The best way to make your home green, or environmentally friendly, is to design it that way to start. If you're building a custom home, there are many ways to reuse, recycle, and reduce as you design and build your home. Talk with your contractor, architect, or designer about your desires for a green home. This section provides tips that will help you in the process. It's not necessary to build a cob house or a straw bale home in order to have a dwelling that is environmentally friendly and allows you to cut down on your electricity and heating costs.
Make the Best Use of Your BuildingLot
Look for a building site that requires minimal excavation and earth moving. Choose a spot that won’t expose your home to extreme elements. After you find the perfect spot, work with your designer or architect to put your home in the best possible place on the site.
Avoid Building an Oversized House
Every square foot you put into your home will cost you and, in the long run, the environment. In general, bigger homes require - More disruption of land during construction - More energy to heat and cool - More maintenance and cleaning - More raw materials to build Take a long hard look at your true needs and desires during the design phase. Check out this video on building a tiny home.
Planning for the Ages
You can make your home green by keeping the future in mind as you build. Making good long-term choices can result in environmentally friendly results. For information on environmentally friendly products, log on to www.oikos.com.
Making Your Landscape Earth-Friendly
Your home’s landscape can do its part for the environment, too. Trees, especially, are worth their weight in gold. Reducing the amount of lawn, which has to be mowed, fertilized, and watered, is a significant step forward in keeping your home green. Your landscape can be friendly to other living things, too. Many people enjoy planting flowers and trees that attract butterflies and birds, and help sustain other small animals.
Build Green by Using Alternative Energy Sources
If you want to ease into solar power, look to passive solar heating for your home. A passive system allows for the home to absorb the sun’s warmth during the day, and then release the warmth back into the home during the evening. To work, the system may only require a bank of south-facing windows located near a heat sink. This heat sink is typically a mass of masonry, such as a tall stone chimney or a thick concrete floor, that the sun gently warms during daylight hours. The masonry naturally radiates the warmth through the nearby space. With a bit more investment, you can create a solar heating system with photovoltaic panels (devices that convert the energy of sunlight into electric energy) on your property or your home’s roof. With a solar power system, you can create energy for your home using a truly renewable resource. The cost of soloar systems varies from region to region. For more information, talk to a local solar energy contractor or visit www.mysolar.com. You can also capture the power of wind or water to make your home more livable. Each of these alternative energy systems requires certain conditions. For example, a hydro-powered system needs a body of water, of course, and a wind-powered system only works on a site that offers dependable and accessible air movement.
Go On an Energy Diet
The best way to save energy is to simply use less of it. Plan ahead to create a home that sips energy instead of guzzles it. A whole-house system can allow you to program your home’s light fixtures to go on or off at certain times, based on your family’s needs, and can allow you to turn off lights throughout the home with a single switch. A master switch means you’re less likely to leave lights on when they’re no longer needed.
Cut Down On Fumes
Help the earth and your family by choosing paints, stains, and finishes with low volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These materials give off fewer harmful gases and fumes and make your home more pleasant and healthy.
Making Recycling Easy
Build a recycling center in your new kitchen or garage and plan for a place to store cans, bottles, paper, and containers. It's much easier to plan a recycling station when designing your kitchen than adding it as an afterthought later. Some rural communities don’t offer recycling pickup. If recycling is important to you, ask about pickup services or drop-off centers when you’re purchasing your land.
Using What You Have
Selecting salvaged architectural items, such as interior doors, mantels, bricks, and doorknobs, recycled flooring materials, etc is another good way to keep items out of the landfill and give some charm to your new home. Some may work as is, others may need refurbishing; but in the long run, you can save money and cut down on the resources required for creating new furnishings. Some people even build their whole house almost entirely out of recycled or salvaged items such as the case with homes built from shipping containers.
Stashing and Storing
Growing your own food is a beneficial choice for the environment. With a successful garden, you can cut trips to the grocery store and eat fresher, healthier foods. You can even start seeds indoors in the winter to get a head start. If you are not up to it, when designing your home, build a pantry or two in your kitchen. Also consider adding outbuildings that could offer cool, dry, and critter-free storage for food, beverages, or other supplies in the attempt to make your home green.