Green building is a design philosophy that stresses the importance of construction that works with the landscape. It involves careful choices in site and materials, which will reduce the energy usage, maintenance and cost of a home. Green homes are more comfortable, more efficient, safer and healthier, and they help their owners connect to the land around them. Here, you’ll find seven tips on building a greener home.
- Build your home in a way that naturally harnesses the sun’s energy. It’s called passive solar design, and it’s done in places around the world. As it costs more to heat and cool a home, builders should consider stone floors, reflective barriers, and building and window orientation in order to control the solar energy the home receives. In warm climates, the home should face north or south to avoid the heating that occurs with every sunrise and sunset. In colder climates, concrete and stone will trap the sun’s heat and release it slowly throughout the night. Open floor plans maximize the effects of passive solar construction; consider Velux windows placed in a way that catches each incoming breeze.
- Ventilate your attic. In hotter locations, the attic can absorb heat and transfer it to the area below. In colder climates, the attic can harbor moisture, which leads to mold and rot. Having roof ridge vents or continuous eaves will help air to naturally flow through the attic, and reflective barriers or roofing felt under the roof deck help to minimize heat absorption. It’s important to properly insulate your attic and its exterior walls, too.
- Make sure your central heat and AC are running at peak efficiency. Too-big systems cool too rapidly, and smaller systems don’t cycle on/off too often. They cost less to buy, and they last longer. Before summer and winter begin, hire a professional to check for leaky ducts, and you should also inspect your doors, windows, exhaust pipes and electrical outlets for cracks. For the return air grill, use a pleated filter, which removes particles from the air, improving indoor air quality and keeping AC coils cleaner.
- Cut back on your water usage. One of the fundamentals of green building is to choose landscaping native to your area. Consider open pavers or crushed granite in place of concrete, as these materials allow water to seep into the ground. To conserve tap water for other uses, consider using a rainwater catching system, installing low flow shower heads and toilets, or buying a front-loading washer.
- Choose recyclable or renewable materials wherever possible. Concrete floors combine the home’s foundation and its floor, saving materials and labor. Use local and easily renewable materials, such as recycled wood or bamboo flooring. Lumber composites, fiber cement siding, and medium density fiber board are all durable but recyclable options.
- Keep your home site safe for plants and animals. Native grasses, trees and rock can be included as part of your landscape design, and you should work to reduce the impact of the construction process as much as possible by ensuring that building waste is disposed of in an eco-friendly manner.
- Use safe materials. Choose building materials that are biodegradable and don’t contain heavy metals, formaldehyde, carcinogens and dyes. Choose low VOC (volatile organic compound) paint, finishes, adhesives and carpet.
Building greener means approaching the design and construction process in a way that conserves natural resources and nurtures the environment, and it’s easy enough that any new homeowner can do it. By building a greener home, you’re creating a more sustainable, enjoyable and cost-efficient place to live.