In February of 2018, two months before the new Trump administration was set to take office, the first residents of a new green space were moving in.
“I felt like a new city had just been born,” said Jodi L. Wiese, the developer behind the “Village toscanas” project in Texas.
The project, a $10 million development of prefabricated homes in Texas, Texas and Oklahoma, was intended to bring more green space into rural areas of Texas.
It was also meant to help the state avoid the devastating wildfires that plagued many of its rural communities.
But a few months later, the state’s governor, Greg Abbott, and other state officials had other ideas, announcing the creation of the new state’s Green Jobs Program, which offered grants for residents of cities to help them build new homes.
And the money didn’t stop there.
“It was clear the program was not designed for urban neighborhoods,” says Jennifer Dann, the director of the Urban Land Institute’s Urban Design Center.
“We really saw a shift in thinking around greening a community,” says Dann.
“There was a push to put green houses in places that were already green.”
“We see a lot of urban homes in cities today,” says Mark Kline, an urban design expert at the University of Pennsylvania.
“That’s a good thing, because it allows us to bring back some of the things that were lost.
You don’t have to be a urban planner to think that’s a great thing.”
And the more green your home, the more likely it is to help reduce climate change, according to Kline.
So what’s green and what does it do for the environment?
“If you have a home that is very green, it’s going to be cleaner,” Kline says.
“You’re not going to have the pollution that comes with a lot more carbon dioxide and particulates, and you’re not adding a lot to the atmosphere.”
That’s why green spaces tend to be more energy efficient than their traditional counterparts, says Wieso, the villa architect.
“Green houses are going to use less energy than a traditional building,” she says.
But the more ecofriendly your home is, the less it will cost you.
“A green house is much cleaner than a normal house, because they’re not emitting any CO2,” says Wiee.
In fact, a lot less energy is being used by a typical home in a typical house, than is required to heat it.
“For every dollar spent on energy, $1 is going to the environment,” says Kline of the greenhouse effect.
“So you’re saving $1 in the air.”
What’s the deal with the new “green jobs”?
Well, Wiees says that the new program has given local communities a “chance to start thinking about ways to use their energy.”
And there’s a whole lot of new ways to think about it, she says, because a lot will depend on where you live.
For example, the program aims to help cities “develop more sustainable communities,” Klines says.
It’s a huge effort to expand green space, and one that will require local governments to take a hard look at what is green and how to use it.
Wies says that, for many communities, that means looking at what types of housing are actually better at reducing CO2 emissions.
“The reality is that green houses are really not good at keeping CO2 in the atmosphere,” says Lutz, the architect.
So to make sure they’re good for the climate, the local governments need to take those costs into account.
“If it’s a high-end house, they’ll probably be able to cut CO2 by 80 percent,” says Bickley, the urban designer.
“But if it’s less than $200, it’ll still need to be built with some sort of carbon control.”
The more green the home, it may not be worth the cost.
“People think, ‘Oh, I’m going to go to a high rise,’ or ‘I’m going out of town,’ or something,” says Jodi Wiesi, the project’s developer.
“And they’re thinking that they’re going to save a ton of money on their energy bills,” she adds.
“When you have low-density, low-emission housing, they may have a few extra dollars saved, but they’re still paying for it.”
If you’re looking to build green space in your city, consider looking at how it will be used and how much it will actually cost.
The more eco friendly the homes, the better, Kline adds.
And when the cost is low, the value of the home will be worth it.