What distinguishes green home design? While traditional home construction starts by designing the house and dropping it into the site, construction of a resource-efficient home starts with a thoughtful all-season assessment of the site. The goal is to create a structure that integrates into the environment and takes advantage of aspects such as sunlight and breezes.
Location convenience and proximity to work, shopping, services, schools, public transportation, and walkability
Previous use of the site; brownfield sites may require environmental cleanups such as soil remediation
Wind patterns for natural ventilation and extra insulation placement
Orientation of the home to the natural terrain and scenic views
Protection of plant and wildlife habitats and ecosystems
What is the right size? Some designers recommend making a detailed list of all the activities the family will do inside, from everyday activities to hobbies. Is there a need for an artist’s studio, home office, pantry space, exercise room, children’s play area, guest accommodations, entertainment space, storage for bikes, and/or electric vehicle charging? Comparing the list with the home design will show if the planned spaces can accommodate every need and activity.
After working through the choices and issues involved in site selection, the next step in the design process is developing the plans for the home. Buyers should certainly have the option to build as large of or small of a home as the site, zoning, and building codes allow.
The popular choice for Green construction is Functional and compact. They tend to cost less to build and maintain, use less material to construct, and feel cozy and sheltering. Overly large homes contribute to sprawl, require more materials, and consume more energy—even if they are energy efficient.
It seems like a green choice exists for every type of building material. Recycled, reclaimed, and repurposed materials turn up in some unexpected ways: Reclaimed sawdust in composite floorings. Rapid-growth bamboo in decorative veneers. Shredded paper and cardboard in waterproof building sheathing. Recycled glass in countertops and flooring. Crushed seashells in decorative tiles.
Another issue in relation to building materials is the total energy expended—the embodied energy—in production, transportation, maintenance, and disposal. The lower the total embodied energy, the “greener” the product. Embodied energy works in conjunction with operational energy, or the energy required to keep a home running once constructed, such as lighting, heating, and cooling.
The outcome of the design process is a set of specifications (the specs)—from quality of cabinets, to flooring and carpets, to the type of wiring and plumbing— The specs are the detailed instructions that the builder and subcontractors use for bidding out work, ordering materials, establishing pricing, and constructing the home. Obviously, developing specs for full-custom homes can take much longer than for a spec home. The buyer must sign off on the specs and pricing before the builder can start construction. It is a common practice, even with production builders, to give buyers an opportunity to make choices such as floor and wall finishes, countertops, appliances, and similar details.
The most crucial aspect of an Energy Efficient New Construction is the building envelope as it separates the indoor and outdoor environments and divides conditioned—heated and cooled— from unconditioned space.
The components are the below-grade systems (foundation walls, floor slab, and basement or crawlspace), exterior walls, windows and doors, and the roof.
Experts recommend insulation with R-values that are optimal for each construction level. Using R10 under the slat, R20 in below-grade walls, R40 in above-grade walls, and R60 in top of the building envelope.”
Construction of the building envelope requires a large number of materials—more than any other part of the building. A tightly-sealed building envelope is crucial to energy efficiency. Challenges associated with Greening your undergrond
Moving up from the below-grade portion of the building envelope, the next element involves the construction of the frame and exterior walls. Let’s look at some innovations in framing and exterior walls that employ sustainable methods and materials. Innovations in framing and exterior walls that employ sustainable methods and materials.
Roofs Insulation in attics and under roofs presents the best opportunity for preventing heat loss. But there are other options that can be incorporated into the exterior structure of the roof. Cool roofs and green roofs provide a multitude of sustainable benefits, from reducing storm water runoff to lowering the impact of solar heat gain and reducing the urban heat island effect.
Getting your home certified is easiest while building a new custom home. Certified homes hold their value even in a down market. Furthermore, a certification provides objective third-party verification of the home’s resource efficiency. Just remember that a new home can include the features that make it as resource efficient, durable, and “green” as a certified home without tackling the certification process. You can do without the extra expense of scheduling of certification raters and documentation during construction. If you ever decide to move however a certification is the express way to selling and marketing your home to the clientele. As well speeds along the buyers lending process.
Net Zero Homes
High-performance homes exceed the baseline standards but continue to increase in performance, as they initially reduce reliance on fossil fuels and eventually are powered entirely by renewable energy. As green technologies continue to evolve—becoming less expensive, more efficient, and more accessible—the possibility of vastly reducing our carbon footprint at scale, or even becoming carbon positive, becomes more of a reality.
Unless disconnected completely from the power grid, net zero energy homes still have utility bills. For example, if a home also uses natural gas, a true net zero energy home would have to produce enough electricity to offset the cost of gas in order to achieve a complete bottom-line “wash.” Plus, the utility company must offer dollar-for-dollar net metering. Smart home technologies help the homeowner track and manage power generation and consumption.
Components Although the popular idea of a net zero energy home envisions a pile of solar panels on the rooftop, the concept is much broader. It involves a balance of conservation, energy efficiency, and power generation along with the habits and usage patterns of the home’s occupants, which can offset savings from efficiencies and home-generated power.
Good usage habits: turning off lights, electronics, and appliances when not in use
Adjusting climate controls when away from home
Right-sized high-efficiency heating, cooling, and water heating
Taking advantage of natural ventilation, lighting, and solar heat gain
Back-up connection to power grid, storage batteries, or generator
Zero Energy Ready Homes
In simplest terms, a Zero Energy Ready Home is constructed to the same standards as a net zero home, but without the solar panels— the home is equipped for solar or other renewable energy sources to be added in the future.
DOE Zero Energy Ready Homes (ZERH) must be verified by a qualified third party and must rate at least 40%–50% more efficient than a typical new home. This type of efficiency typically scores in the low- to mid-50s on the HERS®. To qualify as a DOE Zero Energy Ready Home, all homes permitted as of June 2019 must meet all DOE ZERH National Requirements.
The market for Zero Energy Ready Homes and net zero energy homes is growing, fast, with whole communities being developed at this high level of performance. Walnut Farm in Virginia is the first zero energy ready new home community in the state. A developer in the greater Denver, Colorado, area is going a step further, with its Z.E.N. home design—or Zero Energy Now. Adhering to the DOE ZERH standards, the ZEN home strives to achieve an even higher level of performance with a HERS® score of 15 and superior indoor air quality—at an affordable price point. Construction of over 20,000 new homes are currently underway in Valencia, California, by a number of different contractors and will when completed, be the largest net-zero community in the nation
Clearly, momentum for net zero homes is building across the United States. Programs nationwide to promote Zero Energy Ready and zero energy homes are also increasing in number, which will accelerate the expansion of this trend.24
Another green option is a passive home The main distinction of this design is its overall energy efficiency. The precise reduction in energy is difficult to measure due to individual designs, construction materials, geography, etc. But estimates generally range from 50% to some claiming as much as 90%; it’s also important to note that the energy savings are typically more for heating than for cooling. The design is currently popular in Europe and still fairly rare in the United States, but the green principles behind the passive house are likely to catch on in the upcoming decade.
The principles are as follows
Continuous insulation throughout entire building envelope resulting in an airtight seal
Implementation of high-performance windows and doors.
An energy recovery ventilation system is employed for heating and cooling.