What really makes a building green? Can a big house be green? What role does durability play? How about the context of the surrounding urban form?
The TreeHugger blog recently offered the following measure of a building’s sustainability:
Energy Efficiency + Construction Area + Embodied Energy/Sustainability + Transportation Efficiency
It’s a useful snapshot of the factors we need to think about as green builders and dwellers. And every element of the equation can be improved with real building strategies on the ground.
Energy Efficiency and Building Area – Ultimately, this comes down to how much energy we each use in our homes or businesses: energy use per capita. Key Green Building Strategies:
- Home Performance uses home energy audits to uncover efficiency issues and prescribe strategic, cost-effective energy efficiency upgrades for existing residences.
- Passive House technology, with its tight-build envelope and heat recovery ventilation, is a powerful way to achieve impressive energy efficiency for new homes and even remodels.
- Just build smaller. After all, larger spaces mean more air to heat or cool and more rooms to light. Smaller houses, such as accessory dwelling units, can play a big role here. (Or should I say a “small” role?)
embodied power – In addition to the continuous use of energy, we must consider the energy that is used to build a structure: its embodied energy. While this number is typically much smaller than the energy used to operate a space over the life of a building, it is still an important part of the sustainability equation. Key Green Building Strategies:
- Use reclaimed, “recycled” materials, both on and off site. These materials also hold embodied energy and embodied narrative.
- Remodel! When we remodel homes or businesses, we are, in effect, recycling existing structures to give them new life and new functionality. intrinsically green.
Sustainability – No matter what its environmental rating is, if a building is not durable, it is not really green. Replacing flimsy or poorly installed materials is costly financially and to the earth. The same story when they are forced to scrap structures that are falling apart. Key Green Building Strategies:
- Use quality materials obtained by qualified construction professionals.
- Employ the exacting workmanship of an experienced builder.
- Build on lasting designs. Beautiful and functional designs are sustainable because they offer lasting values to the users of the building.
transport connection – Simply put, context matters. If a “green” home’s location forces homeowners to drive everywhere, then it’s not really sustainable housing. Key Green Building Strategies:
- Build infill developments integrated into existing communities that support a variety of transportation options.
- Create an accessory dwelling unit, alias “backyard cabin” or “grandma’s flat.” These detached secondary units on existing residential properties fit nicely into established neighborhoods.
- Again, renew! This breathes new life into the structures and their surrounding neighborhoods.