Home inspection findings by Frank Schulte-Ladbeck, Professional Real Estate Inspector TREC# 9073

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Principles of Green Facility Management for the Homeowner

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It is not enough to purchase a home with green features. To reap the benefits of such a home, you need to manage it with green principles in mind.

Let me imagine what your home life might be like. In the morning, you wake up. Get ready for work. Eat a breakfast. Leave the home. Come back to it in the evening, where you are either preparing dinner or waiting to eat it. You watch television or surf the we, and eventually go to sleep. At no point in the day did you manage the house. Having a green home is great, but you probably know that being green is not about possessing object; it is about lifestyle choices; however those choices may not be for every homeowner. Sure, I wish that everyone would live in a more sustainable way, but I also recognize that we could all do this by different means. Most people who come to the desire to buy a green home probably have a non-green agenda on their thoughts: they want to save money. What they find is that they may not be saving as much as they thought they would be. Enter the concept of green facility management.
    How do we define green facility management? You hear the term facility management, and you think janitor. That may be the case, but for most businesses this position is much more than that job. If you are managing a facility, you are maintaining the structure to operate at its peak performance. In part, this is maintenance tasks. To perform repairs, you have to go through the home to look for them. Yesterday’s post will give you a good list of where to start checking, so print it out to study your own home. Repairs are one thing, but monitoring and adjusting aspects of the home is part of facility management too. Your electric bill becomes a toll to manage the home with this concept. You check how much electricity was used, and then you try to determine if that was justified.  Adding the green component to this process means that when making repairs, we try to find ways to use what we have on hand, rather than buying a new part. We proactively monitor, and we try to change the outcome to its optimal performance. We find materials that will not harm our health when bringing in goods into the home.
    Let us create an example of managing our home in a green way. In my home inspections, I still see many older type thermostats where you set the temperature, and if you want it to change, you have to go back and reset it. Seeing as how air conditioning is our greatest energy user, a person involved with green facility management would be changing this thermostat throughout the course of the day to meet the needs of the occupants at that time of day. A few degrees warmer when people are sleeping or away from the home. A few degrees cooler when people are most active. A green facility manager realizes that automating this process makes this task simpler, so he installs a programmable thermostat. Now he programs the air conditioning unit to operate at its peak performance. He does not set it and forget it though. He monitors how effective he has been, so he can make adjustments.  Going further, the green facility manager might install controls which allow the temperature in each room to be personalized. Unused rooms could be kept warmer, while frequently used spaces are kept cooler. Knowing that air movement plays a factor in how we perceive comfort, the green facility manager may keep the home a bit warmer during the summer, but have ceiling fans blow air down on the occupants. During the winter, the home is kept a bit colder, but the ceiling fans have been reversed to pull warm air up. Unfortunately, we do not have the automatic controls for ceiling fans yet, so this is where a homeowner has to go through the house to turn on and off ceiling fans. We can take this a step further. During the spring season, we have cool nights with warmer days. We can turn off the air conditioning entirely, relying on ceiling fans for air movement. At this point, we ave to open the windows at night to let cool air in, while closing them during the day, but we may wish to keep them open during the day to catch the breezes. Again, it would be nice to have this opening and closing of windows automated. Also, effective use of blinds can help the green facility manager. We want them closed to keep out the heat of the sun, or to keep in the warmth at night. What you should realize by now in this example is that a homeowner practicing green facility management is being proactive in his home on a daily basis. If you think about it, this is not too difficult. If everyone in the home was thinking along these lines, then each member of the home is doing their share, but even if they are not, I am not proposing tasks which take hours. I am proposing tasks which could take minutes.
    Whether we think about it or not, we tend to live life on autopilot. We have our routine, so we do not want to take on new tasks. We see that as additional work. Yet managing our house can become a routine. Once it is, we no longer see this as a task. Green facility management means thinking about each action we take, and then seeing how this could be improved. My garbage can is nearly empty, while my neighbors have full cans. Considering that my house is a family of five, and in many of my neighbor’s homes, there are only two people, you can wonder what they are doing. My best example with trash going out is the yard waste scenario. Each week on average, my one neighbor has two and a half bags of yard waste sitting in front of his home. I have none. For the last year, I have not set out any yard waste to be picked up. I am using it all for mulch and for compost. My plants are healthier, and I have reduced my need for water consumption. I have also saved money on fertilizers and mulch. So part of green facility management is asking the question, how can I reuse a good (a plastic container can become a storage can)? If I cannot reuse the good, can I repurpose it (compost or mulch)? If I cannot do either of those things, can I recycle the good outside of the home (like placing it in my recycle bin)? I may want to make these considerations before I make a purchase.
    Take a proactive look at your home. Use the utility bills as a guide to see if you can improve usage. Green facility management of the home means making conscious choices to create a better life, while also saving money. At first, this may be a task, but it will become part of our routine, and then we will not need to wonder why our green home is not saving us the money that we thought it should.

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© Frank Schulte-Ladbeck Professional Home Inspector Houston, Texas
Frank Theodor Schulte-Ladbeck
home inspector, TREC# 9073
Houston , Texas , 77063 United States

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