The term “green building” has been trending now for several years as more and more home and business owners are looking to build environmentally friendly homes to save money on cooling and heating costs and to reduce their overall carbon footprint. According to the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) in their annual 2022 Environment, Social, Governance and Resilience (ESG+R) Report, 50% of Realtors® reported helping their clients to buy or sell a home with green features in the past 12 months. The report also states that 34% of Realtors® noted rising anxiety about the effects of climate change and extreme weather events on their businesses, and 64% said that the promotion of energy-efficient features in their listings is valuable.


A green building is a building that is both environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout the lifecycle of the building design, construction, maintenance, and renovation. A green build considers the impact on the environment and quality of life of the residents. Non-hazardous, reusable, and recyclable material is used while constructing the building. It also uses renewable energy, such as solar, and efficiently utilizes energy, water, and other resources. Green buildings strive to utilize sustainable energy sources while reducing costs. Initial startup costs for going green can seem overwhelming, and even though the result of green initiatives will save money in energy costs, the upfront investment can be quite expensive. In 2021, the green building market in the U.S. was valued at $83.1 billion, a growth of 10.8% over that in 2020.


Construction is one of the most heavily regulated industries and is increasingly subject to more stringent rules about the environmental impact of constructing buildings. The World Green Building Council estimates that construction and the energy required to operate buildings account for around 40% of global carbon emissions. Green construction is increasingly a subject of concern to governments around the world and even to the United Nations. The United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has reportedly played an influential role in the growth of more environmentally friendly construction.

The benefits of building or retrofitting an ecofriendly home are significant. Green buildings help reduce the negative impacts on our environment by using fewer natural resources such as water and energy, and they utilize renewable energy sources and eco-friendly materials while reducing emissions and other waste. There are so many important benefits to having a green home, but just a few of them include:

  • Protect the environment
  • Conserve energy use
  • Better for your health
  • Saves you money

Investing in a green home may involve more upfront construction (or renovation) costs, but the benefits can make a huge difference in your bank account. The U.S. Green Building Council has found on average, eco-homes use 20-30% less energy and water than non-green homes, while some report up to 60% in savings, depending on overall energy use and location. So going green, even in small ways, means you’re not only conserving energy, but you’re also spending less money on utilities.

Florida’s per-household consumption of electricity is among the highest in the United States, mostly due to our state’s hot and humid weather, which keeps the air-conditioner running most of the year and therefore drives up our electricity demand. So, for that reason alone, it’s prudent to at least invest some time into ways to save energy in your own home.


If you’re not in the market for a new build or a complete renovation, but you would still like to go green, there are some easy options to save both energy and money. Here are a few simple tips to save money and reduce your carbon footprint:

  • Change your lightbulbs: Replace your light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs. The life cycle of the bulbs will reduce 1,663 lbs. of CO2. An individual can save more than $65 a year in energy costs. Energy-efficient bulbs use 75 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs.
  • Use Less Hot Water: Wash only a whole load of laundry and take shorter showers. The water heater is a large energy user in most homes. About 90% of the energy used to wash clothes is from water heating. This could save over 100 lbs. of CO2 per year.
  • Adjust your Thermostat: Cool your home at 78° or warmer with the thermostat fan set to “auto.”
  • Clean Air Conditioning Filters: Clean your A/C filters monthly to save energy and money on cooling costs. This could save 350 lbs. of CO2 per year.
  • Seal your windows and doors: Improve energy efficiency and comfort by sealing air leaks.
  • Energy-efficient appliances: This might cost more money up-front, but it will save you significantly on your energy bills.


If you’re interested in building a green home from the ground up, consider utilizing a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified contractor. LEED green homes are transforming the residential market and improving our quality of life. The benefits of green homes go beyond construction and efficiency; they are part of creating healthier communities that support our environment. LEED homes are constructed specifically to provide a healthy and sustainable home. The design focuses on providing clean indoor air, maintain value over time, and saving on energy and water. In fact, LEED homes deliver at least 15% in energy savings compared to homes built to code and 20% in water savings.


Another great green resource is the Florida Green Building Coalition (FGBC), a nonprofit 501(C)3 Florida corporation dedicated to improving the environment. FGBC provides a guideline system for green builds that educates the public and the construction industry on economical ways to make our homes more energy efficient. Their mission is to lead and promote sustainability with environmental and economic benefits through education and certification programs. FGBC was conceived and founded in the belief that green building programs will be most successful if there are clear and meaningful principles on which “green” qualification and marketing are based. The FGBC is continually finding new and innovative ways to educate builders, developers, local governments, and consumers about how to achieve a healthier, more environmentally sustainable future.


The cover of this magazine features the Element House in Sarasota. The challenge for Element House located in Sarasota, Florida on the bayfront was to “build the house of the future today” and a large part of this goal was to create a home that reduced dependency on the power grid with a focus on nature. The home uses energy-efficient systems and passive design. Passive lighting and ventilation work in concert with a focused approach to designing and constructing a high-performance building envelope, achieving the lowest air-infiltration rate tested in Florida. The result is now one of the highest rated sustainable homes constructed in the United States with a HERS Index of -26, which was the third lowest HERS score ever recorded in Florida at the time of completion. (A score of “0” – net zero – means the home produces as much energy through renewable resources as it consumes).

The home was completed in 2017. Jonathan Parks AIA, of SOLSTICE Planning and Architecture, designed the home with construction and engineering completed by NWC Construction and McCall & Young Engineering. The photography of the front cover and photo on page 4 and 6 is credited to Ryan Gamma Photography.


Depending on multiple factors, home and business owners may have assistance in financing green improvements. The Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) is a great tool for property owners to finance private property improvements related to renewable energy, energy efficiency, and hurricane hardening (improvements such as hurricane impact-rated doors and windows), through assessments levied on their property tax bill by special districts established for that purpose. PACE home improvements include rooftop solar panels, solar water heater, energy-efficient air conditioning unit, impact windows, insulation, and more.


The Sarasota County Commission adopted an ordinance setting the framework for a PACE program in 2017 and signed agreements with four PACE providers in 2018. As of March 25, 2020, there are four approved PACE providers in Sarasota County.

The PACE Program also operates in the unincorporated areas of Manatee County. The program provides financing for property owners to make ecological improvements to their businesses or homes. It’s important to note that this program is still growing, so check with your local district to verify what options are available for each property.


Sarasota County

Sarasota County currently has 15 green buildings that have achieved LEED certification from the USGBC and one building that has achieved a Green Globes Certification from the Green Building Institute. Each of these buildings has incorporated new technologies and building techniques to decrease taxpayer dollars spent on operations, improve air and water quality, and provide a healthy indoor environment for visitors and employees. Sarasota County is home to some of the highest-rated green homes in the country and has more per capita green buildings than most other counties in Florida. Many local architects and builders are national leaders in applying sustainable strategies to homes and commercial buildings. In fact, your home may be certified green, and you may not even know it. Some whole developments have been certified green, including Lakewood Ranch and River Club (both communities occupy Manatee County as well), Venetian Golf, and Granada Park.

Manatee County

Manatee County advanced to the Florida Green Local Government’s “Platinum” designation for environmental stewardship after it successfully met the sustainability standards established in the FGBC Green Local Government Certification program in 2017. Manatee County became the first county to achieve platinum status. A host of initiatives led to certification, including the county’s energy-efficient downtown chiller plant, the countywide transition to single-stream recycling, and community events. Manatee County Government also recommends LEED Silver Standards as the minimum criteria for all new County buildings and renovations.

Whether you build an ecologically sustainable home from scratch or just make some simple modifications to your existing home and lifestyle, everyone can take steps to live a more green lifestyle and modify their carbon footprint. Saturday, April 22, is Earth Day, and it’s a great time to take stock of your green initiatives and show our support for environmental protection. Living a more sustainable lifestyle is not only cost-effective but essential to protecting and preserving our natural resources now and in the future.