For those of us who are considering building a home, many ideas to being as green as possible factor into the equation. The type of home is going to be the largest variable here, because in these modern times, green homes are all in vogue.
If you have no building codes or constraints on what type of structure to build, then the sky is the limit. Such homes like straw bale structures, berms, poured earth, geodesic domes and any other design you can image, are all within reach. All of the above listed would be considered “green” homes for one reason or another, and each has its place in any given situation.*
If you really want to go green, build small. There are many full feature house designs, and many manufacturers out there, that will build a house with very small dimensions. How small you might ask? How about a complete home built on an 8-foot by 16-foot space! With an upstairs that serves as a bedroom, that’s about 250 square feet of living space. Energy consumption in one year is about a months average for the rest of us. Although living in a home that small is extreme, it is certainly green.
However, for the majority of us out there in suburban America, we may not have the choice to build any which way we so choose. There are things like city codes that restrict building a home, so that it conforms to the basic layout of a neighborhood and/or subdivision. No matter anyones good green intentions, you aren’t going to be allowed to blow-in a custom made foam home when everyone around you has a ranch style house. It’s not going to happen.
So for the rest of us, even if we have to conform to rules and regulations, here are three essentials when it comes to building green.
Insulation, Insulation, Insulation—This is perhaps the easiest thing to greening a new building that can be done. It doesn’t even add all that much to the cost of a new building, yet it will reduce energy bills substantially. Batting between the studs, blown insulation in the attic and foam boards, surrounded by a house wrap on the exterior before the siding is added, creates a passive green way to save energy.
There are even green types of insulation you can use too. Cellulose, cotton, and mineral wood, just to name a few. R-value is the key, the higher the R-value, the better the insulating property. Don’t skimp here, get the most insulation you can, and you are on your green building way.
Energy Efficient Windows—Next on the building list are energy efficient windows. Regular windows are huge energy wasters, leaking heated air out and cold air in. Any heating and cooling appliance has to work that much harder to compensate for leaking windows. Get the best energy efficient windows that you can afford during building, and consider them as another type of insulation.
Solar Water Heater—The least expensive way to go solar is by putting in a solar water heater. Although inexpensive as far as solar applications go, the green factor here is huge. Hot water use can account for more than 60% of your energy cost, and if a solar water heater is able to heat all of your hot water needs, the savings are ginormous! The energy tax credit is also available for this technology, as of this writing, so going solar in just this one area alone is one of the greenest things you can do.
Of course, there are many other ways to green a new home when building. Energy efficient heating and cooling units are priorities, and Energy Star appliances come next. If you have the space, put up a small windmill and get it hooked into the grid, or do the same with solar panels on your roof. Streams can be tapped for energy with a hydro generator, wood or pellet burning stoves can be installed, and even using recycled building materials make your home a bit more green.
“The Big Three,” insulation, energy efficient windows and solar power are the most important aspect when building, and if you just do those three, consider your home a green one.
By: Dale Y the Green Guy