Over the last 20 years, the construction and home improvement industries have witnessed a sizable shift toward sustainable, eco-friendly solutions, protecting the environment, and saving energy along the way. The current trends have trickled down into nearly every related industry, including architecture, furnishing, cleaning, remodeling, handyman, and subcontracting.
At the forefront of the current wave of green initiatives is professional home design, where sustainability and energy efficiency ideas begin. Home design gives contractors the ability to set the agenda for smart building solutions that change the industry and make a lasting positive impact on the environment. Below are some sustainable and green home design trends to look out for in 2021 and beyond.
Today, more homeowners are living the urban lifestyle than ever before. However, living urban doesn't necessarily mean living downtown. As all-inclusive, multi-use facilities provide a complete social and shopping experience, within walking distance. Whenever possible, designing and building a home within walking distance reduces fuel costs, which is always good for the environment.
One trend shaping home design is repurposing buildings that are closer to shopping and social venues instead of building a new structure further out. Being sensitive to location also means avoiding hazardous areas such as flood zones, giving a home longer life without the risk of rebuilding due to wind or water damage.
The downsizing trend continues to grow as more people find value in living in smaller spaces. Downsizing reduces energy costs, leaves a smaller carbon footprint, and requires fewer building materials. Other benefits include smaller mortgages, more time spent outside, and less need for cleaning and maintenance materials.
As a contractor, your business may benefit from designing and building more smaller homes than fewer larger homes. This creates opportunities for larger multi-home contracts over time. You also contribute to more sustainable solutions that create a healthier climate.
A smaller house is not always a more sustainable or efficient house. How long the structure lasts and how well it saves energy depends on the layout as it does the size. For instance, a house spread out can lose as much or more energy as a house with two stories. Although the ideal shape for efficiency is a spherical home design, it is not always practical or preferred.
The idea is to make each space within the house as compact as possible. Designing a two-story house with 1,000 square feet in each story will likely save more energy than designing a one-story house that is 2,000 square feet in diameter.
The construction industry is continually looking for innovative ways to mitigate environmental impact and make sustainable and recyclable materials. Using recycled materials can reduce waste significantly and keep landfills from filling up. More companies today are earning green certifications by using recycled materials.
You can play your part by choosing materials that are up to 100 percent recyclable. Materials can range from foundational materials such as concrete, metals, glass, asphalt, and wood to fabrics and plastics used for furnishings, fixtures, and accessories. Don't forget to do your part after each home design project and recycle all your unused materials and equipment.
Orientation is vital for a sustainable home. If you live in a colder climate somewhere in the north, you can use proper structural positioning and plenty of windows to draw in heat from the sun. Your home design should include larger windows in the southern end of the house for winter and fewer windows facing west for summer. If you have west-facing windows, you may want to add shutters or an awning to reduce sunlight.
Another idea is to add deciduous trees to the outside of your design. Deciduous trees grow leaves in the summer to block the sunlight and lose the leaves in the winter, allowing more sunlight to enter the house. These types of passive and inexpensive features can make a huge difference when new homeowners move in.
Procuring quality equipment and supplies locally is not always possible. However, working with local vendors reduces the negative environmental impact of shipping. Buying wood from a local mill instead of having it shipped across the country is a green solution that reduces your carbon footprint significantly.
Is there a local stone quarry nearby? Try buying your stone products from your local vendor instead of walking into a box store where you are unsure where the stone came from. You may also be able to find furnishing, cabinets, accessories, flooring, paint, fixtures, and other items that you need to complete your home design.
As a home designer, you can guide your eco-conscious clients through the building process and recommend products during the project. One of the 'non-negotiables' that you should insist on is installing the highest quality insulation in every area of the house – crawl space, walls, attic, etc. Try to get products with the highest R-value, such as polyurethane foam, polyisocyanurate foam, or urea terpolymer foam. The higher the R-value, the more energy-efficient the home is.
Try to get insulation that allows the least amount of air leakage anywhere in the structure. Also, use high-grade seals for doors and windows. Creating a full envelope around the house should include a lot of thought, exceptional design, and healthy investment. While it may be a higher expense upfront, your clients will thank you in the long run.
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