When planning a home remodel or designing a new home, green building principles can conserve resources and save money. Becoming familiar with common green building principles helps you to decide what’s important in home design and plan for energy-efficient home improvements.
Optimizing the Site
When constructing a new home or renovating an old one, green design principles start with making the best use of the available site. During a new build, this includes orienting the home to take advantage of solar heat, so less heat is needed to warm the house, and locating the home within ready access to existing infrastructure to conserve resources.
Green homes are also small by design, since it’s cheaper and easier to heat and cool small homes. By orienting homes with the long sides facing east-west, then reducing windows on the west-facing, sunny walls, homes avoid unwanted solar heating.
Sealing Homes to Reduce Air Leaks
If a home is not properly sealed to prevent air leaks, energy will pass through the walls and windows. Sealing a home and using sufficient insulation to prevent heat loss makes a home more energy efficient because all the energy used to heat or cool the home will stay in the home. While new homes can be properly insulated during the construction process, older homes can be retrofitted to stop heat loss.
Once air leaks have been stopped, the heating or cooling system doesn’t have to work as hard to maintain a temperature. Over time, the home interior becomes more comfortable and utility expenses go down. For those considering selling anytime in the near future, this is one green improvement that will significantly increase your place’s value.
Investing in Renewable Energy
Renewable energy is a cornerstone of green design. Homes should reduce or eliminate fossil fuels in favor of renewable energy sources, be they geothermal, solar, or wind.
If a home cannot supply its own green energy, a best practice is to purchase green power instead of relying on fossil fuels.
Choosing Smart Windows
Smart windows and window coverings complement optimal site selection by blocking the sun’s heat when it isn’t wanted and encouraging solar heat transfer when it is desired. Special coatings on windows, such as the widely available low-e, bounces the sun’s rays back into the atmosphere so sun exposure doesn’t heat the home. Electronically tinted glass changes the opacity to attract or repel solar heat manually or via a preprogrammed schedule.
Smart window coverings include blinds and shades that automatically adjust to light levels to curb energy consumptions. Smart shutters control both light levels and home privacy by opening and closing to control sun exposure. Exterior Solar Screen window shades is perfect solution for extreme sun exposures. When solar heating is wanted — for instance, opening blinds on south-facing windows in the winter to encourage solar heat transfer — automatic blinds or shutters allow this to happen. (Insert something about Habitat Screens/Rollshutters here?)
Recycling Materials & Choosing Sustainable Materials
Green homes choose recycled materials when possible, with wide-ranging implications for the look and feel of the home. This might include cellulose or recycled denim insulation rather than fiberglass or recycled steel beams over wood beams. Inside the home, recycled wood flooring or recycled glass countertops reduce the environmental footprint of the home.
In addition to recycling materials, homeowners can reuse materials by buying second hand or shopping at building exchange centers.
When it isn’t feasible to reuse or recycle, homeowners can lower their environmental footprint with sustainable materials. For instance, cork and bamboo are sustainable flooring choices—as an added bonus, they’re quite trendy as well. Traditional hardwood is a good choice when purchased from suppliers who are committed to sustainably managed forests.
Green homes conserve water usage by using low-flow fixtures, managing stormwater runoff, and harvesting rainwater for use in the garden. Inside the home, homeowners can choose low-flow showerheads and faucets and install low-consumption toilets. Outside the home, they can use pervious concrete on driveways, drain runoff to absorption fields, and plant native plants. These practices help replenish aquifers to decrease water waste and drought.
In the U.S., the green building market has grown from $3 billion in 2005 to $81 billion in 2014. The main driver of green building in the residential sector is a desire to lower energy use, followed by a desire to decrease water use and feeling of doing a social good. The market is projected to grow, to the benefit of consumers and green builders alike.