Residential Construction
Green Design
August 4, 2015

Designing a resource-efficient home is an integrative process. It involves site selection and evaluation, building design, construction, operation, maintenance, and deconstruction. All parties including contractors, architects, landscape designers, owners, engineers, government agencies, suppliers, and utility companies should be involved in planning and design for the most effective integration of components. A green home designs waste and pollution out of the process by combining site characteristics, materials, mechanical systems, and design elements to maximize resources.

Home design should consider:

  • Location relative to transportation, sewer, water, power, fire and other existing infrastructure
  • Natural site characteristics that may enhance or restrict design, e.g. solar access, stream corridor, on-site raw materials, cluster of trees, topographic rise, microclimate, soil texture, renewable energy sources, etc.
  • Efficient use of space for floorplan layout, e.g. shape and size
  • Environmentally and socially considerate parking and road network, e.g. efficient access, reduce impervious materials, community oriented
  • Green product material selection
  • Efficient and comfortable floorplan, energy and water efficiency, and indoor air quality
  • Home renovation and demolition
  • Construction waste management plan

Reasons to Change:

Green building practices reduce negative environmental impacts, while using the features of the site to enhance human comfort and health. Preserving site resources and conserving energy and materials in construction and building operations are important benefits. Planning can greatly reduce construction, utility, and maintenance costs.

P2 in Action: Pre-Design

Pre-design is the phase in which a site is analyzed for general sustainable characteristics. Incorporating green building practices at this stage can clearly define a green framework. Green design identifies the ecological characteristics of the site and addresses ways to integrate the building with the site. Pre-design issues include:

  • Proximity of the site to employment, transportation routes, and other amenities
  • Water supply and neighboring land uses
  • Existing infrastructure, i.e. sewer pipes, power lines, water mains, roads, etc.
  • Energy sources, both on-site (e.g. solar potential) and utility based
  • Ability to maintain and enhance biodiversity of site or recover a site that has been abused, i.e. stripped, eroded, invaded by non-native vegetation, etc.
  • Ability to avoid environmentally sensitive areas
  • Lot size (Smaller lots can accommodate comfortable, resource-efficient homes.)

P2 in Action: Site Analysis

Research and evaluation of physical and cultural characteristics of the site will influence construction plans, and resource efficient technology, systems, and materials. Relevant site characteristics may include:

  • Topographical features that influence drainage and air movement
  • Groundwater and surface runoff characteristics
  • Soil texture and characteristics (bearing, compatibility and infiltration rates)
  • Air movement patterns
  • Neighboring developments and proposed future developments
  • Parcel shape and access
  • Solar attitude and microclimate factors, e.g. snow and wind load
  • Sensitive areas such as wetlands, animal migration or mating areas, and endangered species of plants or animals
  • Neighboring cultural and architectural characteristics
  • On-site raw materials such as wood, stone, sand and clay available for construction
  • Existing trees and native vegetation

P2 in Action: Building Design

The building design phase integrates the site, floorplan, building orientation, landscaping, materials, mechanical systems, architectural characteristics, and construction practice guidelines into the optimal green home.

Building design issues typically include the following considerations:

  • Green products and materials
  • Passive solar and energy efficiency principles
  • Water efficiency and quality
  • Landscaping
  • Indoor air quality
  • Solid and hazardous waste management
  • Building codes and standards
  • Affordability and financing
  • Site preparation and maintenance guidelines