely the mainstay of the environment, whether in its loose soft form or in the form of rock. The following are common ways in which construction activities distract the normal form of soil, thereby shaking the environmental mechanisms that the same support.
· Mining for building materials for example stone or clay for building blocks or for cement alters the normal form of the landscape. It leads to formation of derelict landscapes, most of which cannot support the normal forms of life. Open mines are also notorious for holding surface water in pools, most of which habour a different form of life.
· Blasting as is common in rock excavation destabilizes the ground, posing the dangers of earth movement like landslides. The breakage of rock enhances the rates of weathering, thereby breaking up rock even more faster.
· Mass excavation of topsoil deprives the ground of life - supporting soil stratum.
· Creation of cess pools and soak away pits for sewage disposal lead to the intoxication of soil. Treatment ponds have a similar effect.
· Activities leading to the reduction of water available, whether surface or sub surface, leads to a reduction in soil water, thereby altering its live supporting capabilities.
· Leaving open sections of soil like is common in embankment and uncovered sections exposes soil to agents of erosion, notably rain, thereby shaping the landscape as well as moving humus rich top soil from one section to the other.
· Compaction of soil, especially on a large scale and in many layers alters the normal stratification as well as penetrability by plant roots as well as percolation by water.
· Importation of alien soils of a different kind creates an inconsistency and as such a disjoint. It also creates an anomaly in the environmental patterns in the constructed area.
As noted, soil is a very crucial part of the environment and it needs to be treated with utmost care. Hampering the normal conditions of soil amounts to a distraction in the normal flow of life in the environment. Soil is perhaps among the most crucial pillars of life. It is also among the biggest victims of the activities of construction. This makes considerations on soil conservation measures in any construction works to be very carefully thought out and implemented. It is the duty of all the stakeholders involved to work together to reach the goal of minimum soil disturbance in all the construction projects they are involved in.
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What Is Sustainable Architecture?

Sustainable architecture is the idea of using environmentally conscious techniques and materials in the field of architecture. This green building and living technique is intent on creating as little waste as possible, using renewable and clean energy, and building with materials that are not damaging to living things or the earth's environment.
Energy Use
Perhaps the largest component of sustainable architecture is how energy is used to provide power for the structure that is being built. Excellent insulation is important in a structure that is built with conserving energy in mind. Passive solar energy such as that gathered from strategically placed windows is also an important component in conserving energy and using sustainable energy sources. Awnings, shades, and shutters are considered green in that they use no electricity but can serve as passive building cooling devices.
Renewable Energy
Solar panels are utilised to capture renewable energy for use in an environmentally conscious home or building. Active and passive solar hot water heaters are another component of creating sustainable and renewable energy.
While small wind turbines may also be utilized as a way of harnessing wind power to create energy, they are not useful until winds reach at least eight-miles-per hour.
Air source heat pumps act much like an air conditioner but in reverse. These pumps can absorb heat from cold outside air and deliver it to inside the home or building. Geothermal heat pumps can also utilize warmth from deep in the ground to heat a building or home.
Building materials
Sustainable building materials may include: rock, straw, bamboo, trass (a type of volcanic rock), linoleum, sustainably harvested wood, sheep wool, concrete, clay, sisal, cork, coconut, and vermiculite. Recycled materials are also an important component of sustainable architecture and may include: denim, glass, and reclaimed, or re-used, lumber. Re-used doors, windows and other recycled architectural components are also a part of sustainable architecture.
Using green building materials that create as little environmental hazard as possible is an important, these materials include cellulose insulation, organic or milk-based paints, and treating lumber with boric acid to prevent insect damage.
Waste Management
There is often also a focus on on-site waste management in terms of solid waste, building and construction waste, and on any by-products of on-site industry. Composting toilets, kitchen waste composting, and off-site recycling are all taken into account when considering green building and sustainable architecture.
Sustainable architecture is a multi-faceted field of green living that continues to grow as more people become environmentally conscious.
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Smart Buildings - Living Green in a Big Way

How to live green, find green materials, and go green.
Smart Buildings
In recent years we have heard more and more about how we need to live green, go green with the products we use, and of course build with green materials. In our series of Green Articles, you will read much about Smart Systems, or Integrated Systems in the "Intelligent" Buildings or "Smart" Buildings. What are they, and who is building them?
Intelligent or Smart Buildings (referred to as SB's hereafter) are basically any building that has incorporated streamline operations which deliver better service to their end users. Many would call this a "Smart System". This system will help you live green in many ways.
A decade or two ago, you may have immediately thought of the Jetson's when confronted with the idea, that an elevator could sense you without even touching the button. Or that anyone could program their lights to turn on from down the street, or Internet service would be called Wi-Fi and be hard wired into your apartment building. Look how far we have come today.
One example of an SB is One American Plaza in San Diego, California. The Broadband infrastructure alone in this building affords free Wi-Fi, Tablet PCs and PDAs, to each tenant, and adds to a higher quality service.
Many building owners and developers want to live green, or go green, and they are located in North America and overseas. They are coming to the realization that to compete, they must change, and develop the SB's of the future too. They must use green materials in every step of the building process.
SB's are not built on the same design, construction, and operation process of the past either. The approach needed for the successful development of "intelligent buildings" requires innovative strategies and usually consist of a team of Developers and Architects to incorporate their ideas into reality.
While there is no actual definition for an Intelligent building, or Smart Building, they do have several things in common with each other.
They integrate distinct systems which can be controlled by a centralized common user interface such as a Computer. Every part of the building communications system is a shared network throughout the structure. The high-performance systems of these buildings require that the building owners, and/or property and facility management, are highly trained professionals who understand this technology. This benefits the end-users.
These buildings have a capacity built in, that will maximize its own performance and efficiency. This is accomplished by integrating all systems such as lighting, HVAC, safety, power management, security (access control, video surveillance, and visitor management), seismic and structural monitoring, environmental conditions, including temperature, air flow, and air chemistry and more into one centrally controlled system.
The technology is likened to a Central Nervous System incorporating building strategies set to calculate and then alter its own performance and functions. This has an added long-term sustainable value and overall efficiency and savings to the property.
Jill Manzoni is a Freelance Writer, Web Developer, and Virtual Assistant with over a dozen internet sites of her own. She supports many awards, accommodations, and honorable mentions for her work in print and online periodicals, including the Golden Web Award, the Family Friendly Site Award, Phenomenal Women of the Web Awards, and many other awards for her service to others. Among her books on Natural Health, and Environmental issues, she is a syndicated columnist, and her essays and articles appear in print and on hundreds of internet sites.

Beyond Traditional: Home Building Goes Green

With so many eyes looking towards how to reduce the harmful effects of our population's excesses on our planet, many people are looking for ways to go green in every aspect of their life. This also extends to the types of homes that are now being built. While traditional site built homes involve wood, stucco and/or brick, homeowners and builders alike are getting more creative by using less traditional home building items, such as one home here in the South made out of straw bale. No, it's not owned by one of the three little pigs. In fact, the goal is to be less of a pig when it comes to the environment.

This little straw house was designed much like any traditional home. It has standard doors, windows and, of course, a roof. But the walls themselves were created out of straw bales (the remnants of grain harvesting) and a stucco mixture of sand, dirt and pigment (for color). It took approximately 240 bales to create this 1900 square foot home. And the homeowner has seen a significant savings in energy costs within just the past year of living in it.

A traditionally built home's walls are only about 6 inches thick. However, a straw bale is 18-23 inches thick and solid. This helps regulate the temperature of the home, keeping it warm in the winter and cooler in the summer. The positioning of the home also helped keep energy costs down. By placing the side with large windows pointed to the south and using a ceiling fan to move the air around, the straw home was able to maintain a comfortable temperature inside (69 to 74 degrees Fahrenheit) even when temperatures dipped to 54 or soared to 95 outside. This allowed them to spend a grand total of around $500 on their utilities for the whole of last year.

While hay may be for horses, straw is definitely great for houses. I don't see the Big Bad Wolf coming around and blowing this one down anytime soon either. Recycling is a great start to helping our planet, but we have to think much broader. Owning a home is an important part of so many people's lives. Finding new and interesting ways to re purpose used articles as building materials or finding natural alternatives like this straw house can save us money while also helping save our planet. It's a win-win situation for everyone!

Affordable Green Homes

Green homes are made affordable in two different ways. The purchase price of the home itself can be affordable for most middle class families, and even people looking to buy their first house. The other way green homes are made to be affordable is the actual cost of living after you move in and purchase one of these very well built houses. When people buy a house that is meant to save them on energy costs, it will lower the impact on the environment that you will have as you live in your home, and it will significantly lower the amount of money spent each month on your bills.
The average price for a green home is 250,000. This makes these types of homes accessible to nearly every income bracket out there. Energy efficient homes can start as low as 140,000, making it a perfect option for a first time home buyer. Some of the green homes available can have a price tag close to the half a million dollar range, which is appealing to families that need a larger home, but still take advantage of all the positives and savings of a green home.
The other major selling perk of a green home that makes it very affordable is the fact that your monthly bills for energy, gas, and water will be much less per square foot than a traditionally built home. This can allow someone to live in a larger house but with the same monthly cost, or simply save money overall because you are receiving these savings each month.
The two major areas of energy savings when it comes to your monthly bills is derived from energy savings with your HVAC system, and savings from the way your plumbing has been installed. Your HVAC system will run less often, yet keep your house at more of a constant temperature when it is built by a green home builder. All the plumbing in your house is installed properly with no leaks, and the pipes are all situated to waste less water. Both of these systems significantly cut out wasting energy in your home which will directly translate into dollars saved.
Green homes have the special characteristic of helping out your environment and community, and also helping out the homeowner each month by not wasting energy. This makes the home very appealing for any family, and makes these types of houses very affordable overall, for nearly any income level.

Construction And The Environment - Effects On Climate

Climate change is definitely the most identifiable global concerns today. It has taken centre stage in world for and has raised many mitigative measures to counter the worrying trends. Construction is one of the contributors to climate change as can be derived from our previous examples, which are summarized below.
· Lowering of the water table, making it more difficult for plants to survive.
· Hampering with weather conditions for example by altering normal rain formation trends of a specific area.
· Clearing vegetation, reducing moisture available for rain formation.
· Reducing water available to water bodies with similar effects as above.
· Increasing water available in an area for evaporation and thus more precipitation in an area.
· Industrial and residential emissions, altering normal air conditions.
All these and more are ways in which construction activity has continually led to climate change. The conditions of an area are continually changed to form completely different ones. Some of the common direct results of these include:
· Depletion of the ozone layer, risking us to harmful radiations from the sun.
· Reduced precipitation, resulting to more cost of acquiring water.
· Increased precipitation, requiring more elaborate ways of removing excess water or even requiring project design changes.
· Reduction of food in the food chain, leading more food chain conflict and imbalances.
These are just but examples. The blatant truth is that climate change is becoming a very thorny issue and it needs to be addressed by all and sundry. All avenues available for averting this trend should be sought and followed. Key players in the construction industry ought to join hands with their counterparts, especially in the manufacturing industry, to come up with eco friendly products and procedures. Activities that lead to toxic emissions, for example, should be shunned as much as possible and if not, should be put at a minimum. Buildings should be provided with utilities that lead to less wastage, for example by reusing some materials. The issue of cost and value should be clearly addressed to make sure that the better advantage goes to the environment as opposed to the developer alone. Consultations should be done to ensure that all the hurdles to environmental conservation that arise in any project are properly handled at the earliest opportune moment.
It is always important to remember that our climate determines just how easy our tomorrow will be. It thus calls for all that are involved to put into consideration the idea of continuity in the construction project at hand.
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Reducing Our Energy Consumption at Home

Now more than ever before the world is becoming more and more cautious about the effect we have on the earth. Consumers are staring to take advantages of the benefits of being green. Simple changes to your home not only benefit the planet, they also benefit our health and wallets too. On a month to month basis people who live in green homes use less water and energy compared to a standard home. They also spend less money on maintenance. Green homes tend to be more durable due to the construction process and higher quality materials.

In Canada, 17% of all energy goes to running our homes and, here in Calgary, 30% of our use is from household electrical consumption. Additionally, the average household in Calgary is using 8% more energy today than it did in 2005.

Green homes can use up to 40% less energy. Next to a mortgage, energy costs are the most significant household expense. Something you many not know is your plasma TV uses five times more energy then the old tube TV.

To estimate appliance consumption you can use this formula
Wattage x hours per day divided by 100 = Daily Kilowatt-hour consumption
You can usually find the wattage on the appliance, stamp on the bottom or side. Many appliances still draw electricity even when turned off; this is known as phantom load. Appliances that are known for this are stereos, computers, and televisions just to name a few. If you have older appliances you can use a device to control and reduce energy consumption. These devices control and regulate the energy delivered to the appliance. Appliance newer then 1990 may not see any benefits from this device because of their existing energy save features.

The Kitchen is an area in the home that has a lot of energy consumptions here are a few way to cut back on usage. You can save energy daily by manually chopping instead of using mixers and grinders. Small changes can make a big difference, cook meals in smaller appliances like microwave or toaster ovens. If you're shopping for a new fridge a great choose is one with the freezer on top. These models tend to be more efficient than models with the freezer on the bottom or side by sides.

We all need to do our part to conserve energy. Simple changes will not affect our daily living too much, but can have a huge impact on the future of our planet.

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Vernacular Architecture for Modern Times

With respect to architecture, the term vernacular is used to describe building designs and styles that reflect the local customs, needs, and building resources available. Since antiquity, people have learned through trial and error, the various structural concepts we often take for granted today. Vernacular architecture is the product of generations of experimentation, trial and error.
Although associated with outdated and primitive methods, the positive benefits of vernacular housing designs - even in today's ultra-modern world - are many. In fact, it is because we as a global race have advanced so much, so fast, in these very areas, that we have caused widespread depletion of resources, to the point that we have started to go back to our roots to find answers.
In our quest for new and better designs, stronger, more robust materials, and spacious, luxurious living spaces, we have all but forgotten what it has cost us. Technology and advancement in science can be a beautiful thing, but we must in our pursuit of such blessings, not forget to think further than our own short lives.
A generally recognized prerequisite for vernacular designs is the utilization of locally or regionally available resources. Another is that these resources be sustainable. These criteria ensure that needless fuel and energy isn't spent on transporting supplies and materials when they can be acquired locally, and also that the local resources aren't exhausted either.
Back before long-distance transportation of materials was viable, houses matched the resources locally available. In woody areas where there was plenty of lumber, it was common to find wooden houses. Likewise, in regions where trees and forests were scarce, indigenous peoples would opt to use mud and stone. In this way, local housing would reflect local resources.
Of course, in all things a balance is important. In today's society, convenience and quality of life play a large role, which unfortunately places us in a rather frustrating game of tug o' war with our environment - or should I say environmentalists. Even incorporating only the artistic and unique aspects of vernacular architecture is a start, and this is already being done.
The laws of physics have been around for long time, and this is proven by certain standard and uniform methods and "rules" that all structures - new and old - follow. Just because these guys didn't get a Masters in modern structural engineering, it doesn't mean their houses didn't stand. In fact, all modern knowledge is the collective experience, trial, error, and hand-me-downs of such men and women throughout history.
There is much we have learned from history, and much we can still learn. - Vernacular architecture and the simple and humble ways of our forefathers is a small part of what we can still learn.

Sustainable Architect - Making the World a Better Place to Live, One Structure at a Time

We hear the phrase sustainable architecture thrown around, but what is it? What are we sustaining? Is "GREEN" related? What are the benefits of it? What does a sustainable architect do? I wish the answer was simple, and indeed it is.
Sustainable means to build or develop in a way that will let us keep doing it for a long period of time without adverse effects. If we overuse a material that is in short supply, it could cause us irreparable problems. For example, if our construction is heavily dependent on materials that use large amounts of water in their manufacturing and are being made in a region with a short supply of water, that could be a problem. If we design a tropical garden that requires constant and large amounts of water for it's upkeep in a desert environment, that could also be a big problem.
Now that we have an ideal of what the problems are, lets take a look at how we can adjust the way we do things to be sustainable. Sustainable is not a concept that deals with individual aspects, but rather in a holistic way. If it makes common sense, it is generally sustainable. If you live in an area where masonry products are readily produced and available from local resources, it would probably make sense to use it in construction. It would also make sense to use local plants and groundcover materials instead of having them transported from China to the US. It would also make sense to use the local climate to your advantage. If you live in a cold climate, then maximizing natural solar heating through light would make sense. If you live in a very hot environment, then shading from hot sunlight would make sense to use in order to cool the structure and provide comfort and energy savings.
Sustainable also involves urban planning. Ask yourself: Would it make more sense to build a structure in a already developed area with existing roads and utilities, or perhaps even re-use an existing structure of start from scratch? Certainly most people with a functioning brain would say that starting with something is better then starting with nothing, yet we commonly see communities of so called "cookie cutter" homes which are utterly artificial and lifeless. If the development would focus on making the best with what already exists, re-using or adapting existing structures and neighborhoods, certainly the results would be amazing.
Abhay is a young entrepreneur architect with a passion for logical sustainable architecture. He would consider himself a sustainable architect, so the articles you'll read will be about sustainability. The filter that will always be used is: does it make sense? You'll find out that being sustainable absolutely does make financial sense.