Design Features Of A Green Home

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Multiple design features work in tandem to make comfortable, efficient, and economic green homes.

Conventional homes are getting larger, while the average family size/occupancy decreases. Smaller homes that use space efficiently, are well-organized, and are filled with a prudent number of possessions, can not only be beautiful and cozy, but also use much less energy to heat and cool.

A home located on existing water, sewage, and roads will have less of an environmental impact than one that is not. Ideally, a green home would also be located close to community resources and public transportation in order to minimize automobile travel. Finally, homes should be in a compact development to allow for more open, green spaces.

Landscaping of a green home is designed to minimize fertilizer, herbicide, pesticide, and water use. Trees are also planted to provide shade (passive cooling for the home). Permeable paving is used to recharge groundwater and reduce surface run off. Finally, non-toxic methods of insect and pest control should be used.

Rainwater from the roof is harvested and gray-water reuse systems are installed in a green home. High efficiency fixtures (toilets, showers, and faucets) are used. In some cases, even composting toilets or living machines treat human wastes.

In order to maintain high indoor air quality, all combustion devices (space heating, fireplaces) need to have proper venting, and air systems must have a method of heat recovery (such as heat exchangers). Materials such as paints and glues used in the homes also contribute to indoor air quality; green homes use products with low VOCs (volatile organic compounds), which helps maintain healthy air quality, not only for those living in the house, but also for those working on the construction of the home. Green homes also have good air-filtering, radon protection, humidity control, and protection from vehicle emissions.

Durable materials used in the construction are sourced locally to avoid unnecessary transportation. All wood is Forest Stewardship Council certified, and products are chosen from an environmentally preferable product list, which favors recycled and recyclable materials and rapidly renewable materials. Waste during construction is minimized, and waste is recycled during construction and during use (for example, through curb-side recycling and back-yard composting).

A green home is very energy efficient and meets the requirements for an Energy Star rating for the entire home, but also contains Energy Star appliances, windows, furnace, air-conditioning, and lighting. To earn the Energy Star rating, homes must meet guidelines for energy efficiency set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which typically make them 20-30 percent more efficient than standard homes. Green homes are well-insulated, their ducts are tight, and the thermal envelope is sealed to reduce air infiltration.

A green home is run by renewable energy, utilizing orientation and window placement for passive solar heating and natural ventilation/cooling, and has a solar domestic hot-water system. In addition, the green home may have solar photovoltaic panels, wind turbines, micro-hydro, or combined heat and power systems.

The physical design of the house can also lend a great deal to a green home's efficiency. Through careful attention to sizing and placement of glazing, room layouts, and positioning of various architectural elements, a wide range of benefits can be reaped. These benefits include an increase in natural day-lighting, solar heat gain or loss (based on climate), and better cross-ventilation.

Green homes are designed, built, and operated so that by using energy, water, and building materials intelligently, modern society can live well without needlessly damaging the environment.

SEE ALSo: Green Buildings; Green Cities; Green Design; Energy Efficiency.

BIBLIogRAPHY. Dan Chiras, The New Ecological Home: A Complete Guide to Green Building Options (Chelsea Green Publishing Company, 2004); S.C. Duran, Green Homes (HarperCollins Publishers, 2007); Jeanne A. Roberts, Green Your Home: The Complete Guide to Making Your New or Existing Home Environmentally Healthy (Atlantic Publishing Company , 2008); Clarke Snell and Tim Callahan, Building Green: A Complete How-to Guide to Alternative Building Methods (Lark Books, 2005); Alanna Stang and Christopher Hawthorne, The Green House: New Directions In Sustainable Architecture (Princeton Architectural Press, 2005); Carol Venolia and Kelly Lerner, Natural Remodeling for the Not-So-Green House: Bringing Your Home Into Harmony With Nature (Sterling Publishing, 2006); Alex Wilson, Your Green Home: A Guide to Planning a Healthy, Environmentally Friendly New Home (New Society Publishers, 2006).

Joshua M. Pearce Clarion University of Pennsylvania

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