7 Affordable Green Starter Homes

Modern starter home

 Clayton Homes

Who doesn’t love to feast their eyes on the burgeoning array of spectacular green homes out there? Unfortunately, many are either out of reach of most budgets or too small, quirky and/or offbeat for practical living. Good news: More builders are offering green homes that won’t send you into bankruptcy or catapult you completely out of the mainstream. The following are just some of the available choices — including prefab, modular and sustainable subdivisions — for folks who want green but don’t have a lot of it to spend.

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Excel Homes

Excel Homes.

Excel Homes is a modular home manufacturer operating in several mid-Atlantic, New England and Southeastern states that offers a a wide range of single-family homes. The Frank Lloyd Wright–inspired Prairie View (pictured) is 945 square feet with one bedroom and one bathroom. The open floor plan features varying floor and ceiling elevations, plus plenty of windows for lots of natural light and outdoor views. All Excel homes come with built-in EnergyStar features, including high-performance insulation and appliances, as well as other green options related to lot design, green building materials, water efficiency, and minimizing construction waste. Best of all, starter homes can be constructed quickly and retail for about $100,000 on your foundation (some less, some more), with final costs determined by the builder.

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Clayton Homes

Clayton Homes.

The sleek prefab i-house by Clayton Homes, available nationwide, won’t hurt your pocketbook and comes packed with an abundance of green goodies, including low-VOC building materials, low-flow fixtures, dual-flush toilets, a metal roof that allows rainwater harvesting, high-efficiency insulation and EnergyStar appliances. Optional features include solar panels and a tankless water heater. Retail price depends on the options chosen, but starts at $78,000 (final cost after construction ranges from $120,000 to $160,000). Energy Saver Plus models sport programmable thermostats, low-e windows, and compact fluorescent lighting. If that’s not incentive enough, consider this vote of confidence: Berkshire Hathaway, the firm owned by investment wizard Warren Buffett, bought Clayton Homes in 2003.

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Sage Green

Sage Green.

Built by Green One Construction Services in Beaverton, Oregon, Sage Green is an eco-community that bills itself as “the first Hybrid Zero-Net-Energy development in the nation,” and is perfect for energy-efficiency geeks. The 18 stylish new homes produce more power than they need via solar panels. In other words, buyers of these 1,600-square-foot, single-family units should pay nothing for energy in a year and actually add green energy to the grid. Energy-efficient features include CFL lighting, triple-glazed windows, and high-value insulation. In addition, recycled and locally sourced materials are used whenever possible, as well as low-VOC paints and finishes. Price: just under $260,000 for a three-bedroom home.

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100K House Project

Sam Oberter.

Pictured are two homes in Philadelphia’s East Kensington neighborhood: a larger one on the corner (120K House) and a smaller home to the left (100K House). Built by green developer Postgreen, these two-story LEED Platinum loft townhomes were named for their building costs (labor and materials). Postgreen decided to hang onto the smaller home, which at 1,150 square feet was built for about $100,000 or, more accurately, $100 per square foot. The larger, 1,270-square-foot home cost around $120,000 to construct and sold for $265,000. Both units sport solar hot water systems, rainwater collection, low-flow fixtures, dual-flush toilets, CFL lights, low- and no-VOC finishes, and “green wall” ivy landscaping. Postgreen has since built five more and has 30 more in the works — all in the Philadelphia area.

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Meritage Homes

Meritage Homes.

Meritage Homes in Scottsdale, Ariz., offers reasonably priced green homes through its Meritage Green division. Currently located in three green developments in Arizona, its eco-homes sport low-e windows, solar power/solar water heating, drought-tolerant landscaping, EnergyStar appliances, programmable thermostats, low-VOC finishes, energy-efficient, formaldehyde-free insulation, high-efficiency 14 SEER HVAC systems, non-ozone-depleting Puron refrigerant in air conditioners, and CFL lighting. Homes in the new Lyon’s Gate green development in the Phoenix suburb of Gilbert (pictured) come in eight floor plans and range from 1,600 to 3,000 square feet. They start at about $170,000 for a completed home. Look for more green Meritage communities to sprout up in Arizona, as well as Nevada, California, Texas, Colorado and Florida, where the company also operates.

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Nationwide Homes.

OK, so a few of these homes may be too tiny to live in full time. Nationwide Homes markets them mostly as guest cottages and vacation homes, and the smallest, the Starling, is only 250 square feet. However, if you’re single or thrive on family togetherness, other models could make for some year-round “cozy” green living. Certainly the price is right, and they’re available anywhere in the country. One is the Osprey (pictured), the largest ECO-Cottage. At 513 square feet, it comes with one bedroom, one bath, tall windows for natural light and a porch. Green features include a tankless water heater, high-efficiency insulation, and a long-life metal roof. Optional eco-features: bamboo flooring and solar panels. The Osprey retails for $59,900 (not including delivery, taxes and installation). Final costs depend on your location, builder, etc.

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Blu Homes

Blu Homes.

Blu Homes in Waltham, Mass., features four green prefab models, ranging from the low-cost Origin (pictured), starting at $109,000 for a completed home, to the single-story Element, which starts at $125,000, to the Balance, starting at $270,000. All are LEED certifiable, depending on the finishes, building systems and site design the buyer chooses. The Origin comes in three compact sizes and multiple floor plans that can include one or two bedrooms. It can even be combined with other Blu Homes models for some custom versatility. Eco-features in all models include bamboo floors, stainless steel EnergyStar appliances, metal roof with 50-year life span equipped for solar hot water and photovoltaic energy generation, low- or no-VOC interior primers and paints, and low-flow water fixtures. They also are designed to take advantage of natural light for passive cooling and heating. Homes are available anywhere in the continental United States.