Setting Priorities for your Sustainable Home Design is the Key to having a Green Home
If sustainability is one of the goals for your building project, then a sober assessment of priorities will help to guide your selection of green building technologies. Whether your project is a new construction, remodel or renovation, the sustainable identity of your home will only be genuine when its components and elements furnish positive returns on investment. Unfortunately, the most visible and showy applications may offer the least value for supporting sustainability. Solar collectors and panels can be exciting and enticing. Unfortunately for our egos, it is most often the very common (even dull) conservation measures that furnish the biggest bang for the buck.
A bit of clever design can create much opportunity for energy savings through conservation methods such as thick insulation, secure air barriers and construction detail, which need to be carefully considered and executed. Tight high quality windows and doors can be a major energy-saving investment. Similarly, caulking and weather-stripping are the most boring, but also the most effective means of saving energy. In your conservation efforts, don’t forget lighting. CFL and LED lamps can reduce electrical usage. These and other basic conservation techniques should be the first considerations.
The next most effective resource-conserving approach is passive solar architecture. If your home is located at a site with southern exposure and in a cold climate, then a passive solar orientation can provide significant financial savings with little added expense. Such application can be as simple as arranging more glass on the south side of the house than on the other sides. If the sunshine entering these windows lands on masonry surfaces, then energy can be stored by day and slowly released during evening hours. Modest overhangs will shade the heat gain during the summer and allow the sunshine to enter during the winter, due to the seasonal changes of the sun’s motion. The simplicity of such design is appealing. Passive solar architecture can be accomplished without doing any major remodeling, and is therefore affordable and reliable.
Finally, for those who have taken advantage of all of the above opportunities and still wish to venture further into sustainable home design, then active solar collection systems may be appropriate. These will include photovoltaic power generation and domestic water heating systems. In locations where water is scarce, rainwater harvesting and grey-water recycling may be employed. All of these installations require a substantial financial investment upfront, and returns must be carefully examined to determine if they are economically justified in each particular application. Tax credits and deductions may be available for these systems (as with conservation and passive solar expenses) and these incentives will vary from region to region. A full financial analysis can be complicated, and solar panel installers can often lend helpful support.
By establishing priorities, your project will follow sound principles that lead to architecture with integrity. You will be assured that the green building measures employed in your sustainable project truly support your commitment to conserving energy and other resources.