Signs of Sustainability: CCE Tompkins’ Green Buildings Open House sure to inspire


By Guillermo Metz

It’s back! After taking a couple of years off to focus on other work, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County is bringing back the Green Buildings Open House. For one day, Saturday, September 30, you can visit homes throughout Tompkins County that feature the latest and time-honored green building methods, materials and technologies.

The one-day format represents a departure, returning to the early years of the tour, which has been running locally for more than 15 years. During that time, many green building features that would have been really exceptional have become mainstream, like solar and above-code energy-efficient construction. That’s great news for our community!

While it’s become harder to really wow visitors, this tour has something exciting for everyone, showcasing a variety of strategies for building or renovating to create very energy-efficient, functional, comfortable homes that promote environmental sustainability and human health. Highlights of the showcase include super energy-efficient rehabs, tiny houses, a gorgeous timber-framed strawbale 5,000-square-foot zero-net-energy addition, the latest super-high-efficiency heat pump air and water heaters, Passive House construction, living roofs, a residential-scale wind turbine (with on-grid battery backup!), and creative reuse of salvaged materials – everyone is sure to come away awed and inspired. At many of the sites, homeowners will be joined by builders or system installers to help explain all the green features and answer all your questions.

Building green has a range of benefits both locally and globally, including environmental, social, and economic. Green buildings use fewer resources throughout their life spans, particularly energy and water; they have improved indoor air quality compared to traditional buildings; they use local and reclaimed building materials; they are made and furnished with products that contain fewer toxic chemicals; they have reduced day-to-day costs year after year; and they are easier to keep cool in the summer, warm in the winter, and comfortable year-round.

Participants are welcome to visit homes at their leisure anytime between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., with a few exceptions (visit for full details). Descriptions of each home on the tour, as well as maps, are on our website. You can also pick up a free full-color fold-out brochure the week before the tour at locations throughout Tompkins County (check the web site for locations or call Cooperative Extension at (607) 272-2292, ext. 185).

The tour is free and everyone is welcome – but please consider supporting CCE’s green building program by donating through the donation boxes found at each site the day of the tour. Most of the homes featured in this year’s tour are all-new to the event, but we’ll also be revisiting a few perennial favorites. For more information, visit or our Facebook page at Invite all your friends, and please help spread the word!

And please share rides: Fill up your car, slash your carbon emissions, and make your green buildings tour more meaningful and social. Coordinate rides with friends, family and neighbors – and, if you’re able, please post on our Facebook event page (found at to connect with a possible ride or riders.

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This is the latest installment of the Signs of Sustainability series produced by Sustainable Tompkins. To learn more about the organization, visit its website at Guillermo Metz is Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County’s Energy Team Leader, and has been coordinating the Open House since 2009.


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