Designing green built, resource-efficient homes is an integrated
process that involves all aspects of residential construction from
site selection and evaluation through home design, construction,
operation, maintenance and ultimately demolition. All players, e.g.
contractor, architect, landscape designer, occupant, engineer, government
agencies, utility company, etc. should be included in the planning
and design process for most effective integration of design components.
An integrated green home design combines site characteristics, products,
systems and design elements in a resource-efficient manner, i.e.
maximizing resources used by designing waste and pollution out of
the construction process.
The design of the home should take into account:
- Site 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
- Environmentally and socially considerate parking and road network,
e.g. efficient access, reduce impervious materials, community
- Green product material selection
- Efficient, comfortable and integrated floorplan, energy- and
water-efficiency, and indoor air quality
- Home renovation and demolition
- Construction waste management plan
The intent of green building practices is to lessen the environmental
impact of human activity while using natural features of the site
to enhance human comfort and health. Preservation of site resources
and conservation of energy and materials in construction and building
operations are important benefits of good site planning.
The following provides a brief description of the three phases
of green design.
Incorporating green building practices at the pre-design stage
is critical. Set goals at the beginning of the project that clearly
defines the "green" framework. These goals can then be
followed throughout site selection, building design, the construction
process and building operation and maintenance.
Green design does not impose building design on the site. Rather,
it is used to identify the ecological characteristics of the site
and to design ways to integrate the building with the site. Pre-design
is the phase in which a site is selected and analyzed for general
sustainable characteristics. For example, pre-design issues might
- The proximity of the home to places of 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 and utility based
- Solar access
- 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
- Acceptable lot sizes (Smaller, more affordable lots should not
be overlooked as a small home can be very comfortable and resource-efficient)
The design process begins with research and evaluation of the specific
physical and cultural characteristics of the site. These characteristics
will influence the shape, materials choice, mechanical systems and
solar orientation of the building. During evaluation, certain techniques,
systems, materials and alternative designs will be incorporated
into the plan. Required specifications can be identified and included
into construction plans and contracts. Characteristics of a site
that guide the development of the home design may include:
- Topographical features that influence drainage and air movement
- Groundwater and surface runoff characteristics
- Soil texture and characteristics (bearing, compatibility and
- Air movement patterns
- Neighboring developments and proposed future developments
- Parcel shape and access
- Solar attitude and microclimate factors, e.g. snow and wind
- 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
- Existing trees and native vegetation
Building design is the phase of residential planning that integrates
the site, floorplan, building orientation, landscaping, materials,
systems, architectural characteristics, and construction practice
guidelines into the optimal green home design.