Houses built in a traditional way generate large amounts of toxic chemicals and waste material, which is something most environmentally conscious people can't overlook. If you aim to be a homeowner that leads by example, know that building an environmentally friendly house with low, zero, or even positive environmental impact is feasible following a great deal of preparation.
In your efforts to be more eco-friendly, you might need help from specific expert types. Rely on green architects and constructors, mechanical engineers, and even interior designers during the planning and building process. They have all grasped the importance of applying environmentally beneficial homebuilding techniques and materials.
And just before you make your first steps toward your green dream home, take a look at the following tips. They can serve as a reminder or a checklist for you to follow during each phase.
What makes a house green(er)?
To be frank, building green homes from scratch is a financial challenge. It is not rare that even the most enthusiastic homeowners stop midway or stray from the original plans to make the project less expensive. The good thing is that building a green home allows you to incorporate as many features as you need and can afford.
While there are green home certifications like Zero Energy, you don't have to go that far. You can and should make a unique green home depending on the local climate, planned size of your house, its disposition, HVAC and other systems to be installed, and the availability of green building materials.
No two eco-friendly homes are the same, but even a small contribution makes a big difference compared to the traditional building. Being the proud owner of a green home begins simply with making it greener than most. Remember that you're not making this effort solely for the good of the planet but for your family's healthier and happier future.
Focus on the planning and budgeting phase
The planning phase is vital for any project and even more so for building an environmentally friendly house. The key element of this phase is setting up a detailed and clear budget, with no room for stepping off the path later. Planning will allow you to learn about potential hindrances and find the most financially sound way to bypass them with chosen experts' help.
Additionally, if you stretch as much as your budget allows and leave 10% aside for unforeseeable expenses, you will get to enjoy the saving benefits of your green home. Otherwise, you risk either halting the works halfway or relying on loans to finish the project.
Gather your team together, present your ideas, ask for offers, and see what makes financial sense for you at the moment. With a good plan in place, you can always add new green features later.
Choosing the right location
Building your house gives you a valuable advantage; you get to choose the where and how. Any lot would not do - the ideal location of your home takes into account the local climate and weather conditions throughout the year, among other things.
Disposition of the house and the average amount of sunlight it gets will help you determine how to make your home more energy-efficient and which heating/cooling features to install. The good news is, every location in the world offers at least a few options, be it sunlight, geothermal energy, or something else.
When choosing the right location for your environmentally friendly house, consider your lifestyle, too. If your family needs a few cars, have a large lawn, or a pool, you will quickly offset all your costly green investments. Building your home within walking distance from public transportation, grocery stores, schools, and other essential amenities improves your positive impact on the environment.
Building an environmentally friendly house: Sustainable materials and technologies
There are many, many ways to incorporate sustainable building materials and home systems into your new home. To get a better overview, we have split them into a few categories.
Choose from locally available environmentally-friendly building materials, insulation, floors, roofs, doors, windows, and cabinetry. This also includes the paints, enamels, and protective films.
Install energy-efficient home features. Invest in low energy consumption appliances and eco-friendly lighting. Energy-efficiency doesn't stop with proper wall and roof insulation. It extends to products like doors and windows, which also undergo the ENERGY STAR ratings, just like home appliances.
Select the most efficient green energy system, and harness the benefits of solar energy and/or geothermal energy in your locale. Develop the most environmentally friendly HVAC system for your home.
Identify the most practical smart devices. Improve your new home’s energy management by installing programmable thermostats.
Choose the best water conservation practices. Utilize rainwater and lower the consumption of water through water-saving fixtures.
Buy locally available building materials
It may seem that purchasing environmentally-friendly building materials significantly improves your positive impact but think twice. Transport them to your location from the other side of the world, and you will negate any benefits for a long time. The environmental and financial return on investment will show a lot later than needed. Check the local market for green building materials and opt for the most reasonable solutions—both environmentally and economically.
Once the time comes for installing indoor features, make sure to choose cabinetry and paints in an environmentally responsible way. Unfortunately, most products on the market contain VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) like varnishes and dyes. Browse carefully for cabinetry painted or protected with low-VOC or no-VOC paints and varnishes. And lastly, choose organic wall paints as a finishing touch in building an environmentally friendly house.
Jeremy Webber is continuously on a self-improvement quest, firmly believing that we can't make anything better without trying to better ourselves first. To him, helping the environment is about moderation, finding the balance, and following green ethics principles. He is an environmental engineer, currently working as a consultant for Top Rated General Contractors LA.