Build a Healthier Home
There are more benefits to building a healthier home than meet the eye. Keeping the environment in mind during the design and building process results in a home that costs less to operate, uses resources responsibly, and maintains the health of both its natural surroundings and the people living inside. Prioritize the health of your home and family by using sustainable techniques and materials in these six areas.
Site design and land development for a healthier home:
The design of your house should minimize disruption to its surroundings and preserve any open space. Some landscaping features can even improve your home's efficiency - for example, bioswales are an attractive, natural option to manage storm water. Orienting your home southward maximizes your exposure to the sun in the winter and shades you from the harshest rays in the summer, allowing you to use less artificial heating and cooling. Ask your builder to place the most frequently used rooms, like the kitchen and common areas, on the southern side of the house to capitalize on these benefits.
The home's exterior and envelope:
Extra insulation helps keep conditioned air from escaping so that you're not paying to heat and cool the neighborhood. High-performance windows with double glazing or low-e coatings cut down on heat loss and gain, keeping your conditioned air inside where it belongs. Look for ratings from Energy Star or the National Fenestration Rating Council to make sure you're getting good-quality windows. Good sealing is also crucial - not only does it reduce unwanted drafts, but it can also minimize bothersome noise making through from the outside.
Air quality for a healthier home:
Effective and efficient HVAC systems should allow fresh air to ventilate your home while keeping out pollutants and contaminants with high-quality filters. Good ventilation also balances your home's humidity to prevent harmful mold from growing. Paints, finishes, and adhesives should be low-VOC or VOC-free so they won't off-gas harmful chemicals.
Good siting and orientation will ensure you don't have to fight against nature to condition your home comfortably, but there's more to do to lower your home's energy consumption. Look for high-efficiency appliances marked with the Energy Star logo - these use less energy than comparable conventional models. Energy-efficient lighting using fluorescent or LED bulbs uses much less energy than incandescent lighting, and new innovations in lighting products mean that more efficient light sources can mimic the beloved yellow glow of incandescents.
Use of natural resources:
Consider water-efficient plumbing and bath fixtures inside, as well as drought-tolerant plantings and irrigation systems that conserve water outside. Building materials offer another opportunity to incorporate environmentally friendly product sourcing; for example, look for Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification on any wood products you use, as it serves as proof that your wood was harvested with sustainable forestry practices. Rapidly renewable materials like bamboo, hemp, or soy can be used in flooring, adhesives, paints and more. Products with recycled content, such as carpeting made from recycled car tires or structural materials salvaged from buildings that were torn down, do double duty by helping create your dream home while staying out of the landfill.
Partner with a contractor that cares as much as you do about being a responsible steward of the environment. They can take steps to minimize the amount of waste generated while your home is being built - and considering that building a standard 2,500-square-foot home sends roughly 4,000 pounds of construction waste to the landfill, that's no small feat. They may also be able to separate recyclable waste materials from non-recyclable ones, further lowering the amount of waste that ends up in your local landfill.