Austin prides itself on sustainability being central to the community and its values. Austin leads the nation with its passion to bring attention to sustainable design which exemplified by Austin Energy’s Green Building Program. This proves that in Austin “Green” is more than just a buzz word, but what does “green building” and “sustainable design” really mean and how do we implement these principles into the largest man-made consumers of energy, our homes and buildings.
The definition of Sustainable Design is to create human environments that promote better health, efficiency, comfort and convenience while preserving our natural resources for future generations by maximizing the use of renewable resources and minimizing consumption of non-renewable resources.
Sustainable design can be incorporated into our homes with several very fundamental and affordable building practices that can boost the energy efficiency of your home, provide greater strength & beauty, and reduce maintenance while simultaneously helping to conserve valuable natural resources and save money!
These practices can be implemented into your project whether it is large or small, whether you are building a new home, remodeling an older home or making interior design changes. Where do we start and what are some of the design solutions we can incorporate into our homes to get us closer to the ideal of living in a zero energy home?
- Metal roofs and spray foam insulation work effortlessly together to prevent solar radiation from entering your attic while sealing you home from moisture and air infiltration.
- Passive solar design is achieved by using wide roof overhangs, awnings, thermal massing, and southern facing porches.
- Light exterior colors which reflect the suns rays, prevent heat absorption, and reduce unnecessary solar heat gain.
- Designing framing plans that use Advanced Framing Techniques. Properly designed this will make your home more structurally sound and take 25% of the lumber out of the exterior walls, R-19 insulation then replaces the R-4 of 4 inch thick solid wood point. This will increase the whole wall R-value by 25%, seal your home, and leave the trees in the ground.
- Outdoor cooking, patios, & screened porches, which reduce the amount of conditioned space we need to entertain and enjoy larger open spaces on our property, while reducing the indoor heat production in summer.
- Installing high quality windows and exterior doors with multiple layers filled with inert gas and Low- E surfaces.
- Well designed plans that incorporate paths for cross breezes creating natural ventilation and cooling.
- Thoughtful placement of windows and doors to take advantage of the sites solar orientation and the use of natural day-lighting by utilizing solar tubes and non-operable transom windows.
- Designing a new home or addition which takes every effort to save mature trees, this is nature’s way of reducing our solar heat gain by 20%.
- Selecting the proper ENERGY STAR appliances and designing kitchens that incorporate convection ovens & a magnetic induction cooktop.
- The installation of exterior tankless water heaters to conserve space, which are then plumbed with recalculating systems to have continuous hot water in a second.
- Designing electrical plans that implement energy efficient and well placed lighting in coordination with ceiling fans and ventilation systems that effortlessly cool and create air flow throughout your home.
- Using LED lighting on dimmer switches which allow the homeowner to adjust lighting and electric consumption based on their immediate needs.
- Rainwater collection systems which utilize gutters and rain chains to channel runoff to a holding tank for later use watering gardens, house plants, and yard irrigation.
- Designing plans that unify the bathroom and plumbing locations and creating efficient plumbing runs to avoid wasted materials and construction costs.
- Water conservation through installation of high efficiency plumbing fixtures and appliances
- Low maintenance landscaping that reduces or eliminates grass and replaces it with crushed granite and native plants, which require much less water and fertilization.
- Solar electric systems on roofs which are also tied into the grid and receive electric rebates.
- Installing high efficiency heating and cooling systems, a heat recovery ventilator, and creating a balanced ventilation system.
- Improved indoor air quality by applying no-VOC paints and finishes, exhaust fans, and fresh air intakes on the HVAC system.