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Building Green from Basement to Rooftop

June 30 2008

Today, building an eco-friendly home requires much more than just installing extra insulation in the attic. There are literally thousands of eco-friendly products and building options out there to choose from and while daunting, all will deliver improved home efficiency and a unique home that could appreciate beyond standard properties.

men standing in rafters

In general terms, the best place to begin is to hire an architect. They should be able to articulate the features you’d like integrated into your property, in addition to providing a clear direction for prime and sub-contractors to follow as the home addition is built.

Once permits are secured, source a builder that knows local building codes, but is also a specialist in building eco designs. While in high demand, eco homes are still in their infancy, so be wary of builders who claim to be an expert in everything.

Additional considerations:

  • Choose a site that maximizes sunlight. This will help heat your home during the winter and provide an excellent charge for solar paneling. Also, if possible, position your home near deciduous trees whose bloom will shade the house in summer.
  • Choose building materials such as bricks or siding for their insulation as well as durability.
  • Select energy-efficient lighting options including “day-lighting” such as skylights to minimize energy use. Also consider building in timing, dimming and motion detectors that will turn lights on and off when areas in your home are not in use.
  • Consider having “structured wiring” installed for Smart Home options that enable one-touch (‘smart climate’) light and heat control.
  • A southern facing roof topped with solar panels can heat water, generate electricity and, in some locations, direct surplus electricity back to the electric grid which could earn you credits or additional income.
  • Ensure your insulation will be at R-2000 standards, including R-50 attics, R-25 walls and R-20 basements.
  • Consider the new, micro “combined-heat-and-power” (CHP) unit furnaces that not only heat your home but can also generate up to $800 worth of electricity per year. These can run $13,000 to $20,000, yet you should be fully reimbursed in about three to seven years depending on the cost of electricity.
  • If the CHP furnace is too expensive, consider a heat pump that can deliver energy-efficient air conditioning and heating capabilities.
  • As well, choose energy efficient appliances that have the ENERGY STAR™ endorsement;
  • Insist on low-flow shower heads and faucets, as well as water-efficient reservoirs in your bathrooms;
  • Green Landscaping shouldn’t be forgotten since it can be sculpted to provide natural drainage into flowerbeds, vegetable gardens, or onto lawns where you need water;
  • Finally, check out local and national government “green” programs that may assist you in the purchase of your eco-friendly products through rebates or discount programs.  

Undoubtedly, there will be choices galore while building your new home. However, be sure the ones you select are ones you need and they will deliver tangible benefits to you, the environment and eventually, potential buyers.