Green Building

Good design is about thinking things through. Green design is thinking through how your home will use resources. There is no one right way to design a house that considers the environment. My goal is to guide you in the design process so that you are aware of your choices and their long term impact.

Building Science is the approach we will use to make decisions together.

Building Science considers the interaction between a home’s:

  • Occupants
  • Building components & systems
  • Environment

All three need to be considered for a home to work well for your family, and careful planning can make it more sensitive to the environment too.

Basic green principles I try to use in designing any home include:

  • Build the right size. Bigger is not always better.
  • Build for energy efficiency. A well insulated house with little air infiltration tends to be more comfortable in both winter and summer, as well as costing less to heat and cool.
  • Build it to last. Good quality materials and detailing will last longer, need less maintenance, and probably look better in the meantime.
  • Remember where the sun, shade, and wind are. A house that works with its site can use these things to its advantage. A house that ignores its site will have to rely more heavily on mechanical systems to be comfortable.

Other things we will consider together are:

  • Sustainable Resources. You may want to select products made from recycled or easily renewable materials, such as engineered lumber, cellulose insulation, or cork flooring to reduce the impact of your project on the environment.
  • Life Cycle Costs. Some choices, such as a more efficient furnace, may cost more initially but save you money in the long term. Life cycle considerations may also include such things as how much energy is used in transporting a material to your home, and whether a similar material is available more locally.
  • Indoor Air Quality. The materials we use in our homes can affect the quality of air inside, which in turn affects our health. The choices you make on things such as wall sheathing, kitchen cabinets, ventilation systems, and paints can affect the quality of the air in your home. We will work together to balance these concerns with other issues.
  • Site impact. Considering existing trees, future garden areas, storm water management, and wildlife habitat can improve your enjoyment of your own yard, as well as help to protect local ecosystems.
  • Alternatives to conventional building techniques and materials. There are many options available, and the possibilities will continue to increase as the construction industry responds to homeowners’ desire for environmentally sensitive products.

What about Certifications?

A number of groups are working to help set new standards for green home construction and renovation. Having your home certified through one of these organizations can help you set goals for making your project greener, as well as help you to verify that you’ve really met your goals.

  • The National Green Building Standard is a certification system developed by the National Home Builders Association (NAHB) and the International Code Council (ICC). This standard requires third party verification, ensuring that the green features called for in the plans and specifications are installed as intended. It includes provisions that allow for its use in renovation projects as well as new construction.
  • LEED-H (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Homes) is the residential certification system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council. The LEED program for commercial construction led the way in national Green rating systems. The LEED-H program follows a similar format, tailored for residential construction. It also requires third party verification. Due to the format and verification requirements of LEED-H, it is not suitable for most remodeling projects.
  • Energy Star is a program introduced by the US EPA in 1992 to identify and promote energy efficient products. This program is a good first step towards energy efficient home design, but is not nearly as rigorous as other Green home standards. The Energy Star label is still extremely helpful in selecting new appliances for your home.
  • At the other end of the spectrum, and possibly the wave of the future, are the Passivhaus and Building America programs. These programs are focused on creating super-insulated, tightly sealed homes that require very little heating. These houses approach the goal of “net zero” energy consumption by seeking to reduce as much as possible the amount of energy a home takes to operate. Homes built to these standards require careful design and construction, considering the relationships between every aspect of the building system.

If you are interested in having your project Green certified, I’ll be glad to help you evaluate these programs to determine which will best help you meet your goals.

Certifications are available for building professionals and designers as well, such as the NAHB’s Certified Green Professional and the LEED Accredited Professional designations. The training, testing, and continuing education requirements of these programs can vary considerably, so be sure to ask for more details about professionals’ training and experience in Green Home Construction.

New Leaf Home Design will help you to make choices for your project that are right for your family and the environment.

I’d like to talk with you about how we can make your home more “green”. You can contact me at hallie@newleafhomedesign.com or by calling 330.329-6901.