The need for energy efficiency has created an entirely new set of steps to building a house. Not since the advent of electricity and indoor plumbing has home building been so revolutionized. The new standard for homes is called green, and it has come to encompass a lot more than just energy efficiency. Environmentally sound home building should encompass durability, affordability and flexibility of design, as well as energy efficiency.
Green Steps to Building a House: History
While the green building revolution began in the early 1960’s, their cry for affordable, environmentally friendly green housing fell on deaf ears. Building codes and standards all prescribed wood, brick or stone, and there was no room for Ferro cement, rammed earth and straw bales, in the upscale building industry of prosperous 1960’s America. Throughout the following decades progress was slow in accepting green building in the United States. In the 21st Century, building codes gradually began to relax, due to programs like LEED, until finally insulated concrete, a refinement of Ferro Cement techniques have become acceptable not just for large public buildings but for homes.
Research to learn about how to get the best R-values- It is important to look at all green and energy efficient materials before deciding. Some of the top performers are:
1. Insulated concrete panels which feature at least 5 inches of polyurethane and at least two inches of concrete on each side are my personal favorite. Homes build of these materials produce the best R-values, and promise durability over the next several hundred years. The material can stand up to 180 mph winds, earth quakes up to 7 on the rector scale, and has tremendous water resistance as well. These huge sheets are strong enough to support the weight of a full sized pickup truck. As another benefit, once the panels are pre assembled a home shell can be built very quickly, even in a day or two. Yet another benefit is the fact that while many people prefer to cover the concrete with exterior siding, It isn’t necessary, and neither is dry wall. Roof panels require no roofing, and no dry wall for the ceiling. In other words, insulated concrete panels are a single material unit, easy to install, which replaces the entire structure except doors and windows. Cost could be lower, but it’s competitive with traditional construction.
2. Six inch stud walls stuffed with at least 5 inches of closed cell insulation. Closed cell insulation saved traditional construction. It produces R-values second only to the best insulated concrete panels, and while it is probably not as durable under all circumstances as insulated concrete, it is much more durable than previous industry standard stick built construction with two by fours.
3. Radiant Barrier attic insulation reduces the temperatures that tend to build up in attic spaces, by about thirty degrees.
4. Polystyrene or polyurethane insulation panels covered with wire mesh and shotcrete. The application is very similar to the insulated concrete panels but it is more affordable, and very easy to do mostly as a do it yourself project. It’s possible to buy the materials, cut and assemble the insulation as panels, use the panels to construct a foam and wire home. Then all that is necessary is to hire someone to apply the shotcrete. This saves a lot of money over insulated concrete panels, with a very similar effect.
5. Used shipping Containers are extremely cost effective as dwellings, they can be used to live in as is, or in conjunction with other construction.
6. Triple glazed windows save a lot on energy. Make sure that any doors and windows you select are energy efficient.
Choose from existing plans and adapt or hire an architect, but first you should plan approximately what your rough floor plan, and overall style should look like, before selecting a plan. Plan how materials will used and how to build your home.
Plan to install solar panels as part of the original construction. This is much less difficult and expensive than retrofitting.
This little known home appliance saves well over half of your water bill in most cases, and costs only about twice as much as a fairly upscale traditional toilet. The toilet uses no water, and is much more hygienic and prevents pollution. Toilet contents never enter the water and sewer system. If everyone used these the world’s water problems would nearly be solved.
It’s a simple matter to install water saver shower heads, but it is important to remember to do so. The water shortage is a major problem looming close on the horizon in the Pacific South West, and in most areas water costs are increasing, and shortages are becoming more common. On a world scale it is a huge problem.
It is important to check the efficiency and usage of all your appliances. By being conscious of exactly how much power you need in order to operate all your appliances, and keeping that number low, it will be easier to estimate how many solar panels you need to become energy self sufficient, or start feeding electricity back into the grid.
While traditional builders who can use two by six studs and closed cell insulation are common, it may be trickier to find insulated concrete workers. Your best opportunity is to get the manufacturer to assemble your home with insulated concrete panels. Finding a shotcrete specialist might also be hard to find, due to their tendency not to advertise much. Any traditional builder would help you incorporate used shipping containers into a structure, but you may just want to hire subcontractors for the big jobs you cannot handle.
For more information on green construction and other building issues, download our 98 page book, and read our many articles. Use our site search engine to learn more about any topic you are curious about. Green steps to building a house are also discussed in many of our other articles.