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Designing a Green Home

As a well informed and sensible home owner you would be interested in designing an environmentally friendly building.
If you already own a home, remodeling an existing building to be sustainable can be more cost-effective than building a new one.

Designing a green building starts from site selection – select a site that is close to amenities and facilities you would need to visit often. This will help you save on fuel costs.

The main points to be considered while designing a sustainable home is conservation of water, electrical energy, recycling waste, natural lighting and using recycled building materials. Green Distribution can help you in designing a home that saves money operationally as well as in the actual construction stage.

Be aware of ways and means of reducing your carbon footprint.

Building green is good for both the economy and the environment. Homebuyers and home owners increasingly see the added value in a green home. For some, it’s energy savings and lower utility bills. For others, it’s saving old growth forests. For still others, it’s knowing that their home is a healthier place for their children.
  • A Green Building is a home that is durable and long lasting.
  • A Green Building offers a safe environment for children to live and play.
  • A Green Building conserves the natural resources of our planet – by using materials from sustainable resources.
A Green Building’s objective is to
  1. Conserve natural resources
  2. Increase energy efficiency
  3. Improve indoor air quality
Designing a Green Building
Green building is a whole systems approach to the design, construction and operation of buildings – from the early stages of development through the final finishes in the home. This approach benefits the homeowners by reducing resource consumption and improving livability.

Green buildings consume less energy and water, have better indoor air quality and use less wood fiber than conventional homes and use recycled-content building materials. Green homes reduce potentially carcinogenic volatile organic compounds and formaldehyde from building materials and construction waste is often recycled and remanufactured into other building products.

Conventional building practices consume large quantities of wood, plastic, cardboard, paper, water and other natural resources that lead – unnecessarily – to their depletion.

Water conservation is another important issue. Wise water usage reduces the strain on resources while lowering expenses. Today, builders can take advantage of a new generation of high-efficiency appliances and landscape water management systems.

Energy Efficiency
Energy efficiency is a cornerstone of any green building project. Electric power generation and use of energy are major contributors to air pollution and global climate change. Improving energy efficiency and using renewable energy sources are effective ways to reduce the potential of energy supply interruptions, improve air quality, and reduce the impacts of global warming.

Improving energy efficiency is also an economically effective choice for consumers. Lowering utility expenses allows homeowners to enjoy the financial benefits year after year.

The first steps to increase energy efficiency are to add insulation wherever possible, install windows that are double glazed with low-e coatings and upgrade to high-efficiency appliances. Other energy upgrades include installing solar water heaters and photovoltaic panels.

Indoor Air Quality
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that the air in new homes can be ten times more polluted than outdoor air. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, 40% of children will develop respiratory disease, in part, due to the chemicals in their homes. Poor indoor air quality is caused by the off-gassing of chemicals found in many building materials as well as mold and mildew that build up in poorly designed and maintained heating and cooling systems.

One of the most common indoor pollutants is formaldehyde, a suspected human carcinogen. Kitchen cabinets, countertops, shelving and furniture are typically made from particleboard held together by formaldehyde-based adhesives. The formaldehyde is released into the home for years after these products have been installed. Many paints and floor finishes also contain unhealthy volatile organic compounds (VOCs). That “new house smell” is actually the odor of these volatile compounds off-gassing and is a telltale sign that there are harmful chemicals in the indoor environment.

The building products industry has responded to these indoor pollution problems by developing alternative paint, finishes, and adhesive products. For example, solvent-free adhesives used in flooring and countertops can eliminate many of the suspected and known human carcinogens. Paints, varnishes, and cleaners that contain less volatile compounds are now commonly available from most major manufacturers at costs comparable to conventional products.

Healthier Products and Practices For Families
What is more important than the health of our children? The public health community has identified homes as one of the most significant threats to children’s health. It is only common sense to reduce the use of products that are known to have health impacts. Consider using the following in your homes:
  • No-VOC paints
  • Natural linoleum in place of vinyl flooring
  • Elimination of particleboard and medium density fiberboard (MDF)
  • Water-borne wood finishes
  • Clean ducts before occupancy
  • Exhaust fan in attached garages
  • Range hood vented to outside
  • Whole house water filter
  • HEPA filter on furnace
  • HEPA Air Purifier
  • Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV)
  • Sealing of particleboard and MDF
  • Chlorine filter on showerhead
Natural Heating and Cooling
1. Incorporate Passive Solar Heating
Description:
Passive solar systems provide heat to the structure through south facing windows in conjunction with thermal mass.

Application:
The house must incorporate windows that face within 30 degrees of due south and have the ability to store excess heat in massive elements such as a slab floor or stone fireplace.

Benefit:
Passive solar design can reduce heating requirements by 30-50%, saving energy and money.

2. Install Overhangs or Awnings over South Facing Windows
Description:
Properly sized overhangs or awnings on south facing windows are important components of passive solar heating and natural cooling. Overhangs and awnings help keep the heat of the sun from entering the home during unwanted times, but allow heat to enter in the winter. These shade control devices can be oversized roof overhangs, wood trellises/arbors with deciduous plants, or adjustable or demountable awnings made of fabric or metal.

Application:
The overhang or awning design should keep out summer sun by shading the entire window during the hottest month(s) of the year. Size overhangs or awnings above south windows so that winter sunlight is allowed into the space, where it can be absorbed by thermal mass, and be re-radiated as heat. Also consider shading devices on the west and east facing windows to protect from morning and afternoon heat, especially in hotter climates.

Benefit:
Overhangs, awnings and trellises are an integral part of making passive solar heating and natural cooling work. Removable/retractable fabric awnings offer a low cost solution to reduce heat gain, lower energy bills, and make the home more comfortable in the summer.

3. Plant Deciduous Shade Trees on the West and South Sides of the Home
Description:
During summer months, the sun shines on the south and west sides of the home causing the home to heat up which in turn makes air conditioners work their hardest. Trees offer the best solution for keeping out low-angle sunlight from west and south windows in summer. The additional cooling demanded by low-angle sun penetration of west windows in late summer afternoons create the most significant summer peak utility costs.

Application:
Plant shade trees on the west and south sides of the home to provide shade and summer cooling. The most important areas to shade are windows and paved areas. Keep trees three feet from the foundation to avoid introduction of pests and root intrusions. Avoid planting trees too close to the home or utilities.

Benefit:
Planting shade trees can reduce summer air-conditioning costs by 25% to 40%. Trees provide numerous additional benefits to the environment including cleansing the air, creating habitats for birds and play places for children as well as adding aesthetic beauty to the neighborhood. Through shade and evapotranspiration, trees can create a microclimate that is up to 20 degrees cooler than the surrounding area.

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As a well informed and sensible home owner you would be interested in designing an environmentally friendly building.
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As an Architect or Builder there are many reasons to build green - mainly resource conservation, energy savings and healthy living.
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