Building your dream home? Read this first.
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A man came up to me on the bus today. A real, normal man who wasn’t asking for money or trying to sell me his doomsday theory. He approached me because he noticed I was reading a book about LEED® - Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design - building projects. According to the United States Green Building Council (USGBC®), the LEED green building certification program is the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of green buildings. This man proudly told me his son was taking an exam to earn the LEED Green Associate accreditation later this week and started an easy conversation about it. He told me, “Now I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know much about it, but from what I can tell, designing with sustainability in mind seems the right way to go if you’re interested in saving money.” And he was right. And his allusion to not knowing much made me realize, you don’t need to read thick books on LEED or earn accreditations to garner the significance of it: designing sustainably will be economical.
 
According to the USGBC®, buildings in the US account for 39% of energy use, 72% of electricity consumption and 38% of all carbon dioxide emissions. CO2 emissions from buildings are even higher than from transportation! Needless to say, there is room for improvement and that is where green design comes in. Building sustainably averages a reduction in energy consumption of 26%. Additionally, water usage typically reduces by around 40%. According to a 2008 publication from the General Services Administration, maintenance costs for green buildings is reduced by 13%. When an argument is made that building green costs more, you need to factor in the life of the building. Will building green cost more? Maybe. Will your energy, electricity, water and maintenance bills be noticeably lower than a home that didn’t design green? Yes.
 
I don’t expect everyone reading this to be an architect or engineer, so rather than getting into the nitty gritty of how to design a green home, I offer up the following talking points to present to your building team. By addressing these issues at the earliest stages of home design, you’ll be able to design the best home possible.

  1. Is your project design team working together from the start? In a traditionally designed home, an architect makes an initial design and then the engineers come in and fit their systems (such as plumbing and electrical components) to the architect’s design as best as they can. When a team works together from the start, they won’t be trying to fit a square peg into a round hole and the home will be designed to function more efficiently.
  2. Make your site selection work for you. Can you situate your home and design its windows to utilize natural lighting for most of the day? Is there a prevailing direction of wind that would allow for natural ventilation of your home instead of having to put the air on as soon as it gets a little warm?
  3. Efficient appliances are just one way to manage your water system. Through stormwater management and waste water reusing (greywater) systems you can reduce your risk of flooding and decrease your landscaping costs. What does your water management system look like?
  4. Oftentimes homes are outfitted with mechanical systems that are sized too large for their needs. The smaller the system, the less energy needed to operate them. Are your water heating, air conditioning, heating systems, etc. appropriately sized for your home and needs?
This just a jumping off point for discussions with your project design team. Still, by presenting these thoughts to them at an early stage of design, they’ll understand you’re serious about building a smart, efficient and sustainable home.
 
For information on how to have your home LEED Certified, click here.
For tips on saving money during the construction process, click here.
 
‘LEED®’ and related logo is a trademark owned by the U.S. Green Building Council® and is used with permission.

 

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