Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Tips to Designing a Green Home

There are almost limitless options, technologies and design techniques in the planning and building of a sustainable home. Here are some things to keep in mind when designing your green home:

1. Evaluate the site and surrounding vegetation.
Take into consideration nearby bodies of water (lakes, ponds, and streams) as well as parks and protected areas. Site the home to have minimal negative impact on these as well as any trees and vegetation on the property.

2. Take advantage of solar energy.
There are many ways you can use solar energy in your new timber frame home – two of them, passive solar design and daylighting, are planned for during the design phase and do not require any equipment or expensive installation costs. Other solar applications to research are active solar heating systems, Photovoltaic systems to generate electricity, and solar water heating systems. All of these applications can be used in any climate.

3. Design only as much space as you need.
One of the dangers of designing a home can be “project creep”. Adding four feet to the house, finishing the basement, or increasing a Master Bedroom wing not only increase the living space of the home, but greatly increase its cost – from foundation to roof. Before increasing your home’s footprint, consider whether or not the additional space is necessary. Compare your design with your current home’s space. Don’t forget to take into account how the materials will impact cost – the foundation, site work, increased timbers, siding, windows, insulation, and roofing materials.

4. Compare building materials and energy systems.
There are a myriad of material options to choose from in building a green home. Compare materials for regional availability, energy efficiency, maintenance, warranty & longevity, and return on investment. Consider using one or more of these: Insulated Concrete Form (ICF) foundation, Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) enclosure system, recycled decking, radiant in-floor heat, and low-E windows. Wherever possible, select FSC certified wood products and an ENERGY STAR® approval on appliances.

5. Hire an architect who is familiar with the type of home you wish to build.
An architect will be able to save you money, solve problems that might arise, and most importantly, keep your goals as the top priority as he or she manages your team of experts during the home’s design and construction. He or she will guide you through the stages of designing your home to match your family’s needs and answer questions you might have about energy systems, green materials, and sustainable design options.

Kimberly Bonin, Executive Project Manager
Bonin Architects & Associates, PLLC

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