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6 Ways to Incorporate Green Design into your Home

Environmental sustainability has never been a more critical issue for humanity. With building, and building operation, contributing nearly 50% of global C02 emissions, the role of sustainable architecture has never been more important. As more people realize the importance of decreasing their carbon footprint, green design and construction are projected to become one of the fastest growing markets worldwide.

The good news is that with such a high demand, and progress in building and material science, there are a number of easy to implement and inexpensive approaches you can take to incorporate sustainable design features into your new or renovated home. In this article, we’ll look at 6 great ways you can integrate eco-friendly design in your home construction.

1. Work with the Environment, Not Against It

One of the most direct ways to construct green buildings is to keep the natural conditions of your building site in mind, what is called “passive design.” When optimizing natural light, heating, and cooling, the orientation of your house is vitally important.

In the Northern Hemisphere, south-facing windows will collect natural heat from sunlight in winter.  Avoiding or providing exterior shades for west-facing windows will help keep your home cooler in the hot summer months. Strategically placing windows throughout the house will allow for cross-breezes and natural ventilation, saving on energy usage. Yards without fences will allow for local wildlife to move freely.

An experienced green architect will design a building based on these principals and the specifics of the shape of the land, prevailing winds, and existing vegetation for your future home. This will make it genuinely “of its place.”

2. Purchase Sustainably Grown and Harvested Lumber

Forests are carbon sinks and provide habitat for all variety of wildlife. From the rainforests of South America to the arboreal forests of Canada, forest management is a critical issue worldwide. We have seen the increase of wildfire and devastation in the American West.   Traditional clear-cutting of old growth forests does irreparable harm to the ecosystems and the watershed. These are a non-renewable resource that must be protected for the “ecosystem services” that they provide.

We, as consumers, need to vote with our pocketbooks. Sustainably grown lumber is “certified” by either the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) or Green Cross rating systems. Engineered lumber products, large dimension pieces made up of factory assembled small diameter logs, work and act better than sawn timber while leaving large trees standing. Check to make sure that your forest products are certified and that engineered products are manufactured with non-toxic adhesives.

3. Install Green Insulation

Insulation is especially important in green design. Great insulation reduces the amount of energy needed to heat or cool your home. Placing weather resistant, insulation on the exterior of the structure helps to reduce “thermal bridging,” where heat is transferred through the structural elements.

Some insulation companies create insulation out of recycled materials, generally recycled cotton denim from jean manufacture, or recycled newspaper known as “cellulose.” Others are working with bio-based foam from mushrooms. These are the preferred selections since fiberglass insulation can lead to long-term health issues for installers and is oftentimes manufactured with formaldehyde. With green insulation, you can reduce your home energy usage while keeping usable materials out of the landfill.

4. Specify LED Lighting

LED lights are extremely energy efficient. They use significantly less power than regular incandescent bulbs and last up to 40 times longer. Their longer lifespan means less electronic waste.

They also create virtually no heat, meaning that they won’t warm up your home in the heart of summer. Even better, they are small and bright.  With advances in color rendition, they offer a new set of design opportunities.  You can work with an architect or designer to get creative with new ways you incorporate LED lighting into your home.

5. Design with Water Saving Fixtures

There is a large selection of plumbing fixtures that reduce flow, while providing improved water pressure, mixing balance, and scald control.  Horizontal axis washing machines use less water and get clothes cleaner. In California, where water is a perennial issue, these types of fixtures are required by law, partly to save water, partly to address the “water energy nexus.” Fully 20 percent of the energy that we use in California is for moving and purifying water. Even if you live in an area where water is abundant, using less of it will save money and reduce environmental pollution.

6. Cap it with Solar Panels

Solar panels are another staple of sustainable architecture. Prices have dropped precipitously as demand has risen and production has grown. Since they collect energy from the sun and convert it into electricity, they can significantly reduce your reliance on power from the city grid. There are more and more options for battery storage, fueled by the electric care industry.

In fact, solar panels are regularly used with advanced battery technology to create net zero energy homes, where the only power used is created sustainably, locally, and without any reliance on utility provided energy.

Wrapping Up

When building a new home, it is easier than you may think to incorporate green design elements. From water saving to solar panels, the sky, or the ground, is the limit. You can have the home you want and feel good about it while helping to preserve and enhance the environment for future generations.

Want to find out how your new home can be built sustainably? Contact us to learn more.

Based in San Francisco, California, Levy Art & Architecture specializes in commercial and residential projects, with the goal of creating an innovative architectural design consistent with the client’s vision. A team of professionals with extensive experience and multi-disciplinary backgrounds handles a wide range of projects of every scale.