What we build matters and so does how we build it. Building with sustainability in mind should be standard for the twenty first century home. In this article we will outline 21 tips for a sustainable house design. Building sustainable homes not only saves you money in the long run but also reduces your impact on the environment. Now let’s go over some ideas on how to build a sustainable house.
21 Ideas For Building a Sustainable Home:
- Local Materials
- Recycled Materials
- Air Sealing
- Windows & Doors Selection
- Sustainable Materials
- Energy Star Appliances
- LED Lighting
- Water Conserving Fixtures
- Efficient HVAC
- Recycle Your Energy
- Rain Water Collection
- Renewable Energy
- Solar Hot Water
- Intelligent Planting
- Build To Last
- Build Something You Love
1. Location For A Sustainable Home Design
Location is the first step in building a sustainable house. These will not always be an option for you but when possible consider the following issues.
Transportation: Where ever possible building a home walking distance from public transportation is going to reduce your impact on our environment. Living in New York City makes this very easy for me, but it will not always be an option for you.
Infrastructure: The availability of utilities and infrastructure will vary. If you can use existing infrastructure you are off to a good start in reducing your impact on the environment.
Sensitive or Hazardous Sites: Try to avoid hazardous areas like flood zones. If you build in a hazardous site make sure the home is designed to withstand the hazard. You know what isn’t green? Building your house twice.
2. Size, Smaller Houses Are More Efficient
Not everyone interested in sustainable house design is going to go down this route but, smaller houses are far more efficient. Building a smaller house is going to reduce your material use and energy needs. Obviously a larger house will use more materials and require more energy for heating and cooling. Think about your needs and try not to over do it on the size of the house. Remember a smaller house will be more affordable than a larger one. This is the one issue people hate to hear. I am not telling you to build a small house but the reality is smaller houses are more efficient and less wasteful.
3. Orientation Of Your House For Natural Light And Heat
Orientation is important for sustainable homes. If you live in a cold climate in the northern hemisphere you can take advantage of the sun. You will want to make your house with more windows facing south. Build a long wall with windows facing south to maximize direct sunlight in the winter. This will help heat your home as well as bring in natural light. You do not want many windows facing West, this will give lots of glare and provide heat in the summer. If you do have west facing windows plant a large tree to block some of that uncomfortable sunlight.
You can plant a deciduous tree in front of your south facing windows for more energy savings. Deciduous means the tree looses its leaves in winter. The tree will block sunlight in the summer but lose its leaves in the winter allowing the sunlight in during the cold months. This will help reduce your heating usage. Another trick is sun shades or a roof overhang. The sun is higher in the summer than in the winter so a roof overhang can block the sun in the summer. In the winter the sun will be at a lower angle and not be blocked by the overhang. These types of passive design features can make a big difference on sustainability at low costs.
4. Layout Affects Energy Use In A Home
Did you know that igloos are very energy efficient? An igloo is built in a cold climate with a shape that minimizes surface area. Why does that matter? The reduced surface area reduces interior heat loss.
Building a house that is very wide and spread out is going to have more heat loss and less efficiency than a house that is compact. Building taller can be more efficient than building wider. A cube or a sphere are very efficient shapes. There will always be trade offs in sustainable house design. Don’t think you need to make your house look like an igloo … unless you want to. The idea here is compact is better than spread out. A compact two story house will tend to be more efficient than a one story spread out house. So for example if you want to build a 2, 000 square foot house, building 2 stories with 1, 000 sf per story is probably going to be more efficient than building 1 story of 2, 000 sf.
Tricks for when you get locked out of house.