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10 Considerations For Building a Green Home

Green home design strives to con­struct a house that saves mon­ey and is good for the envi­ron­ment and the occu­pants of the home. Green or sus­tain­able home build­ing reduces ener­gy, water, and mate­r­i­al use dur­ing and after con­struc­tion. Green build­ing also cre­ates a durable house that has a healthy indoor envi­ron­men­tal qual­i­ty (IEQ) and a high lev­el of com­fort for its occu­pants. Ulti­mate­ly, build­ing a green home increas­es the resale val­ue of the house. In fact, a report by the Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas at Austin and the U.S. Green Build­ing Coun­cil (USG­BC) con­clud­ed that new LEED-cer­ti­fied homes (green) in the Austin-Round Rock Met­ro­pol­i­tan Sta­tis­ti­cal Area are val­ued an aver­age of $25,000 more than con­ven­tion­al homes. In addi­tion, accord­ing to new research pub­lished in the Green Mul­ti­fam­i­ly and Sin­gle Fam­i­ly Homes 2017 Smart­Mar­ket Brief, green home con­struc­tion is grow­ing among both sin­gle-fam­i­ly and mul­ti­fam­i­ly home builders. The study found that at least one-third of the sin­gle-fam­i­ly and mul­ti-fam­i­ly builders sur­veyed said that green build­ing is a major por­tion of their over­all activ­i­ty. By 2022, this num­ber is pre­dict­ed to increase to near­ly one-half in both the sin­gle-fam­i­ly and mul­ti-fam­i­ly sec­tors.

Nation­al Asso­ci­a­tion of Home Builders (NAHB) Chair­man Granger Mac­Don­ald, a home builder and devel­op­er from Ker­rville, Texas states, Build­ing green is no longer a niche busi­ness; our mem­bers rec­og­nize the val­ue of build­ing green and are incor­po­rat­ing these ele­ments into their stan­dard busi­ness prac­tices.”

There are numer­ous ele­ments to con­sid­er when build­ing a green home. A green home design con­sid­ers ener­gy, water, and waste effi­cien­cy along with IEQ fac­tors such as indoor air qual­i­ty (IAQ), ther­mal, light, acoustic, pri­va­cy, secu­ri­ty, and the func­tion of the space. Green build­ing con­struc­tion is also resilient and low main­te­nance. The goals of green home design are to achieve net-zero ener­gy use3 and cre­ate a durable, com­fort­able, healthy, low main­te­nance home with high IEQ.

10 Considerations for Building a Green Home

1. A Whole-Building System Approach for Designing a Green Home

The whole-build­ing sys­tem approach treats a house as a sin­gle ener­gy sys­tem in which each part impacts the effi­cien­cy of the entire home. The whole-build­ing sys­tem approach effi­cient­ly uses elec­tric­i­ty, water, and oth­er nat­ur­al resources and strives to reduce mate­r­i­al con­sump­tion and waste. Also, it ensures that all the build­ing pro­fes­sion­als are informed and under­stand every aspect of the design that impacts ener­gy use in the house. The goal of the whole-build­ing sys­tem approach is to cre­ate a home with a healthy and safe indoor envi­ron­ment, low­er util­i­ty and main­te­nance costs, and improved dura­bil­i­ty and com­fort. Home­own­ers, archi­tects, and con­trac­tors con­cur that design­ing a green home needs a whole-build­ing sys­tem approach.

2. A Green Home has a High Performance Building Envelope

A high per­for­mance build­ing enve­lope min­i­mizes heat, air and mois­ture infil­tra­tion and is cru­cial to cre­at­ing a green home. Essen­tial design com­po­nents of a high per­for­mance build­ing enve­lope are con­tin­u­ous insu­la­tion (CI)4 and appli­ca­tion of an air and mois­ture bar­ri­er. Con­tin­u­ous insu­la­tion pre­vents gaps of insu­la­tion where heat can enter or escape (ther­mal bridg­ing), and a high per­for­mance air and mois­ture bar­ri­er stops air leak­age which degrades ener­gy per­for­mance of a build­ing. Mois­ture resis­tance is key to pre­vent­ing rot and the growth of mold and mildew, which can tremen­dous­ly degrade the integri­ty and IEQ of a home. A high per­for­mance build­ing enve­lope should also include ener­gy effi­cient win­dows, sky­lights, and doors appro­pri­ate to the home’s cli­mate zone. Essen­tial to green home design is a high per­for­mance build­ing enve­lope that min­i­mizes heat, air and mois­ture infil­tra­tion with­in a home.

3. Cool Roofs of a Green Home

A cool roof keeps the home and attic spaces cool by shield­ing against solar heat gain. Mate­ri­als for a cool roof include high ther­mal mass materials5 like clay, tiles, or slate that are reflec­tive or have light col­ored pig­ments that cast back the sun­light. Cool roofs reduce ener­gy bills and improve indoor com­fort. Cool roofs can also extend the roof’s ser­vice life.

4. The Heating, Cooling and Ventilation Systems of a Green Home

Because a home’s heat­ing and cool­ing sys­tem account for 48 per­cent of a home’s ener­gy use, the design of a green home should con­sid­er high-effi­cien­cy heat­ing and cool­ing sys­tems that use less ener­gy. The most effi­cient HVAC sys­tem is 95 per­cent effi­cient; mean­ing 5 per­cent of the ener­gy pro­duced is lost. Con­trol­ling ven­ti­la­tion of a green home is also crit­i­cal because the air-tight­ness of a green home can trap pol­lu­tants (like radon, formalde­hyde, and volatile organ­ic com­pounds). Meth­ods of ven­ti­la­tion may include an ener­gy recov­ery ven­ti­la­tion sys­tem and spot ven­ti­la­tion, such as exhaust fans in the bath­room and kitchen, along with nat­ur­al ven­ti­la­tion.

5. Renewable Energy Sources of an Energy-Efficient Home

The design of a stain­able home should strive to gen­er­ate as much ener­gy as it uses by installing renew­able ener­gy mea­sures: for exam­ple, micro­hy­dropow­er, solar pho­to­volta­ic (PV) pan­els, wind sys­tem, and small hybrid” elec­tric sys­tem. Renew­able ener­gy sources can lessen or even elim­i­nate a home’s util­i­ty bills and may even have tax incen­tives.

6. Energy-Efficient Appliances, Electronics, Water Heater, Lighting, and Smart Devices of a Green Home

Design of a green home should include ENER­GY STAR appli­ances, ener­gy-effi­cient water heaters, ENER­GY STAR®-labeled office equip­ment and elec­tron­ics, and ener­gy-effi­cient light­ing like light-emit­ting diodes (LEDs), com­pact flu­o­res­cent lamps (CFLs), and halo­gen incan­des­cent. Smart home devices like pro­gram­ma­ble ther­mostats, occu­pan­cy or motion sen­sors, CO2 and oth­er air qual­i­ty alarms, can also save mon­ey and ener­gy, along with mak­ing a home safer.

7. Insulated Slab Foundation of an Energy-Efficient Home

In many slab-on-grade foun­da­tion designs, sig­nif­i­cant areas of the slab edge is unin­su­lat­ed and remains exposed to the out­door envi­ron­ment, allow­ing heat ener­gy to trav­el into and out of the home. This can sig­nif­i­cant­ly impact the ener­gy effi­cien­cy of the build­ing and lead to uncom­fort­able indoor con­di­tions. To avoid this con­di­tion, the exposed por­tions of the slab should be insu­lat­ed. Addi­tion­al pre­cau­tions must also be tak­en in areas where ter­mites are present as the foam insu­la­tion can pro­vide an entry point into the home.These small details tak­en togeth­er all con­tribute to a green­er and more com­fort­able home design.

8. Site Orientation of a Green-Sustainable Home

Cor­rect site ori­en­ta­tion (pas­sive solar design) of a green home is cru­cial for tak­ing advan­tage of the sun’s ener­gy. For instance, the north-south ori­en­ta­tion min­i­mizes direct sun­light dur­ing the sum­mer (which reduces cool­ing demands) while max­i­miz­ing sun­light dur­ing the win­ter (which reduces heat­ing demands).

9. A Green Home is Durable

A sus­tain­able home design uti­lizes durable prod­ucts and mate­ri­als. Durable prod­ucts are sus­tain­able because they last longer, so the raw mate­ri­als, ener­gy, and envi­ron­men­tal impacts invest­ed in them are spread out over more time. Dura­bil­i­ty also improves the resilience of a home against nat­ur­al dis­as­ters like hur­ri­canes, tor­na­does, and fires. Again, sav­ing ener­gy and mon­ey to rebuild and repair.

10. Bautex Blocks are the Ideal Choice for a Green Home Design: Energy-Efficient, Durable, Comfortable, Healthy and a High IEQ

A green home is a sus­tain­able house that is sen­si­tive to human impact on nat­ur­al ecosys­tems. The ulti­mate goal of green home design is to achieve net-zero ener­gy use and cre­ate a durable, com­fort­able, healthy home with high IEQ. Vis­it Bau­tex Sys­tems for more con­sid­er­a­tions for build­ing a green home.

1Green homes are good for the envi­ron­ment because they bat­tle against increas­ing green­house gas­es and glob­al warm­ing. Neg­a­tive impacts of glob­al warm­ing include ris­ing sea lev­els due to grow­ing rates of glacial melt­ing, more acidic oceans, due to climb­ing car­bon diox­ide lev­els, and more fre­quent and severe weath­er events.

2Sustainable design aims to reduce deple­tion of crit­i­cal resources like water, land, raw mate­ri­als and ener­gy. Sus­tain­able design of also pre­vents the destruc­tion of the ecosys­tem.

3A net-zero ener­gy home makes as much ener­gy as it uses.

4 Con­tin­u­ous insu­la­tion is required by the ASHRAE 90.1 and the Inter­na­tion­al Ener­gy Con­ser­va­tion Code (2015 IECC). Con­tin­u­ous insu­la­tion is defined by the ASHRAE Stan­dard 90.12013 as insu­la­tion that is uncom­pressed and con­tin­u­ous across all struc­tur­al mem­bers with­out ther­mal bridges oth­er than fas­ten­ers and ser­vice open­ings. A ther­mal bridge is a sec­tion of a wall assem­bly that allows heat and ener­gy to flow through it at a high­er rate than the sur­round­ing area and reduces the effec­tive R-val­ue of the wall assem­bly.

5High ther­mal mass mate­ri­als can absorb and store heat ener­gy. High ther­mal mass mate­ri­als help sta­bi­lize tem­per­a­ture shifts with­in a home by slow­ing the rate of heat trans­fer. Water, stone, brick, and con­crete are exam­ples of mate­ri­als with high ther­mal mass. Steel, wood, and car­pet­ing have low ther­mal mass and not good mate­ri­als for green home design.

6Volatile organ­ic com­pounds (VOC) are chem­i­cals used to man­u­fac­ture and main­tain build­ing mate­ri­als, inte­ri­or fur­nish­ing, clean­ing prod­ucts and per­son­al care prod­ucts. Emis­sions of VOCs from these prod­ucts can cause nose, eye and throat irri­ta­tions, headaches, nau­sea and dam­age to the kid­ney, liv­er and cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem. Some organ­ics can even cause can­cer in ani­mals and humans.