I am building my own home, what should I do to make it a green home from the start?

I currently have a site plan only.


Answered by Brian Creswell

Pottstown, PA

Creswell & Company

January 14, 2010

This is a challenging question to answer because a great deal of information comes specifically from your site and location.

As a generality here are some points to consider.

  • Make the home only as big as you need, and try to keep the shape simple and compact.
  • Look to your regional architectural history to inform you of a building shape or style that naturally performs well in your area (a salt box in the north east, or an adobe home in the south west for example).
  • Site and detail the home to take advantage of natural resources like sun and wind.
  • Focus on gaining passive solar heating in Winter in a moderate or heating climate, and make sure you have lots of shading in a cooling climate.
  • If there is a prevailing breeze try to design to utilize it for cooling and ventilation.
  • Use local and readily available nautral resources to build it. Focus on energy performance.
  • Build a home that is well sealed and insulated in order to minimize heating and or cooling costs.
  • Use energy star appliances and lights inside, also install low flow water fixtures like dual flush toilets and low flow shower heads.
  • Buy good quality windows as they are one of the weakest links in a well built home.
  • Use materials to finish your home that are non or low toxic. Paints, caulks, and sealers should have no or low voc content.
  • Buy products without added urea-formaldehyde, use hard surface flooring like wood, tile or stone.

Save money wherever you can, but sometimes it also helps to save money by hiring a pro to consult in the beginning.

A good architect, independent energy consultant, or talented green builder can help you to put together a great design or perhaps make yours better. These professionals will also potentially be available to help you along the way by consulting on occasion and making sure you are on track. T

he money you spend on their services will typically pay you back several times over the course of your project and beyond into the future.

Lastly I would suggest looking for local resources and checking out what projects have already been done in your region.

  • Look for a local green home tours and go on one, take photos and notes.
  • Find a local USGBC chapter and look for resources to help you out.
  • Search the internet and library for help. Good luck!

Tagged In: diy

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