Green architecture is an eco-conscious approach to home building and design that aims to reduce the strain put on the environment. This includes how homes are built and outfitted as well as how they function, from the architecture to the building materials and the appliances inside. These green building choices minimize negative impacts on the environment, create homes that work smarter and more efficiently, and make the most of natural and sustainable resources. With green architecture, environmental considerations are just as integral as factors like cost or color. Learn more about the principles of green architecture.
𝐏𝐫𝐢𝐧𝐜𝐢𝐩𝐥𝐞𝐬 𝐨𝐟 𝐆𝐫𝐞𝐞𝐧 𝐀𝐫𝐜𝐡𝐢𝐭𝐞𝐜𝐭𝐮𝐫𝐞
Climate change, a growing awareness of diminishing resources, and a desire to live more sustainably have brought environmentally conscious building to the forefront. But many of the concepts behind green architecture aren’t new. In fact, they’re very old—as in ancient-civilization old. Before HVAC systems or even glass windows, living areas were built to produce natural airflow, maximize daylight, and rely on natural ways of heating and cooling.
Today, there are numerous opportunities—large and small, natural and technology-based—for making greener choices. Mary Homa, vice president and design consultant at P.E.A. Builders, a company specializing in sustainable building, shares five overarching design principles of green architecture.
𝟏. 𝐀𝐭𝐭𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐭𝐨 𝐏𝐫𝐨𝐩𝐞𝐫𝐭𝐲 𝐃𝐞𝐭𝐚𝐢𝐥𝐬
Consider the topography of the land. Can the house be built to take advantage of natural features? How can it be constructed with minimal harm to the natural habitat? This includes designing the house for the best orientation to the sun, specifically for windows and solar panels, for maximum heat and light. “In the north, we orient most of the living space (great room, kitchen, dining) to the southern exposure, with most windows on this side of the home,” says Homa.
𝟐. 𝐌𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐫𝐢𝐚𝐥 𝐒𝐞𝐥𝐞𝐜𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬
There are two facets to selecting green building materials. The first is choosing the best materials, including long-lasting materials that withstand wear and use. “Things like hardwood floors or well-built cabinetry that won’t have to be replaced in a few years,” says Homa. Or opt for materials that work harder to protect the home, like cool roof shingles that reflect heat in especially sunny areas. Secondly, source materials as locally as possible to reduce energy usage, carbon emissions, and even packaging that results from shipping.
𝟑. 𝐌𝐚𝐱𝐢𝐦𝐢𝐳𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐒𝐩𝐚𝐜𝐞
A “well thought-out floor plan that doesn’t waste space” is another key element of green architecture, according to Homa. An efficient layout is more effectively heated and cooled to save on energy over time. Plus, a right-sized (versus oversized) home saves on building materials and energy upfront. Layouts should also be designed to last, with universal design principles in mind, to avoid major renovations down the line.
𝟒. 𝐓𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐭 𝐁𝐮𝐢𝐥𝐝𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐄𝐧𝐯𝐞𝐥𝐨𝐩𝐞
A home’s building envelope is a critical part of green architecture. “Think superior exterior wall systems, efficient windows, and lots of insulation,” says Homa. She recommends triple-pane fiberglass windows (or double-pane composite for cost savings), and high solar heat gain glass (or SHGC) on south windows in northern climates.
However, new, efficient windows make less of an impact if the rest of the home isn’t insulated, and the same is true for energy-efficient HVAC choices. This principle ensures the whole house is sealed so that climate control isn’t wasted by air leaking out of or into the home.
𝟓. 𝐆𝐫𝐞𝐞𝐧 𝐓𝐞𝐜𝐡𝐧𝐨𝐥𝐨𝐠𝐲
Green architecture isn’t limited to natural materials. Homa points to things like photovoltaic (PV) solar panels, radiant flooring, and geothermal heating and cooling systems as technology to consider when building a home. Car chargers are another newer element Homa puts in this category. In many cases, green technology is about prioritizing renewable energy sources and making those resources accessible to the home now or in the future. “Every home that we build is solar ready; the PV can be installed at the time of the build or at a later date,” says Homa.
𝐆𝐫𝐞𝐞𝐧 𝐑𝐞𝐦𝐨𝐝𝐞𝐥𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐈𝐝𝐞𝐚𝐬
Although many green architecture principles are implemented in foundational elements, green building doesn’t only apply to new builds. There are plenty of opportunities to make sustainable, eco-conscious choices in remodeling projects, too.
If you’re looking to remodel with sustainability in mind, Homa recommends numerous smaller projects that can make your house more efficient.
- Install an on-demand water heater. Also called tankless water heaters, these heat water immediately when engaged, so there’s no water wasted while waiting for the shower to get hot and no unnecessarily heating a large tank of water just so it’s available as needed.
- Improve the building envelope. Replace windows or add insulation to areas that need it.
- Update to energy-efficient LED light fixtures and bulbs.
- Add an ERV (Energy Recovery Ventilator) or HRV (Heat Recovery Ventilator). “We call this the “lungs of the home,” says Homa. These can be used to pre-heat or pre-cool air being brought into the home to reduce HVAC usage.
𝐆𝐫𝐞𝐞𝐧 𝐁𝐮𝐢𝐥𝐝𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐓𝐞𝐫𝐦𝐬 𝐭𝐨 𝐊𝐧𝐨𝐰
Green architecture can also be discussed as green building, green design, or sustainable building. The terminology varies based on the type of project, the professionals involved, or even the local vernacular. When building green, here are a few terms to know:
𝐂𝐢𝐫𝐜𝐮𝐥𝐚𝐫 𝐜𝐨𝐧𝐬𝐭𝐫𝐮𝐜𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 is a concept that includes reusing, sharing, and upcycling building materials. Galvao gives the example of using locally-sourced reclaimed wood for building or in furniture, which diverts waste from the landfill.
A 𝐧𝐞𝐭–𝐳𝐞𝐫𝐨 𝐡𝐨𝐦𝐞, or zero-energy home, produces as much power as is needed to run the house. For example, a house that generates power through solar panels and makes enough energy to run the enitre home.
A 𝐩𝐚𝐬𝐬𝐢𝐯𝐞 𝐡𝐨𝐦𝐞 is a house built to need as little energy as possible. Not only does it produce its own power, but it also has an incredibly robust building envelope and design intended to minimize required energy usage.
𝐁𝐥𝐨𝐰𝐞𝐫 𝐝𝐨𝐨𝐫 𝐭𝐞𝐬𝐭𝐬 determine how energy efficient your home is by measuring how much air is entering and escaping your home.
There are also terms to note when looking for professionals to work with on green building projects. You might see 𝐋𝐄𝐄𝐃 (𝐋𝐞𝐚𝐝𝐞𝐫𝐬𝐡𝐢𝐩 𝐢𝐧 𝐄𝐧𝐞𝐫𝐠𝐲 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐄𝐧𝐯𝐢𝐫𝐨𝐧𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐚𝐥 𝐃𝐞𝐬𝐢𝐠𝐧) listed behind a builder or designer’s name with other professional credentials, in the description of a completed building project, or in the details of a design firm, architect, or builder. LEED recognizes energy-efficient building practices and projects that meet their energy-efficient standards. LEED is certified by the USGBC (U.S. Green Building Council), and there are multiple levels of certification. However, Homa notes that LEED is more prevalent in commercial design than residential design. There are many other green-related credentials you might encounter, including the National Association of Home Builders’ Certified Green Professional (CGP) certification.
Matney Construction, located in Mount Airy, Maryland, specializes in building new homes and residential remodeling. We know that the decision to build or remodel a home is no easy thing. As a family owned and operated business, we work closely with our clients to create their dream home, from custom floor plans and options, to bath and kitchen remodels. Whether it’s a single room or an entire home, we pride ourselves on meeting your quality standards, timeline and budget. Contact us today to have our professional design experts help you make your home unique, stylish, and in-tune with your personality. (410) 635-2500 firstname.lastname@example.org