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Buying Green in Sarasota: What to Look for in an Energy Friendly Home

Posted by Bill True on

NAR Green DesignationFrom Siesta Key to Casey Key and many points in between, sustainable, or "green" architecture in new home building is at the forefront of Sarasota's real estate market.

Emphasis on the protecting the natural beauty of Sarasota's Gulf Coast landscape has long been a priority. As our populace becomes more aware of the need for maintaining the pristine nature we cherish, homebuyers are demanding a higher level of "green" housing. Luckily, architects and builders are here to meet that need.

Enter LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), the organization that measures and certifies green construction using socially responsible practices that offer homeowners the opportunity to have what they want without sacrificing the environment to get it.

Within the Sarasota area, there are several architects and builders who are LEED certified. While style and substance vary, there are many similarities in the use of unique design and repurposed materials that contribute to a green home. Additionally, several cooling and heating companies pride themselves on providing options for green energy production.

Listed here are some of the elements that define a green home. We've noted them in general terms, as individual approaches to design and execution will vary among providers. These points should, however, provide a basis for a constructive dialogue, whether building new or renovating an existing home, to meet the individual's green standards.

Heating and cooling for air and water. 

Look for opportunities to use solar as opposed to electric or gas as energy sources. The home's position on the lot will either maximize the opportunities for solar application or rule it out completely. Always discuss this option with your architect and/or builder.

Passive ventilation.

In a two-story home, it's possible to use a central stairway to the second story in a way that it also becomes a conduit for natural ventilation. Window placement and architectural elements can help create an additional source of cooling and heating. Cross ventilation with operating windows has long been a feature of Sarasota homes, and was a central component of homes designed during the famed Sarasota School of Architecture era. It was a good idea then, and we're seeing that green element returning in new and remodel construction in the Sarasota area.

Solar water heaters.

Using solar to heat water within the home serves dual green purposes: to help conserve energy, of course, but also to allow for multiple sources of hot water in various areas of the home. For example, if the home has more than three bathrooms, each can be heated independently, resulting in less time for water to heat for shower or tub use, less energy expended to heat the water over a large area, and more cost savings for the Sarasota homeowner.

Heating and air conditioning systems.

Ask for units with central dehumidification, and consider heat pumps as opposed to HVAC for more energy savings in Sarasota. The recently-introduced mini-split heat pumps can be installed to cool and/or heat rooms as they are used. When not in use, energy is saved, and so are homeowner costs.

Finishing elements on walls, floors and cabinetry.

Look for green-core cabinetry, trim, paint and flooring with no added chemicals.

Florida-friendly landscaping.

Choose plants and landscape elements that are native to Sarasota. Use rocks or other architectural elements rather than expanses of green grass to beautify the landscape.

It's not difficult to make these changes to a new or existing home in a transparent manner, with the results measured in energy and cost savings, not in the integrity of design or the beauty of the home.

To gently contradict Muppet Kermit the Frog, it IS easy being green in Sarasota.

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