Green building

Green Building has been steadily growing in popularity! But, what exactly is it? The truth is, “Green” has various interpretations ranging from a basic concern for the environment to the quest for energy efficiency; from a concern for our carbon footprint to seeking out the best alternative forms of energy; and from sustainability to a healthier indoor environment that also offers great comfort throughout the year. Green homes have solar panels on their roofs, geothermal heating and cooling sources, IED lighting and certified materials that are also referred to as “Green.” All of these attributes are real, but Green Building, or as I prefer to call it, High Performance Building, is more about the process of how a structure is designed, constructed and lived-in than it is about the actual products that comprise that structure. Yes, the materials and products play a role, but their role is severely diminished if they are not applied in the context of careful design and thoughtful construction. And finally, once occupied, the house has to be lived-in and used in such a manner as to understand and honor the design and construction, which will ultimately reward the occupants with all the benefits possible through “Green” construction.

The home illustrated here captures the winter sun to provide radiant solar heat for the heating months; it creates shading and cross ventilation for cooling in the summer while enhancing the aesthetic of the design. The materials utilized for the structure were selected for both form (aesthetics) and function (to deliver the maximum ‘green’ benefit) to provide the homeowner with the most comfortable, efficient indoor environment possible. The architect on this project was Ric Stott, Southampton

Green Building looks at the project in its entirety in order to reinforce the overall design. For example, when siting a structure, the objective is to minimize removal of existing vegetation and grades, which contributes to reducing energy costs by maximizing the radiant energy of the sun for heating purposes and using shade for seasonal cooling from the plantings. Proper siting further minimizes water consumption through the maintenance of native plants and reduces storm water runoff and water body degradation by maintaining existing grades, which in the long term, when combined with the aesthetic theme, contributes to a more efficient structure – one that will out-perform most other homes.

The design plan will take into account how a building functions: the building science of heat transfer, moisture control, and air movement so that each product and phase of the construction process achieves both the short and long term goals of living in a healthy, comfortable, efficient, and sustainable home. These aspects are woven around and through the design parameters that involve occupant lifestyle, aesthetic desires, and costs (both construction and operation post construction).

Construction practices are well defined by the design plan and reinforced throughout the construction process. The final phase may well be the most important – that of how the occupant lives or works in the space. The most thoughtful design and best construction practices can go for naught if the occupants do not recognize the benefits that can be achieved by fully understanding how the house “works”.

Why Green is Good

♦ A Green Home is more Energy Efficient
♦ A Green Home is more Durable
♦ A Green Home is Healthier
♦ A Green Home is more Comfortable.

The truly Green Built structure will incorporate all these aspects in a holistic way. The most successful projects do so in a way that may be unrecognizable “from the curb”. There are several programs that will provide certification to rigorous standards of design, construction, and occupancy. The recognition of these benefits has started to be realized by the market with higher valuations, reduced operating costs, and the overall recognition of a more durable structure.

In the next three articles I will provide an overview of the science behind the Green, or High Performance home, some of the current and future product/processes that make it all work, and explain why these structures are now starting to realize the anticipated increases in valuation.

John Barrows is a builder, educator, and consultant to the construction industry. He is a nationally recognized speaker and author who practices and lives on the East End. This is the first in a four part Green Series that will appear in Beachouse.