Green Home-Building Techniques
With growing awareness of the effects human activities can have on the global environment, people are becoming more interested in using green home-building techniques. These techniques focus on a few key concepts: using energy-efficient equipment and design, using sustainable materials, reducing impact on environment and human health, and managing water resources.
Building for Energy Efficiency: Insulation
Heating and cooling interior spaces can account for 50 percent of a home’s energy use. Don’t let that energy go to waste through poor insulation. Stop drafts with spray foam insulation, which seals to the surfaces in walls and attics and prevents air gaps. Build exterior walls with 6-inch-wide studs instead of the traditional 4-inch studs. Use high-efficiency, Energy Star-rated low-E windows. Caulk all gaps around windows, doors, duct work and chases.
Using Energy-Efficient Equipment
Use high-efficiency mechanical and electrical equipment. A blue Energy Star label indicates a piece of equipment has been deemed energy-efficient by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Choose Energy Star equipment for heating and cooling systems, water heaters, appliances and light fixtures. Consider using point of use, or tankless, water heaters. These save energy because they do not have to keep a large tank of water hot until it is needed. (See References 1)
Energy-Efficient Design: Passive Heating, Cooling, Ventilation and Lighting
Design with the sun and wind in mind. Plant shade trees near the south-facing sides of buildings. Or, incorporate overhangs that shade the windows in summer when the sun is high and allow the sun to warm the building in winter when the sun is low. Install windows on all sides for cross ventilation, and consider awning windows that can remain open in light rain. Use skylights and light tubes to brighten interior rooms. (See References 1)
Using Sustainable Building Materials
Use reclaimed lumber when possible. Many communities have lumber reclamation sites or free used construction material trading cooperatives. Use products such as recycled plastic or composite wood decking and trim. Whenever possible, use materials that have very long life spans, such as cement board siding. They may be more expensive, but such materials save in the long run because they do not need to be thrown away and replaced for many years. (See References 2)
Design for Low Environmental Impact
Design buildings with small footprints that take up less land. The added green space absorbs excess nutrients in rainwater that can contribute harmful runoff to nearby watersheds. Design exterior spaces such as patios and driveways with permeable materials to let water soak in, and landscape with native plants that ideally need no chemical treatments such as fertilizer or pesticides. Conserve water and reduce wastewater inside with low-flow toilets and water-saver showerheads and faucets.