Cool your hot air

Green Real Estate May 5, 2011

shoppingcartReal estate reps, like other sales professionals, are sometimes accused of being full of hot air. While that’s the kind of wildly misleading notion I’d rather not perpetuate, I would like to talk about the issue of hot air.

I’m referring to that stifling, oppressive heat we sometimes suffer during the summer months. There are low-cost, green ways to fight the rising mercury levels in and around your clients’ home or commercial property. Not only do these methods cool homes and buildings and reduce energy costs, they also offer the added luxury of beautifying properties, which naturally serves to increase property values.

Believe it or not, trees, shrubs, vines and vegetation are a highly economical way of keeping your house cool and comfortable at an affordable cost. Trees and vegetation cool properties by providing shade, deflecting winds and blocking unwanted sunlight. Temperatures near trees are cooler than temperatures away from trees. The larger the tree, the greater the cooling. By using trees in the cities, we can moderate the heat-island effect caused by pavement and buildings in commercial areas. Well designed landscaping can reduce cooling costs by 20 per cent or even up to 100 per cent in areas that don’t have significant cooling demands, according to B.C. Hydro.

Thanks to shading from leaves and branches, the amount of solar radiation reaching the ground is reduced. This process decreases surface temperatures below the canopy, which in turn lessens the amount of heat transmitted to buildings and the atmosphere.

Another way of lowering your home’s outdoor thermostat is a natural process called evapotranspiration, a combination of evaporation and transpiration from plants. It cools the surrounding area in much the same manner as mammals sweat to keep cool. Aside from blocking sunlight, the water vapour that is released makes the surrounding environment fresher.

While homeowners may be tempted to consider evergreen trees to block the shade, deciduous trees are better because they shelter your home from the hot summer sun, without blocking the good winter sun.

Deciduous trees are best planted at southeast, southwest and western exposures to provide optimum shelter from the sun. Consider using trees to shade your home, paved areas and air conditioners. Plant deciduous trees so they will shade east-facing walls and windows from 7 am to 11 am and west facing surfaces from 3 pm to 7 pm during June, July, and August.

In some climates, particularly in windy locations, evergreens work well as they tend to be more resilient. Just make sure you don’t plant evergreens where they will block winter sunlight from warming south and west windows. Junipers, spruces, firs, Douglas fir and evergreen shrubs are good choices for wind protection.

So while your clients are thanking you for helping lower their cooling bills and prettying up their properties, know that the planet is also sending an appreciative nod your way. That will be for the reduced energy clients use for air conditioning, which results in lower greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants.

Knowing about these simple, practical and low-cost solutions and sharing that know-how with clients bodes well for your credibility as a real estate professional. You’ll look good this summer, no matter how hot the air gets.

The National Association of Green Agents and Brokers (NAGAB) provides a Greenbroker and Greenagent certification program to Realtors across Canada. To get more information or to sign up for a course, visit www.nagab.org. Elden Freeman M.E.S., AGB, broker is the founder and executive director of the non-profit organization. 1-877-524-9494 Email elden@nagab.org.