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Build Green for the Environment

 

Sustainable, or green building, is a structure that is designed, built, renovated, operated, or reused in an ecological and resource-efficient manner. Green building plans  are designed to meet certain objectives and use key resources such as using materials, energy, water, and other resources more efficiently while reducing the overall impact to the environment. By utilizing more natural light, better air quality, wind turbines, solar panels, insulation alternatives, and water storage tanks, a well designed home will contribute to improved efficiency, health, and comfort in your home.

 

GreenBuilding Financial Benefits

 

Typically, a green building will cost more up front, but saves through lower energy costs over the life of the building. The up-front expenditure will be absorbed over time by the project life cycle cost analysis.  The benefits include energy and water savings, reduced waste, and lower operation and maintenance costs.

 

These and other cost savings can only be fully realized when they are incorporated at the project's conceptual design phase with the assistance of an integrated team of professionals. The integrated systems approach ensures that the building is designed as one system rather than a collection of stand-alone systems.

 

Even with a tight budget you can incorporate many green building measures which can be incorporated with minimal or zero increased up-front costs and they can yield enormous savings over the project life.

 

Site Selection

 

Start by selecting a site well suited to take advantage of solar exposure, and suitable area for the size of building proposed to minimize disturbance of the environment to protect and retain existing landscaping and natural features.  A custom home plan can be set partially into the ground which helps to cool the building in the summer, and in the winter once you get below the frost line the temperature is constant year-round and tends to be warmer than the air outside. Protect and retain existing landscaping and natural features. Select plants that have low water and pesticide needs, and generate minimum plant trimmings. Use compost and mulches. This will save water and time. Water can be collected from the roof in cisterns for landscape irrigation.

 

Reducing Energy Consumption

 

Buildings have the potential to reach energy efficiency levels exceeding far beyond California Title 24 standards, yet most only strive to meet the standard due to upfront costs.

 

Passive design strategies can dramatically affect building energy performance. These measures include window placement, building placement and orientation, passive solar design, and the use of natural lighting. By orienting a building toward the south(running it east-west), and creating significant southern exposure , you can take advantage of the sun’s energy to heat a building in the winter. When sunlight hits a buildings mass or enters through the windows it passively heats the building and the air inside by not using mechanical means such as solar panels.

 

Install high-efficiency lighting systems with advanced lighting controls. Include motion sensors tied to dimmable lighting controls. Task lighting reduces general overhead light levels.

 

Use a properly sized and energy-efficient heat/cooling system in conjunction with a thermally efficient building shell. Maximize light colors for roofing and wall finish materials; install high R-value wall and ceiling insulation such as spray-in foam; and use minimal glass on east and west exposures.

 

Consider alternative energy sources such as photovoltaics and fuel cells that are now available in new products and applications.  Geothermal heating and cooling is the most energy efficient and cost effective way to heat and cool your building, and it can take care of all your domestic hot water needs at the same time. Geothermal systems use the heat of the earth underground to heat water that is in turn used to heat the building, or in the summer to dump the heat from a building underground to cool it.

 

 Material effectiveness

 

Select sustainable construction materials and products by evaluating several characteristics such as reused and recycled content, zero or low off gassing of harmful air emissions, zero or low toxicity, sustainably harvested materials, high recyclability, durability, longevity, and local production. 

 

Water Efficiency

 

It is fairly easy to implement simple systems for recycling and reusing water on your own property, drastically decreasing the demands on shared supplies, and in turn, reducing your water bill.

 

Design for dual plumbing to use recycled water for toilet flushing or a gray water system that recovers rainwater or other nonpotable water for site irrigation.

 

Minimize wastewater by using ultra low-flush toilets, low-flow shower heads, and other water conserving fixtures. Use re-circulating systems for centralized hot water distribution and install point-of-use hot water heating systems for more distant locations.

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Tahoe City, CA
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