The “Green” Building

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A “Green” building:

A true green home starts with optimum design. It is well insulated and faces south to optimize passive heat gain. Energy efficient buildings generating their power needs from solar, wind power or geothermal help substantially with green living.

Use local and reclaimed materials whenever possible:

The true green buildings start at the design phase for a build and renovations. So what better way to go green than jumping on the green building bandwagon and buying locally and by using reclaimed materials. Scoping out and deciding on what materials you are going to use ahead of time will save you grief, allow for proper planning and for making any required plan adjustments up front. If you use old doors and fixtures, wall and flooring materials, you many need to adjust your framing , door jams, ceiling or even floor heights. Make sure you find out the local code requirements for things like door openings, stair heights, railings etc. before you start building.

Sometimes less is better:

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Stating the obvious, the fact of the matter is that the smaller the building, the less costly to build it or buy it and the more efficient it will be. A smaller building means likely less real estate, less materials, less space to heat and cool, less property taxes to pay and less cost to maintain and clean. If we were able to reduce our square foot average per person we could still live comfortably.

Insulation, efficiency and orientation are important:

A well-insulated structure is fundamental for efficient performance of buildings. No form of cheap energy will make up for leaky walls and windows.
An efficient building is one that requires minimal energy to heat and cool, provide hot water, run the required appliances and keep the lights on. The biggest energy draws for most buildings is heating, cooling and making hot water. If you can reduce these is one of the best ways to reduce the operating costs. As much as a 20% reduction can be achieved from a building with 50% of its windows facing south, known as passive solar. Care must be taken to ensure that the design is such not to create overheating or heat savings will be reduced by higher air conditioning requirements.

Make it a flexible building if you can:

Over the years of our lives and things change. A flexible building is one that is designed to accommodate future changes with minimal disruption.  If you consider a future bathroom, kitchen or granny suite when you are renovating or building – it may cost you today, but in the long run, having some of the infrastructure in place like the framing, plumbing and wiring roughed in for the future, will save you money. The addition won’t be as disruptive a construction project with the infrastructure already in place and it won’t be a bad thing for resale value either.

HVAC Systems should be right sized for optimum efficiency:

Heating and cooling equipment is the buildings comfort delivery system. The last thought for many building is the mechanical system design and construction for heating, cooling and ventilation. These items are generally purchased and installed in the latter phases of the construction project. Budget constrains occur and this is an area where many make sacrifices and purchase downgrades. Some downgrades may save you money now but if what you install is less efficient it will cost you more in the long run and you could potentially be much less comfortable. Another mistake here is having heating and cooling contractors do the design, they are apt to install over-sized systems to protect themselves from complaints An oversize system will start and stops more frequently than a right sized one and thus not be the most efficient solution. Hire a competent engineering firm to specify the right system.

Choose appliances and electrical carefully:

It may surprise you but incandescent light bulbs convert 80% of their energy to heat. So turning on 4 of the 100 watt incandescent light bulbs, is like turning on a 400 watt heater. The amount of energy consumed by appliances, electronics and lighting is significant. Always look for ENERGY STAR appliances and use LED lighting wherever possible. This will help keep your building cooler in warm weather and you will use less electricity and save money. When it comes to water, make sure you seek out efficient low flow taps and shower heads as well as high efficiency toilets that will reduce your water consumption and save you money.

If you are building new, consider buy plans:

Seek out firms that are specialists in the green home design.  Find plans as close to what you require because few people find plans that match their new home picture precisely.  Changes to existing plans can usually be made and for generally less cost than starting plans from scratch.

Drawing your own plans:

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Do your research and check building codes and bylaw requirements in your area to help get the outcome that you desire. This can be a time consuming undertaking and have a steep learning curve.

Just some highlights to consider for a green building. Please send us your comments or questions in the comment box below.

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