The greenest house is one that is already built.
A pre-1900 house is built of natural materials, that have functioned for close to 120 years.
Old houses are repairable. Wood sash windows are made from old growth wood, which have a tighter grain than farmed wood. A wood sash window can be repaired. Joints can be tightened up, the glazing (aka putty) can be replaced and the wood repainted. The old wavy glass is beautiful. These windows were designed to be used with storm windows during the coldest months. A properly fitting storm window with a single paned glass sash window has a better R value than a new double glazed replacement window, that might only last for 20 years ! This house had all the original windows, and 20th century aluminum storm windows, too.
I loved the high ceilings, and the scale of the rooms.
The trim and mouldings were completely intact except in the kitchen and powder room. The trim is a generous 4.75″ wide, with tall baseboards, wood. All the doors were solid wood – which can be planed down as a house shifts. Most of them even had the original rimlocks and porcelain doorknobs – still in good working shape after a century+ of use.
I liked the funny Queen Anne/cottage/late victorian/somethingsomethingsomething style with the exagerrated roof, and the heavy application of fancy whatnots on the exterior.
All the rooms had the original plaster and lath. Home renovation shows demonize plaster and lath, and act like it is some kind of emergency to remove it all right away. This is ridiculous. Plaster can be repaired by a person with some skill and practice. True lime plaster repairs are a more complicated situation, but there are a few professionals around who know how to do this. I have read that the reason insurance companies are fussy about lathe and plaster is that this is a more expensive and labour intensive material to replace than drywall.
New construction has a faster burn time than a heritage home, due to new synthetic materials, and the smoke and fumes are much more toxic:
There was a giant silver maple in the backyard, for lots of shade.
There was room for a garden in the front, which gets plenty of sun.
When you walk in the front door, there is a small foyer, which helps to keep the cold out of the house. It had a nice stained glass door, too. This is also useful for keeping cats from rushing out the door. This is thoughtful and functional design.
There are windows on all sides of the house, and the neighbouring properties are far enough away to let all the rooms get sun throughout the day.
The house had the original room configuration, so I knew that the structure had not been undermined. Rooms with doors are infinitely preferable to me, to confine work areas from cats and prying eyes. This is the opposite of open concept.
This house seemed like it had the potential to be my home, though it needed a lot of work, more work than I imagined. I saw what I wanted to see.