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Building a Green Home: A Practical Guide

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Sustainable, green, eco-friendly – these labels are becoming more and more popular across all consumer markets. Construction is no exception.

Opting for a green home makes a lot of sense. They are sustainable, environmentally friendly, more energy and water efficient, and they are also generally less expensive to run and maintain.

Although the upfront cost of building a green home from scratch will be higher, the tradeoff is huge. The lower energy cost of a green home means that the homeowner can recoup the initial investment in four to eight years – this includes architect fees, permits, materials, construction, etc. Another advantage of owning a green home is that they tend to sell faster.

To begin planning your green home, you’ll need to consider your needs, find a knowledgeable team, build according to your conditions, use sustainable materials, and maximise energy and water efficiency.

Assessing Your Needs

Before you even purchase the land you’re going to build your home on, consider the important factors of your lifestyle and how the size and location of your home can address your specific needs.

For instance – if you hate commuting to work, your location will matter. If you have a large family, you’ll need to consider the size of your future home and what layout will accommodate you best. Bear in mind though, larger homes will cost more to build, furnish, and maintain.

Building a Team

To build your green home, you’ll need a team of engineers, designers, architects, inspectors, building officials, and general contractors to deal with the technical aspects of making your dream a reality.

Then, you’ll also need insurers, appraisers, lenders, and realtors on your team. When choosing service providers, everyone involved in the project must be able to work cooperatively, have experience in the industry, and be knowledgeable about the finer details of sustainable construction projects.

When selecting your team members, check all references and ask to see similar previous projects to confirm their experience – and don’t forget to contact their references.

Building for Your Conditions

Before you decide on a site, you should know what conditions to expect in the region. Factors like topography, soil type, and climate will all affect how comfortable, efficient, and durable your house will be.

The most cost-effective way to create an energy-efficient home is to consider the climate in the initial planning phase. For instance, south-facing houses will enjoy longer sunlight hours and have gardens that receive more natural light, while north-facing houses will need more heating at night.

Sustainable Building Materials

When it comes to sustainable building materials, there are a lot of options out there. These include recycled or reused materials, sustainably harvested and renewable wood, locally sourced materials, and non-toxic materials.

Consider the materials available and decide if they are suitable for your conditions. You’ll need to choose materials that are durable, easy to maintain, and inexpensive to source. Then, you should think about aesthetics and personal preferences.

Water and Energy Efficiency

To ensure your home is as energy and water-efficient as possible, you should choose the most efficient equipment.

Choose LED light bulbs and consider how to utilise the location’s natural light as much as possible. You should also look for the most energy-efficient appliances.

For your garden, consider easy-care native plants that don’t need a lot of water and attract pollinators and birdlife. Grade your site so that stormwater drains into your garden and away from the building, which will keep your vegetation lush without eroding the topsoil.

Natural filtration systems allow water to seep slowly back into the water table, purifying it of contaminants before it enters streams and lakes. Water efficiency is also improved by collecting rainwater and using greywater to water your plants.

Indoor Air Quality

Before the green building movement, very few designers, architects, and builders gave much consideration to the air quality inside the home. Now, building materials contain more chemicals than ever, so be careful what you choose.

By using sustainable materials, you’re already ensuring that there are no toxins and allergens in the air you breathe. When choosing paint for your interior and exterior, use VOC-free paint.

Another factor that affects air quality is moisture – which encourages the growth of mold. Install ceiling fans in laundry rooms and bathrooms to prevent moisture from building on the walls. Check other hidden areas like crawlspaces frequently for signs of rot and mold.

Floor coverings should be made from natural materials such as wood and wool – avoid materials like vinyl, building materials that contain formaldehyde, and synthetic carpets. When it comes to HVAC filtration, make sure you have a HEPA-level filter.