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Building Green

April 21, 2011

Whether you are fully committed to sustainability or you just want to avoid guilt, there are some simple principles you should have in mind from the get go.  Think about these basic “Green” ideas:  

Smaller!  Whether it’s a room, garage bay, the ceiling height, total floor area, length of a driveway or size of a kitchen island, fight the urge to be safe in size by over sizing.

Eaves!  Whether the sun beats on your siding or rain runs down exterior walls and degrades it (forcing you to paint every 3 to 5 years or re-siding every 15 to 20) or the blazing sun streams into your room in the summer and bakes it (kicking on the AC), the more you hold nature at arm’s length by having your roof overhang your walls by at least two feet, the better.

More zones!  The machines that heat and cool your home’s air can now easily divide the distribution of that hot and cold air into just about every space in your house.  If your heat is “off” in half of your house most of the time, you may cut your overall heating bill by a quarter. If rooms facing the south sun or north shade are on separate zones all your heating and AC costs drop. 

Insulation!  Just like a down jacket, fluffy stuff around your house holds the heat in but you should be able to unbutton that top button when it’s hot.  The vast majority of your home’s winter warmth escapes through the roof and in summer the sun bakes your attic.  In hot climates, venting your roof takes the heat out of your attic and lots of insulation in your ceiling below that roof keeps the cooled air from being warmed from above as well.

Active” solar heating…Not so good….  The sun is seldom out enough in cold climates to make aggressive use of it as an engine of heating to make sense.  More efficient technologies are mitigating heating bills.  It’s a rare, sunny, AND cold climate that makes “active solar” assisted heating for your home save enough money over time to overcome the cost of the initial investment. 

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