As the old adage suggests, location is everything. Resources available in the neighborhood of your home will determine how efficient the lifestyle of the homeowners can be, before you even get to pouring your foundations. In my opinion, considering the distances to local amenities such as schools and stores is as important to your construction project as considering which utilities should be brought to the site. When building in rural areas, the extra distance to resources incurred throughout the lifetime of the home means extra energy consumption, vehicle emissions and time taken in bringing all those resources to the home. Good location selection can be extremely lucrative to the homeowner’s pocketbook, energy efficiency, quality of lifestyle, and also the environment. In my extensive work helping builders select the best sites for homes meeting LEED or NAHB Green Building Program requirements, I have found several online tools are of great use:
First, Google Maps and Yahoo Local are obvious picks for searching the internet to find local stores, offices, banks, hospitals, public transit stops, and other items which can earn points for certification.
Secondly, many local building departments have their geographical data online, so areas of environmental importance (such as wetlands, steep slopes, flood plains) can be avoided. Some even offer Google Earth KML data files, so the data can be displayed on a planet model.
Lastly, and most usefully, Yahoo Pipes can be used to plug all those sites together, and provide an interface that a builder can use to reduce the time taken conducting searches. With this great tool, you can search multiple sites such as Google and Yahoo Local for multiple search words such as ‘banks’ or ‘restaurants’, filter the results based on distance from your site, list only two from each category (those legible for points) and display them on a map. In addition to quickly determining the points you are likely to achieve, you can use the map to document your findings for certification as well as add to your Homeowner Information packet. You can copy to tool I created, or learn how to build your own here.
Of course, it’s important to remember that not ALL resources will be found on those sites, so if you’re a few points short, additional search tools may be needed (a phone book?), but in a lot of cases, I’ve found the Pipes tool satisfies the search requirement extremely quickly and effectively.