Matt Doyle, CEO of Excel Builders, a Maryland-based, family-owned construction company with a focus on the latest green building techniques, writes about four ways to plan a sustainable home from the ground up.
Craft a Sustainable Floor Plan
It all starts with the basic layout of your new home. In maximizing sustainability, you’ll want to consider the size and the shape.
The most sustainable homes are those that don’t take up much space in the first place, but that doesn’t mean you have to go small. Building “up”—choosing more stories over more floor space—means a smaller impact on the ecosystem around your home. Simply smaller is good, too. Small homes can always be heated and cooled more efficiently.
The shape of your home plays a part in its sustainability, and there are considerations to make. Open floor plans reduce the materials needed, which is great. Closed floor plans, however, can also allow the house to be heated and cooled in only the sections you’re using.
Source the Right Materials
You have dozens of new options when it comes to building your home with the right materials.
There are ways to make traditional lumber-built homes more sustainable, but you certainly have more options than that. Several break-out trends have opened up options for home builders in just the last few years.
If you’re a traditionalist, you might like that some movements are trying to bring back Cob and natural pressed-earth homes. Since these homes are made of, well, dirt, they are about as environmentally-friendly as it gets.
If you’re looking for something a little more space-age, you should consider what is being done with concrete these days. No doubt you’ve seen images of concrete homes out of Norway or Sweden, where they are a popular choice against the cold weather. The natural heat trapping of modern insulated concretes rivals the best home insulation materials that have ever existed.
Embrace Natural Light!
To build the most sustainable home, you want to control energy use however you can. Lighting is one of the most constant sources of energy use, and with the right planning, you won’t need it during the day.
Large windows in the rooms you intend to use the most will make it easy for you to avoid unnecessary use of your lights. Sky lights are particularly effective, since they capture more direct sunlight during the day.
Additionally, you can give your outdoor spaces more utility, so that you have a reason to spend more time in natural sunlight. Adding more useful furniture to patios, porches or decks can allow you to do more of what you need to out in the fresh air.
Explore New Power Options
Now that you’ve got a home planned, you should think about how you’re going to power it. If you’ll be using your local utilities exclusively, there are ways that you can make your home as efficient as possible.
Buy great insulation and strong, layered windows to prevent the escape of heat. Use rooms with plenty of natural light so that you don’t need to use your electric lights. Follow best practices with electronics, such as not leaving them plugged in when not in use. Alternatively, you can pursue sustainability with new sources!
Solar power has been popular for many years, and good panels are more affordable than they’ve ever been. You probably know all about that, though. You may not know about the great new options out there! In cold places, some homes have supplemented their heating with thermal vents that pipe in heated air from deep in the ground. As battery technology improves, the viability of bike-powered home batteries is beginning to come to the market.
There are so many ways to build a sustainable home. Which one is your favourite?
A Good Look At How Homes Will Become More Energy Efficient Soon
Everyone always talks about ways they can save energy at home, but the tactics are old school. They’re only tweaking the way they do things at the moment. Sealing holes in your home isn’t exactly the next scientific breakthrough we’ve been waiting for.
There is some good news because technology is progressing quickly. Some tactics might not be brand new, but they’re becoming more popular. Here are a few things you should expect to see in homes all around the country within a few years.
1. The Rise Of Smart Windows
When you look at a window right now it’s just a pane of glass. In the future they’ll be controlled by microprocessors and sensors. They’ll change depending on the specific weather conditions directly outside.
If the sun disappears the shade will automatically adjust to let in more light. The exact opposite will happen when it’s sunny. These energy efficient windows will save everyone a huge amount of money.
2. A Better Way To Cool Roofs
If you wanted to cool a roof down today you would coat it with a material full of specialized pigments. This would allow roofs to deflect the sun and they’d absorb less heat in the process too.
Soon we’ll see the same thing being done, but it will be four times more effective. Roofs will never get too hot again. Anyone with a large roof is going to see a sharp decrease in their energy bills.
3. Low-E Windows Taking Over
It’s a mystery why these aren’t already extremely popular, but things are starting to change. Read low-E window replacement reviews and you’ll see everyone loves them because they’re extremely effective.
They’ll keep heat outside in summer or inside in winter. People don’t even have to buy new windows to enjoy the technology. All they’ll need is a low-E film to place over their current ones.
4. Magnets Will Cool Fridges
Refrigerators haven’t changed much in a very long time. They’re still using a vapor compression process that wastes energy while harming the environment. It won’t be long until they’ll be cooled using magnets instead.
The magnetocaloric effect is going to revolutionize cold food storage. The fluid these fridges are going to use will be water-based, which means the environment can rest easy and energy bills will drop.
5. Improving Our Current LEDs
Everyone who spent a lot of money on energy must have been very happy when LEDs became mainstream. Incandescent light bulbs belong in museums today because the new tech cut costs by up to 85 percent.
That doesn’t mean someone isn’t always trying to improve on an already great invention. The amount of lumens LEDs produce per watt isn’t great, but we’ve already found a way to increase it by 25 percent.
Maybe Homes Will Look Different Too
Do you think we’ll come up with new styles of homes that will take off? Surely it’s not out of the question. Everything inside homes seems to be changing for the better with each passing year. It’s going to continue doing so thanks to amazing inventors.
ShutterStock – Stock photo ID: 613912244
IEMA Urge Government’s Industrial Strategy Skills Overhaul To Adopt A “Long View Approach”
IEMA, in response to the launch of the Government’s Industrial Strategy Green Paper, have welcomed the focus on technical skills and education to boost “competence and capability” of tomorrow’s workforce.
Policy experts at the world’s leading professional association of Environment and Sustainability professionals has today welcomed Prime Minister Teresa May’s confirmation that an overhaul of technical education and skills will form a central part of the Plan for Britain – but warns the strategy must be one for the long term.
Martin Baxter, Chief Policy Advisor at IEMA said this morning that the approach and predicted investment in building a stronger technical skills portfolio to boost the UK’s productivity and economic resilience is positive, and presents an opportunity to drive the UK’s skills profile and commitment to sustainability outside of the EU.
Commenting on the launch of the Government’s Industrial Strategy Green Paper, Baxter said today:
“Government must use the Industrial Strategy as an opportunity to accelerate the UK’s transition to a low-carbon, resource efficient economy – one that is flexible and agile and which gives a progressive outlook for the UK’s future outside the EU.
We welcome the focus on skills and education, as it is vital that tomorrow’s workforce has the competence and capability to innovate and compete globally in high-value manufacturing and leading technology.
There is a real opportunity with the Industrial Strategy, and forthcoming 25 year Environment Plan and Carbon Emissions Reduction Plan, to set long-term economic and environmental outcomes which set the conditions to unlock investment, enhance natural capital and provide employment and export opportunities for UK business.
We will ensure that the Environment and Sustainability profession makes a positive contribution in responding to the Green Paper.”