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Considering a green built home or renovation project? Reducing the cost of building and maintaining your home may be easier than you think. Early planning, integrating the design process and working with your architect, designer and contractor at the outset can result in first cost savings.

There are many shades of green and how sustainable you choose to build will contribute to the cost. We’ve put together some of the top low- or no-cost building strategies to reduce your carbon footprint.

Building from the ground up? Talk to your designer about orienting your home to maximize natural daylight and take advantage of passive solar gain which will reduce energy bills.

Keep it cool. Take advantage of natural ventilation by placing windows so they harness wind power. It will curb your urge to turn on the air conditioner and bring healthy fresh-air indoors.

Balancing act. Your home’s energy efficiency is increased by a balance of air sealing, insulation, moisture control and ventilation. The best way to reduce energy costs is through proper insulation and air sealing techniques.

Live in a high-density urban area? Consider permeable paving allowing water to pass through into the soil. Impermeable surfaces create a high volume of storm-water runoff, which contributes to erosion and degrades surface water quality. Vehicle pollutants are introduced by runoff washing off and finding its way into our rivers and bays.

Plants on roofs, you ask? You bet. There are many benefits to adding a green roof. Think beyond the Zen-like garden setting and consider water and air purification and the absorption of storm-water.

Hanging out. Providing overhangs on south-facing windows will lessen heat gain by providing much needed shade in summer months during the warmest part of the day.

See the light. Install fluorescent lights with electronic ballasts. They will improve energy efficiency and lower your utility bills. Just one fluorescent bulb will reduce your energy use enough to pay for itself ten times over.

Just say no to off gassing. The chemicals in many building materials evaporate into the air we breathe and can continue to do so for years. For instance, you probably weren’t thinking about the chemicals in the slate blue paint when you decided on it. Choosing a no-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paint can eliminate irritation to your eyes, nose and throat. VOCs have been linked to serious diseases, such as asthma in young children, central nervous system and liver damage.

Drink it in. While 75% of the planet consists of water only 2.5% is drinkable and as consumption burgeons and freshwater resources decrease, naturally the cost of water will increase. Low water landscaping can reduce water usage by capitalizing on native and drought tolerant plants. Also, consider drip and micro irrigation systems to prevent over-watered or dehydrated plants.

You can make choices that improve your quality of life, go easy on resources and energy consumption.

The myriad of sustainable options are too numerous to mention here—so we’ve provided some additional resources to help get you started.