Part of the Department of Energy is the Building Technologies Program. The purpose of this program is to improve on how various buildings across the United States use energy efficiently. The Department of Energy has provided energy saving tips in regards to 10 different types of buildings. Today we will look at 3 of these, and continue through the next several dayson the remaining building types. I have left the links that the department provides within the tips so you can find more detailed information about each one.
According to the Department of Energy’s website, the average amount families spend each year to supply energy to their home is $1300. Everyone is looking to save money, especially with the increased costs that come with providing a home with adequate energy, and the following are tips to help your family reduce that yearly amount:
* Use a programmable thermostat to control the heating and cooling in your home
* Compare your energy use against the national average
* Conduct a home energy audit to determine the largest savings potential
* Install energy efficient lighting such as compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs)
* Hire a professional to help you insulate and repair your ducts
Multifamily buildings are apartment buildings, high rises, town houses, and other various buildings in which multiple families live. The Department of Energy asserts that energy and water costs have more of a tendency to be high in multifamily dwellings, despite the fact that they have more opportunity than single family dwellings to be energy efficient. These tips are generally meant to assist those operating and constructing such buildings in their quest to become more efficient with the building’s energy use.
* Lower heating bills by converting electric or oil heating systems to natural gas, and replacing inefficient boilers
* Reduce water usage by repairing water leaks and installing low-flow showerheads, faucets, and toilets
* Replace old refrigerators with new energy-efficient models
* Use compact fluorescent bulbs in common areas
* Specify ENERGY STAR appliances and other products
The tendency to consume massive amounts of energy in office buildings is outrageous. According to the Department of Energy, “office building energy bills are the highest of any commercial building type.” The use of office equipment adds to this energy consumption. It may be more difficult to use energy efficiently at the office because of the fact that not everyone is “on board” when they are not the one paying the energy bills. However, the following tips can help, provided office workers pitch in on the initiative.
* Control energy costs and enhance employee comfort by installing energy management systems, occupancy sensors, and programmable thermostats
* Save energy costs and improve productivity through increased use of daylighting
* Replace inefficient lighting fixtures with T-8, compact fluorescent, and metal halide fixtures
* Choose ENERGY STAR computers, printers, copiers and other office equipment
Green building is becoming increasingly more popular with architects, builders and homeowners each year. Consumers’ environmental awareness is growing and they have come to demand more naturally sustainable and recycled materials incorporated in the construction and renovation of their homes and favor homes that utilize construction and design techniques that improve energy efficiency and reduce indoor air pollution. These green building techniques not only let homeowners feel good about leaving a smaller environmental footprint, but can provide long-term savings in utility bills.
Does a greener house have to look like a yurt or geodesic dome like so many of the first-generation eco-houses of the 1970s? On the contrary, green-built homes are often indistinguishable from their traditional counterparts. Green buildings will, however, function much differently. Their heating and cooling costs will be lower if they are sited to maximize wind-sheltering trees and incorporate passive solar design principles.
Green building is a growing segment of the new home and home renovation market. Go to any Homebuilders Expo these days and you’ll find plenty of vendors exhibiting green building products and services, from energy-efficient appliances to roof shingles made of recycled plastic to architecture firms that specialize in sustainable design. The hit television series Extreme Makeover: Home Edition has incorporated green building in many of its episodes, in part to help out its financially struggling families with lower energy and maintenance bills for the future, but also in recognition of this progressive trend in the building industry.
Realtors are finding that green architecture components are a good selling point for their listings. Homebuyers in this relaxed housing market can be more selective about their many housing options and the long-term economies of green homes make for an attractive real estate package. Banks and financial lenders are also recognizing the investment value inherent in green construction and are responding by offering more favorable terms for these loan customers.
There is also the social trend of environmentalism as a way of life. Just as consumers are veering away from sport-utility vehicles and snapping up hybrid and more fuel-efficient cars, so too are prospective home buyers thinking twice about the status of traditionally-designed houses and thinking more about building green.
If you are interested in learning more about green design, check out your next home builders fair in your area or contact a local architect to discuss this exciting home building and renovation option. You’ll be happy you did.
You picked the perfect site for your new home but now you’re mired in indecision. Building “green” sounds noble (who doesn’t want to help our planet and create a healthy environment for our kids?) but it also sounds expensive, difficult and confusing. If you’re like most people, you probably assumed that a green home is a simple assemblage of eco-friendly products like recycled timbers, bamboo flooring, and oderless paint – but in fact, choosing products like these is only a small part, and perhaps the least important, of sustainable building. To demystify what it means to build green, we have to start with a primer of basic principles as outlined by Andy Engel in Tools of the Trade - what I like to think of as the Seven Green Building Blocks.
But first, a definition: What is a Green Home? A green or sustainable home is one that is built and functions with a reduced impact on the environment by using resources efficiently, and that provides a healthy, non-toxic environment.
Green Building Block #1- House Design
Here’s a surprise – the size, siting (orientation to the sun) and shape of your house have the greatest impact on how energy-efficient it will ultimately be.
- The larger your house, the more materials it will take to build and the more energy to maintain. This is your most critical decision. Resist the urge to super-size.
- Solar orientation is the second most important factor in determining your home’s energy needs. This is called passive solar design. Try to place the longest walls of the house on an east-west axis. This will give your south facing windows sun in winter and shade in summer. You can also place your garage on the west side of the house or use a porch, roof overhang or trees to shade your west walls.
- The simpler the shape of your house (think New England Salt-Box) the more energy-efficient. Protruding wings and bays increase the exterior skin of the house and let heat escape from the core, much like our own fingers and toes.
Green Building Block #2 – Durability
Like our bodies, houses age, sag and eventually collapse. Water and moisture are the two culprits responsible for the premature aging and final demise of our home, beginning with mold and ending in rot.
- Water can be kept away from the structure through proper drainage, gutter and downspout design, as well as use of special rain-screen walls.
- Moisture can be controlled through carefully installed window and door flashings and with thorough sealing. By minimizing air loss, you keep moisture out and heat in, reducing energy costs by as much as 20%. When moisture is no longer allowed to travel through the exterior walls, it eliminates the danger of condensation in the framing, thus extending the life of your home.
- Use paperless sheetrock to allow any moisture to wick out of damp drywall.
Green Building Block #3 – Energy Efficiency
Your home uses energy such as electricity and gas for light, heat or cooling. You can reduce your need for heat and cooling through passive solar design, which provides a kind of built-in thermal protection. But you also need to reduce thermal loss or leakage with insulation and air sealing. If possible, install your own energy supply.
- Use insulation and builder’s felt in the walls, floor and ceiling to reduce heat loss. Close cavities such as areas behind showers and tubs, soffits and recessed lights with a moisture barrier to prevent heat loss.
- Seal all openings and cracks where air can pass in or out of the house.
- Don’t run HVAC ducts in unconditioned crawl spaces or attics – 20% of the energy can be lost. Fully insulate areas around your ducts and thoroughly seal them.
- Lighting accounts for about 15% of a home’s energy use, but you can reduce that percentage in several ways. Replace inefficient incandescent bulbs with cooler, longer lasting CFLs (compact florescent lights) or the new LEDs (light emitting diodes). LEDs use 1/3 the electricity of CFLs and are more directional for task lighting.
- Decrease energy waste by installing a home automation system with motion sensors to turn lights on and off as you enter or exit a room. A home automation system can also reduce your heating and cooling needs by automatically opening or closing your window shades depending on the outside temperature, and by turning down your thermostat at night and when you are away from home.
- Use energy efficient appliances.
- If possible, invest in solar panels to generate much of the energy your house consumes. Your power company will even buy back any excess electricity from you during times of low use (like when you are on vacation).
Green Building Block #4 – Reducing Waste
You can reduce excessive waste in 2 ways: by using materials more efficiently (and thus, needing fewer of them) and by reusing old materials. In either case you help the planet and your pocketbook at the same time.
- Size your house sensibly. Design your house in four foot multiples to conform to standard wallboard and plywood sheets. You will also dramatically reduce piles of scrap lumber.
- Recycle and reuse building materials such as old concrete and stone as a base for a parking lot.
- Be an avid recycler of glass, plastic and metals in your household. Set up a compost bin to turn your food scraps into rich mulch.
Green Building Block #5 – Water Conservation
The aim here is twofold: you need to both reduce the amount of water your family consumes, but also channel the rainwater that falls on your lot back into the soil.
- Use low-flow shower heads and toilets to reduce water usage.
- Use automatic sprinklers with moisture sensors to regulate water use and prevent over-watering.
- Use native and drought-tolerant plants.
- Use porous concrete pavers on driveways to allow rainwater to percolate down into the earth and recharge aquifers.
Green Building Block #6 – Indoor Air Quality
We’ve already mentioned how proper sealing and insulation can prevent moisture and mold in the home, but an air-tight home has its own problem – it traps all gases and fumes inside the home, thus polluting the air you breathe. Particle board and OSB off-gas formaldehyde; paints, finishes and car products contribute VOCs (volatile organic compounds); gas stoves and poorly vented gas appliances contribute carbon monoxide to the stew. There are two ways to clear the air and breathe easier: use products that are less toxic, and change your ventilation system.
- Use building materials like plywood in place of OSB to reduce formaldehyde buildup. Some carpets are not only made from recycled nylon, but also boast no VOCs. Natural floor adhesives, paints and finishes also offer zero emissions.
- Use a dedicated air supply for furnaces and water heaters to prevent gases from back-drafting into the house.
- Install a heat recovery ventilator (HRV) system to bring fresh outside air into living spaces while exhausting air from bathrooms, kitchens and laundry rooms.
Green Building Block #7 – Green Products
We’ve already shown how using green products can make a difference to the environment and your health. With more and more eco-friendly products to choose from, let’s sort out the various types and shades of green on display.
- Products made from recycled materials: concrete made from fly ash (a waste product of coal power plants), carpet made from recycled nylon (and recyclable after its life), synthetic stone counter tops made from recycled paper, glass and cement.
- Reused building materials: salvaged timbers, lumber, brick and stone.
- Products from sustainable resources: cork flooring from the cork oak tree (also durable, sound and heat insulating and hypoallergenic); bamboo flooring from fast growing bamboo.
- Energy-efficient products: solar panels, Energy Star appliances, home automation systems, CFL and LED lights.
- Non-toxic products (both in their manufacture and use in the home): low odor paints and finishes, carpets and plywood.
With this primer in hand, you now know the difference between a CFL and a VOC. As you can see, the most critical choices for a green home are made when you first sit down at the drafting table. Your dream home will be energy efficient, durable and safe if you design it using all seven green building blocks. Your friends might turn green with envy.