Are features like solar panels absolutely necessary?

No — A single feature cannot make a house green.

Solar panels—which can provide electricity or hot water—are essential components of renewable energy systems and epitomize the goals of sustainable building. But they are not prerequisites for green building.

Remember that green building covers dozens of areas, touching on everything from site selection and heating systems to interior finishes and solar orientation. Houses can be textbook green in some respects while falling somewhat short in others, and focusing on just a few obvious elements misses the point. Suppose, for example, a house has both solar hot water collectors and photovoltaic panels but also is stuck with leaky windows, inadequate insulation and a mold problem. Is this house green?

On the other hand, a house that is oriented to take advantage of the sun and has a tightbuilding envelope and healthy interior free of mold and chemical contaminants is green in so many respects that a lack of solar panels is hardly a big deal.

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But even after you do everything right, you can still do better. 

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