When building a green home one chooses to do so to reduce the harmful impact on the environment. Careful thought and consideration must be placed on every aspect of this home design, from the roof to the foundation to everything in between – electrical work, air quality, and affordability. It is important to lessen one’s footprint and not to disrupt the existing ecosystem. With all the knowledge and resources available to us today there really is no excuse for not being environmentally conscientious.
1. Don’t build more than you need
You don’t want to build too much house, instead, you want your home to fit “just right.” A house that is too large will likely contain wasted space, unused space and cost more to run, heat and cool. When planning your home take careful consideration to your lifestyle. By the same token, do take time think ahead. If you plan on expanding your family or taking in elderly relatives, you will want to plan ahead and put the proper accommodations and resources into place.
2. Don’t not think ahead
Will you be living in your home in 10, 20 or 30 years? Think ahead to what your needs may be down the road. As the population ages we should take careful consideration to what our future needs and lifestyle and prepare for such. (For more information on this read my article, What Empty Nesters are Looking for When They Downsize.)
3. Building on the wrong plot
It’s crucial to find the right lot size and location. As wonderful as it sounds to have a lovely country home in the bucolic countryside, off the beaten path, do consider building in or near town. Building on a new site can damage a peaceful ecosystem. It can disrupt the lives and dens of local wildlife and eliminate them altogether in order to bring additional lines, utilities and roads where they don’t currently exist.
4. Not going solar
No matter where you live you should build your home so that you have unobstructed solar access from 9:00 in the morning until 3:00 in the afternoon. When building your home it should always have a southern exposure. By placing the front of the home due south, you will automatically lower your energy costs by 10%. Situate your home so that it is facing due south, placing the majority of the windows on the southern side, and placing overhangs or awnings to shield the sun’s hot summer rays. Use materials that will absorb and radiate the sun’s heat. One should also note that it would not be wise to have a glass wall facing due south as this will have the complete opposite effect! Plant trees near your home to offer natural shade on southern sides and take advantage of skylights (with shades) to maximize the sun’s energy.
5. Not doing your research
With all the information so readily available to us, there’s no excuse not to educate yourself as best as you can to learn about all your green building options. There is no reason, today, not to use environmentally responsible products. There are plenty of options available at every price point. When building your home you should be using toxic-free, sustainable, recycled and low voc products. Everything from the roof to the foundation, from the lighting to the floor, from insulation to paint can all be environmentally sound.
6. Not minimizing your footprint
You want to minimize your footprint as much as you possibly can, this means getting rid of all unnecessary waste including all building products and machines needed to create and run them. You want your energy consumption and waste to be as little as possible.
7. Inadequate insulation
The greatest savings to your home will come in the form of your home’s insulation. In the US minimum insulation codes have been increased in recognition of the ability to prevent heat loss and gain via walls, windows, roof and foundation. Insulation is responsible for your building’s heat retention and loss. A well insulated building will not only save energy and resources but will cut your electrical bill substantially.
8. Poorly planned roofing
The roof protects and carries the walls and therefore when building much consideration needs to be placed upon the roof. It is important to understand how much weight the roof will need to support and the shape of the roof is vital to the home efficiency of energy. A flat roof will tend to hold and accumulate water whereas a sloped roof will not. A proper drainage system put in place will work to ensure that the roof can best protect your home in the most efficient manner possible. The roof’s insulation is integral to the building’s heating and cooling efficiency.
9. Not using energy efficient equipment
There’s no excuse not to use a high efficiency or energy efficient appliance. Consider using a tankless water heater so water will not sit around waiting to be heated. Green appliances are available in all price points and are readily available.
10. Not using environmentally friendly products
There really is no reason not to use eco-friendly products. Everything from your roofing material, building material, insulation to you your flooring, counters and cabinets should be environmentally friendly. Whether using recycled lumber, natural products such as cork, or bamboo, concrete, granite or recycled glass, everything you could possibly need or want to build your home should be eco-friendly. Your architect and builder should be better able to guide you.