You grew up in an eco-friendly home and were raised to consider the environment mindfully. You tended the family garden, learned to handle a caulk gun while still in middle school and developed a signature compost turning flip that remains a hot topic at holiday get-togethers to this day.
Yet somehow, eco-living didn’t really come into play in your childhood fantasy life. Your dream home was on a beach with a flat-screen TV and hot tub in every room. The non-negotiable four-car garage held three smoking sports cars and a more practical Hummer H4. You know, because it’s hard to fit shopping bags in a two-seater.
Now that you’re on your own and firmly planted in the here and now, you find the real-time task of designing your home both exhilarating and intimidating. While you remain hopelessly attracted to the finer things in life, environmentalism’s imprint will always be strong. Is it possible to design an eco-friendly home that has at least some of the bells and whistles on your wishlist?
Below we’ve compiled building modification tips which not only take full advantage of modern green science but high-end technology and luxury as well.
Assure a Viable Location
Choose a location conducive to sourcing out alternative energy. If you’re thinking of trying solar, look for a plot that gets plenty of light from morning to night. If wind is your thing, you’ll want ample open space around your new home for winds to pick up strength; the standard recommendation is an acre or more.
If you’re looking at land with that kind of acreage, perhaps geothermal energy would be your best long-term bet — especially if you discover a plot that encompasses a natural body of water like a lake or pond. Since you’re constructing from the ground up anyway, the land razing necessary to install a geothermal heating and cooling system is not as disruptive as it would be if you were adding on to a pre-existing structure.
Compile a Green Team
Find a skilled team of architects, tradespeople and designers who are proficient in eco-friendly construction. When green modifications are included in a house plan from the get-go, material acquisition and timetable development are a snap.
Sometimes nontraditional projects get irrevocably tied up in the land use permitting process. Builders who are familiar with the ins and outs of various environmental upgrades are best able to present the case for local certification approval.
Install Ample Insulation
Without proper insulation, energy-efficient modifications are nothing but a waste of time and money. To avoid this, modern eco-friendly homes are framed with two-by-six-inch beams placed twenty-four inches apart as opposed to the standard two-by-fours every sixteen inches. The resulting extra space allows for liberal insulation installment in ceilings, walls and floors as well as the attic, crawl space and basement.
Whichever form of insulation you choose, make sure the r-value meets or exceeds recommendations for your geographic location. And don’t forget to check into tax credits, you may get up to $500 back!
Seal Up Tight
Sealing up your new home to eliminate air leaks goes hand-in-hand with effective insulation technique. Ask your team about incorporating energy efficient windows and doors. Your caulking skills will likely atrophy from lack of practice, but you stand to save twelve percent or more on energy bills!
If the HVAC system you ultimately choose requires ductwork, make sure to seal that as well — paying particular attention to the seams — with metal or mesh tape and mastic.
Automated thermostats can be programmed for optimal efficiency. Alter your heating and cooling schedule to accommodate your family’s needs, then simply let the program carry on! Consider lowering temperatures at night and during weekdays, and raising them to a comfortable point in the mornings, evenings and on weekends.
Current high tech advances allow for remote programming from your computer or smartphone. Future plans include thermostats that intuit or anticipate adjustment based on past preference patterns.
Choose eco-friendly materials and products to feather your new nest. Use low or no VOC — volatile organic compound — paints to add color. Select from a variety of natural flooring options including bamboo, salvaged hardwood and recycled glass tiles. Purchase area rugs woven with organic fibers and manufactured morally, and shop green retail furniture lines. Finally, consider a trip to your local flea market or salvage yard — you never know what architectural treasures you may discover.
One thing for sure is you won’t find a flat-screen TV or Hummer, but you might spot a vintage clawfoot tub perfect for soaking!