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Green Building Elements

One decision you will be faced with when designing your new home is whether or not to use green building principles and green building elements to enhance and enrich your home. The cost of building a green home is higher than a traditional home, but the reward and long-term savings will definitely be worth the original investment.

The first thing that you’ll want to consider is what all is involved in green building. Green building, by definition, refers to both a structure and the application of processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building’s life-cycle: from planning to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation, and demolition. It is the practice of increasing the efficiency of buildings’ use of material, water, and energy.

You can effectively build a green home by increasing your energy efficiency, selecting the best materials for building, increase the efficiency of water usage inside and outside of the home, and improving the air quality which will also improve the health of your family. Let’s break this down into steps to easily determine the best way for you to plan your home’s Green building principles:

Increase Energy Efficiency

  • Advanced framing – if you plan to build your home using these principles, an easy starting place is with the frame of your home. Creating a structurally sound home with improved efficiency will lower your material and labor costs. This step actually reduces the cost of your home because it reduces the amount of the more expensive lumber used and replaces it with insulation that is a cheaper option.
  • Hot Water Heater – strategically placing your hot water heater can help reduce the amount of energy consumed by your home. Place the heater near the points of your home that use the most water like the main shower and the washing machine.
  • Household Appliances – when you head to your local home appliance store to choose your new refrigerator, washing machine, dryer, and oven, be sure to look for the Energy Star appliances. These appliances meet strict energy efficient criteria that save energy without sacrificing performance. The machine will also include an Energy Guide that suggests an estimated yearly cost for operation. This information can help you select the best appliance that fits your needs and eliminates wasted energy costs.
  • Lighting – when selecting lights for your home, we recommend that you select high-efficiency lighting systems with advanced lighting controls. This will allow you to adjust the lighting in your home to meet your needs instead of having full-powered lights all the time. You can also replace the regular incandescent bulbs with halogen incandescent lights that are 28% more efficient, compact fluorescents that use 1/4  of the energy of regular bulbs, or you can go with maximum efficiency and use LEDs that 1/6 as much energy as the regular bulbs. For more information on replacement bulb options, you can check out this article from Bulbs.com.
  • Solar Panels – When deciding on where to build your home, you may want to consider building in an area with an ample amount of sunlight. A passive solar design uses the natural sunshine to heat, cool, and light your home. This will increase the efficiency of your home and lower your energy bills year-round. They are also low maintenance when it comes to repair and they are extremely durable.

Select “Smart Materials” for Building Your Home

  • Plastic Lumber – by selecting plastic lumber for non-structural applications like fences, decks, and retaining walls, you ultimately reduce your ongoing maintenance costs, and you will not harm your local habitat. This material is weather and insect resistant so it will not crack, chip, or splinter. You will not have to paint it or worry about it leaching chemicals into surface water or the ground. This material can also be purchased as recycled plastic that serves as both sturdy for your home and great for the environment.
  • Fiber Cement Siding – this is a material made from cement and wood fiber reclaimed from waste of fast growing trees. This particular type of siding is very durable, termite resistant, water resistant, and non-combustible which makes it a low maintenance option. In addition to these positives, fiber cement siding often offer a 50 year warranty which not only ensures the success of the product, but also increases the value of your home.
  • Brick – thanks to the challenge of extracting clay for brick, there is rarely any wasted material. The lifespan of brick is limitless and it can be recycled after demolition in the future.

Increasing the Efficiency of Water Usage

  • Rainwater Collection – rainwater collected from your roof is a free source of landscape water. You can use it to water your yard, wash your vehicles and pets, and anything else that doesn’t require filtered water. All you’ll need is a suitable roof and guttering system, a storage tank and a simple filtration unit.
  • Plumbing – It is possible to design your home to use recycled water for toilet flushing. Also, use a low-flush toilet and a low-flow shower head to help alleviate unused water. This is where the strategic placement of your hot water heater will also come in handy.
  • In the Yard – select plants that have low water and pesticide needs. Planting trees offers beauty to your yard and will increase the value of your home while decreasing your impact on the environment. A single mature tree can provide $300 worth of energy and resources.
  • Chemicals – avoid using outdoor chemicals that can be harmful to the environment and always fix any leaks to prevent contamination of the water runoff.

Improving Air Quality to Improve Health and Productivity

  • Carpet – Using a low pile or less allergen attracting carpet and pad greatly improves air quality. At installation, have the carpet tacked down, not glued, to reduce pollutants. Many green built designs minimize the use of carpeted surfaces, replacing them with hard floors which don’t have these pollutants and are easier to keep free of dust, mold, and mildew.
  • Paints – Use low-VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds, such as formaldehyde) paints. Using low-VOC paints will improve the air quality and overall health of everyone in your home.
  • Ventilation – While you want to seal your home to prevent heat loss, this creates a need for mechanical ventilation. Ventilation can be provided by quiet fans with automatic controls or by heat recovery ventilators. Talk to your HVAC contractor for the best system for your home’s green design.
  • Construction materials – To prevent microbial contamination, select materials that are resistant to microbial growth.
  • Window treatments – Avoid synthetic window coverings or those that cannot be cleaned easily.

Green building is absolutely a multi-faceted undertaking. There are many things to be aware of and people in the industry are constantly finding new ways to improve the process in the long run. You can also read a more in-depth explanation of green building at our “What Are the 4 Basic Elements of Green Building?” article. With the help of UBuildIt, you can easily navigate the ins-and-outs of building your new green dream home. Contact your local office today for more information.

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