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Design Tips

December 2nd, 2009

Building Green: Five Key Elements of a Sustainable Building Design
(adapted from www.ciwmb.ca.gov/GreenBuilding/)

If you want to reduce the carbon footprint of your family as you build or remodel, you can incorporate sustainable building principles for little or no extra cost if they are included as part of the initial green building home plans. Even if a green construction project costs more than a conventional construction project in the building phase, green structures are more efficient and reduce the environmental impact over time.

Incorporste these five green building design elements as you create your customized green house building guide.

Siting: Choose the Location Carefully

  1. Choose a location that allows the use of mass transit (if available) or is within walking distance of business and recreation locations you frequent.
  2. Insist that the builder protects and retains existing landscaping and natural features.
    • Choose drought resistant plants that require little pruning for your sustainable landscapes.
    • Use composts and mulches to save water.
    • Use recycled content paving materials, furnishings, and mulches.

Energy Efficiency: Find Solutions to Reduce Your Energy Usage

  1. Develop a design that uses 40 percent less energy than California Title 24 standards.
  2. Incorporate passive design strategies (e.g., building shape and orientation on the site, passive solar design).
  3. Develop a design that incorporates natural lighting. In addition to reducing energy costs, natural lighting will improve well being and increase productivity.
  4. Install high-efficiency lighting systems with advanced lighting controls – include motion sensors tied to dimmable lighting controls. Also plan for task lighting to reduce general overhead light levels.
  5. 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; and use minimal glass on east and west exposures.
  6. Minimize the electric loads from lighting, equipment, and appliances.
  7. Consider alternative energy sources such as photovoltaics and fuel cells that are now available in new products and applications. Renewable energy sources provide a great symbol of emerging technologies for the future.
  8. Ask your builder to use computer modeling to optimize the design of electrical and mechanical systems and the building shell.

Materials Efficiency: Use Green Building Materials

  1. Use materials that promote resource conservation and efficiency (e.g., reused, recycled content, zero or low toxicity, sustainably harvested materials, high recyclability, durability, longevity, and local production).
  2. Use dimensional planning and other material efficiency strategies. These strategies reduce the amount of building materials needed and cut construction costs. For example, design rooms on 4-foot multiples to conform to standard-sized wallboard and plywood sheets.
  3. Reuse and recycle construction and demolition materials. For example, using inert demolition materials as a base course for a parking lot keeps materials out of landfills and costs less.
  4. Require plans for managing materials through deconstruction, demolition, and construction.
  5. Design with adequate space to facilitate recycling collection and to incorporate a solid waste management program that prevents waste generation.

Water Efficiency: Strive for Water Conservation

  1. 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.
  2. Minimize wastewater by using ultra low-flush toilets, low-flow shower heads, and other water conserving fixtures.
  3. Use recirculating systems for centralized hot water distribution.
  4. Install point-of-use hot water heating systems for more distant locations.
  5. Use a water budget approach that schedules irrigation using the California Irrigation Management Information System data for landscaping.
  6. Meter the landscape separately from buildings. Use micro-irrigation (which excludes sprinklers and high-pressure sprayers) to supply water in nonturf areas.
  7. Use state-of-the-art irrigation controllers and self-closing nozzles on hoses.

Occupant Health and Safety: Build to Reduce Illness and Improve Performance

  1. Choose construction materials and interior finish products with zero or low emissions to improve indoor air quality. Avoid using building materials and cleaning/maintenance products that emit toxic gases, such as volatile organic compounds (VOC) and formaldehyde because these gases can have a detrimental impact on occupants’ health and productivity.
  2. Provide adequate ventilation and a high-efficiency, in-duct filtration system. Use heating and cooling systems that ensure adequate ventilation and proper filtration to significantly improve indoor air quality.
  3. Select materials for effective drainage from the roof and surrounding landscape, install adequate ventilation in bathrooms, allow proper drainage of air-conditioning coils, and design other building systems to control humidity.

Sustainable Construction Resources