A Green Home is a Small Home

Green Home Building is about Material and Operational Efficiency

By Mark J. Donovan

Size does matter when building a green home. The main objective in building a green home is to be resource efficient, both in terms of construction material and operational resource requirements, e.g. monthly gas, electric, and water bills. Consequently, if you’re thinking of building green you need to steer away from those 4000+ square foot McMansion house plans. Instead, you need to focus on efficiency and your real personal living space requirements.

Assess your Family’s Living Requirements

When considering building a green home, it is important you first properly assess your family’s needs. For example, if you are a 2-person family, or soon to be, then you probably don’t need a 3 or 4 bedroom home.

Also, evaluate what rooms you most frequently use in your current home. If you’re like most, you use the kitchen, a bedroom/bath, and a family room most of the time.

The Upsides of a Smaller Home

Though the concept of thinking smaller may initially sound appalling to you, there are a number of upsides to a smaller home. First, think of a Porsche. When building a smaller home you can “Porsche Out” the home due to the cost savings of building fewer square feet.

You may now be able to afford those Viking kitchen appliances or hardwood floors you always wanted. Second, your monthly home operating costs will be dramatically lower, not just due to using more efficient heating and insulation materials, but also due to the fact that the home is smaller. This can be a major plus if you’re on, or soon to be on, a fixed income.

Focus on a Designing a Great Layout

A smaller home also doesn’t have to feel small. By planning the home’s layout carefully you can maximize the space in the areas where you spend the most time, e.g. the kitchen. Features such as high ceilings, reduced hallways, and attached outdoor spaces, such as screen rooms and patios, can provide the effects of a larger home without the costs.

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Building up, versus building out, can also help to create the high ceilings and even loft areas. Building up also has the advantage of saving on both construction and operation costs. Also, position your home on the property to take advantage of solar light and passive solar heating.

Throw out the Old and Unused Possessions

Another way to reduce the impact of moving into a smaller home is to eliminate some of your possessions and clutter before moving in. Evaluate what possessions you really use and don’t use in your home. Most of us are natural packrats and keep everything we ever purchased. By eliminating old and unused possessions we can dramatically reduce our space needs. By going through this exercise before moving into a smaller, greener home, we can keep the new green home open and airy feeling.

Green Construction Materials

When building a green home, there are several major focus areas to concentrate on. First, use highly efficient heating and cooling systems.

Green home building

Second, use energy and water efficient appliances and bathroom fixtures.

Third use energy efficient lighting. LED and halogen lighting can provide significant energy savings over traditional incandescent lighting. In addition, they can really accent a home’s appearance.

Fourth, make sure the home is very well insulated, including walls, ceilings, attics, basements, and outside foundation walls.

Fifth use wood wisely and efficiently. Though wood is a renewable resource, it still needs to be used efficiently to enable the proper insulation of the home. Sixth, use low-e glass windows.

Finally, a green home should also include the use of recycled materials wherever possible. For example, old wood flooring material may be able to be salvaged and refinished in the new home. Composite decking is another great example. Composite decking is manufactured using a combination of wood and old recycled plastic material.

Going green is smart and the wave of the future in home building. With energy costs continuing to rise precipitously, all of us need to do more to conserve our natural resources. Part of going green is thinking smaller, but having a smaller home doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. With careful planning a smaller home can be just as comfortable a living space as a larger one, at a fraction of the cost.

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