Buildings generate 39 percent of annual global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. As a result, they leave behind a huge carbon footprint.
Managing and finding ways to reduce this carbon footprint is vital. Reducing a building’s carbon footprint lowers its running costs and increases revenue opportunities. Not to mention, sustainable buildings can have a far-reaching positive environmental impact.
In fact, green design is one of the most effective strategies in the fight against climate change. And, with the technology to make big reductions in CO2 emissions already in existence, it makes sense to use it. Buildings can then become more energy-efficient, profitable, and healthier places to live and work in.
Keep reading to learn some of the ways that green home design can improve energy efficiency.
Choosing the right location for a building has a huge and direct impact on its carbon footprint. Buildings oriented along an east-west axis are the most efficient. This positioning maximizes north- and south-facing glazing for optimal daylight and natural warming.
Location factors such as proximity to public transportation also come into the equation. With less use for a car, both the home and its residents would reduce their carbon footprint.
The surrounding area of a building impacts its carbon footprint too. As well as the potential for increased CO2 emissions within the landscape. If possible, the aim is to build without harming the local ecosystem. Or, even better, restoring the ecosystem at the same time as developing and constructing the building.
2. Renewable Energy
The location of your home isn’t something you can change after construction. But, you can take steps to introduce sources of renewable energy to your home at any stage. While the original outlay of a solar power system can be expensive, you’ll soon see a huge reduction in the cost of electricity. And even more so if you have energy-efficient home appliances.
As for green home design, the aim is to build homes that generate as well as run on sustainable energy. Using a building’s walls or roof for solar heating and electric systems can cut a lot of the demand for conventional energy. But, you can only reduce a building’s energy usage so much before you have to start considering how to generate energy on-site.
Solar energy systems work by fulfilling a certain percentage of the building’s heating or electric load. A solar air-heating system generates heat energy to provide heating or to heat the ventilation air for the building. Solar water systems generate thermal energy to heat water. And a solar power system generates electricity via photovoltaic (PV) plates. This offsets the building’s conventional source and cuts the cost of electricity bills.
3. Responsive HVAC System
HVAC comprises around 40 percent of all CO2 emissions and makes up 55 percent of the average US home’s energy bill.
Rethinking the way we use HVAC can have a huge environmental and financial impact. This means using the most efficient heating, AC, and ventilation systems. Plus, regular and efficient operations and maintenance plans.
Running heating and cooling systems to a schedule can help. As can letting the system run a degree or two hotter or cooler depending on the season. Reducing the unnecessary ventilation, heating, and cooling of outside air is another way to avoid wasting energy. Also, green design promotes the installation of a low-energy humidifier. In comparison to regular electric steam versions, this reduces a building’s carbon footprint.
There’s even a way to equip a building with sensors to measure indoor air quality and adjust ventilation as needed. Combined, these changes equal a more responsive and efficient HVAC system.
4. Continuous Insulation
Insulation plays an important role in optimizing the performance of a building’s cooling and heating systems. Sealing and ductwork are vital for preventing the escape of air while keeping the temperatures steady. As such, improving the insulation of your home means that you’ll be less dependent on supporting heating and cooling equipment. In turn, this means fewer household emissions and can save you up to 15 percent on the cost of heating and cooling.
That said, the height of green design is continuous insulation. This form of insulation continues across all structural members without thermal bridges, aside from service openings and fasteners. Continuous insulation increases a building’s thermal performance, saving energy and reducing a building’s carbon footprint as a result. It also provides thermal, air, water, and vapor control in one system.
Another bonus is that it’s easier to incorporate into construction, meaning that continuous insulation simplifies and shortens the building process at the same time. And for homeowners, continuous insulation can save thousands of dollars in energy bills over the lifetime of a building.
5. Lighting Optimization
When it comes to lighting, green design means making the most of natural sources of daylight. State-of-the-art lighting fixtures powered by sustainable energy would then support this.
As mentioned above, the facing of a building can help to maximize daylight, while open-plan design and light-colored interior finishes help better distribute daylight within a building. Wall systems with integrated sunshades and light shelves can also help to increase the way natural light enters a building.
But, too much or too little solar thermal gain depending on the season can increase the need for cooling in summer and heating in winter. The best way to avoid this is to install solar control window films. These can reduce a building’s carbon footprint by cutting energy expenditures while also cutting the cost of electricity bills.
The windows themselves also factor into sustainable home design. The best windows should provide unmatched energy efficiency in all climates and at all times of the year. While allowing sunlight to enter the home, they should work to preserve in-home temperature for less reliance on HVAC systems for heating in winter and cooling in summer. The materials used to make the windows and frames should also be as sustainable as possible. While this can be part of the original green design of a new building, homeowners looking to reap these same benefits within their existing home can opt for energy efficient home window replacement as a viable solution.
6. Water Usage
Water usage is an often overlooked contributor to the carbon footprint of a building. But supplying, treating, and using water expends a lot of energy.
Green design focuses on strategies to reduce this energy use and the CO2 emissions of excessive water consumption. One such way is by using plumbing equipment that prevents leaks, one of the most troubling elements that designers must face when attempting to improve energy efficiency.
Efficient fixtures and home appliances can also help to reduce water usage. For example, high-efficiency toilets use much lower average flush volumes.
Harvesting rainwater can also result in huge savings in the cost and amount of water used. Using rainwater reduces your carbon footprint since it’s not necessary to pump this water long distances for it to reach your home. You can then use this water for flushing toilets, irrigation, washing clothes, and any other purposes that don’t need potable water.
Sustainable homes often collect the rainwater that falls on the building roof. Advanced green design may even include some kind of integrated internal plumbing system to make use of this water. Outdoor green spaces that rely on rainwater only for irrigation may also make use of rainwater collection systems.
7. Sustainable Materials
Using sustainable building and interior materials is another cornerstone of green design.
The priority is to choose recyclable building materials that have less of a negative effect on the environment. Metal building systems are the most sustainable, and especially steel. Steel is the most recycled material on the planet and is 100-percent recyclable.
Using recycled steel also reduces mining waste, air pollution, and water pollution. What’s more, you need less steel for building a frame when compared to other building materials. This lowers the energy expended through transportation and spent on construction.
As well as using steel and other metals for framing, metal roofs are a perfect sustainable choice. Not only are they more energy-efficient, but metal roofs are also a good host for solar PV systems. This is thanks to their durability and extensive lifetimes.
Green Home Design: Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
As this quick guide shows, there are many ways to reduce the carbon footprint of a building.
The focus here is on green design and finding ways to construct more energy-efficient homes. But there are many building modifications you can make to reduce carbon emissions, even in your existing home. From installing solar power to using rainwater, remember that your contribution counts.
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