Green Home Designs:
In the last five years green building has
become the fastest-growing and most exciting
segment of the construction industry. Green
building resources have finally made it into
the mainstream, and it has become relatively
easy to incorporate these techniques into
both construction and remodeling projects.
We spend the vast majority of our modern lives
indoors, and leading studies are showing that
buildings have a profound effect on our health,
happiness, and productivity. In the 1980s,
people began to realize that many of the
materials used to build and furnish their work
and living spaces produced toxic emissions. The
lack of natural light and adequate natural
ventilation makes many offices and homes
unhealthy for their inhabitants. The term "sick
building" was coined to describe the malaise and
unhealthiness people felt when they had to spend
long hours in these types of buildings.
Architects and engineers are now realizing that
green buildings not only help the environment,
but they make people feel healthier and make
them more productive. Sustainable design also
increases the value of a building as a long-term
asset. Believe it! Green buildings reduce impact
on natural resources, improve the bottom line,
increase the health and comfort of occupants,
and increase community quality of life. Consider
these green building facts.
1) Green building studies indicate the potential
financial benefits of improving indoor
environments exceed costs by a factor of ten.
2) Studies have clearly demonstrated that green
buildings enhance occupant productivity.
3) People simply prefer to spend more of their time
in well designed, environmentally friendly spaces.
4) Buildings with high overall environmental quality
can reduce occupant rates of respiratory disease,
allergy, asthma, and other "sick building" symptoms.
So how can you make your home more sustainable
and reap the benefits of green design? First,
we have to understand
what makes a home green. What it takes is
planning on the front end and usually a
commitment to spend 10% to 15% more on up-front
construction costs to benefit from long-term
savings. Here are the principles to keep in mind
for new construction and renovation projects:
1. Select a building site close to your work or
2. Protect the natural habitat, drainage patterns,
and plants that already exist on your property.
Build around trees and incorporate them into your
3. Landscape with local plants that don't require
pesticides or excessive water.
4. Use mulches and recycled paving materials for
finished site surfaces. They reduce storm water
runoff and allow water to naturally infiltrate the
1. Incorporate reused and recycled products like
salvaged wood, brick, stone, and period hardware
(such as doors and railings) into your design.
Choose concrete products with a high level of fly
ash (which is a byproduct of coal combustion).
2. Search out new earth-friendly products. Unique
recycled items such as insulation made of recycled
blue-jeans and wood flooring composed of 2 by 4
off-cuts appear in the market every day.
3. Consider building your walls out of reinforced
concrete, stone, or rammed earth. These materials
provide much better insulation than wood and last
4. Use third-party certified wood so you know it has
been harvested sustainable (look for FSC, SFI or CSA
labels on the lumber wrap).
5. Have a target of "zero construction waste."
Through proper planning and reusing demolition and
construction materials, many green builders have
virtually eliminated the waste leaving a building
site. This also means savings in haul and disposal
1. Let the sun shine in! Use as much passive solar
as you can to heat and light your home. Simply by
properly orientating your home to the sun, based on
where you live, you can save 20% on your energy
2. Dense products like concrete, stone, and brick
can act as a thermal mass regulating the temperature
of your home. Properly placed thermal walls will
heat up and cool down slowly, making it feel "just
right" in your home even if it is "too hot" or "too
3. Install high-efficiency lighting and tie room
lighting to motion sensors, dimmer switches, and
4. Insulate your walls and ceiling with the
highest R-value insulation available.
5. Install the highest quality windows and doors
you can afford. Double glazing is the minimum.
Triple glazing in cold climates helps ensure
that you keep the heat in the house. Low-e or
spectrally selective windows are best in hot
6. Choose renewable power by installing a solar
hot water system. Take it to the next level by
installing solar panels for electricity. The
ultimate green power goal is to produce a net
excess of renewable power each month, or "negawats,"
that you will soon be able to sell back to your
7. Plant a rooftop garden, it makes a wonderful
sanctuary and helps keep your home cool.
8. If you live in a hot climate, simply painting
the roof a light reflective color can save up to
20% on your power bill.
9. Always, always buy ENERGY STAR-rated
appliances and electronics for your new home or
1. Choose materials and interior finishing
products that are environmentally friendly and
produce zero or low emissions. Many
off-the-shelf products such as paints, cleaners,
and even carpet emit fumes that contain volatile
organic compounds (VOCs) and other substances
that are NOT healthy for you.
2. Avoid alkyd- and oil-based paints. Instead,
choose latex and low (or zero) VOC paints. You
will help your health, avoid using thinners, and
prevent toxic waste in the environment.
3. Install a high-efficiency ventilation and
in-duct filtration system to help ensure the air
you breathe is clean.
4. Build generous amounts of natural light into
your home design. Add a skylight or solar light
tubes in areas like kitchens, offices, and
5. Incorporate high and low opening windows into
your design so that you can flush old, stale air
out of your house.
1. Install low-flow taps and shower heads and
2. Use recalculating hot water systems for
centralized distribution areas and install
on-demand booster systems for distant hot water
3. Install a grey water recycling system that
captures water from showers, sinks, and bath
tubs and uses it for outdoor irrigation.
4. Use drip irrigation on timers for watering
any outdoor plants.
1. Do as our ancestors did: build your home to
last! So many buildings today are just thrown up
with no consideration other than "lowest cost
construction." This, more than any other factor,
creates environmental impact, inefficiency, and
waste. Wouldn't it be nice to know that your
house will be around for a few hundred years and
could be passed down to your grandchildren and
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