Seven Ways to Build Green by Roselind Hejl

By Roselind Hejl

Green building is a design process that grows out of a connection with the natural landscape. It is a set of informed decisions that considers the site and materials to reduce the cost, maintenance, an energy usage of the home. Conservation is central to the green building approach. Green homes are healthier, safer, more comfortable, and cost less to operate. They connect people to the land and community around them. Here are seven green building ideas:

  1. Build a passive solar design.
    • Passive solar design for natural heating and cooling is practiced throughout the world under all climate conditions. As energy costs rise, it is critical to use building orientation, window placements, stone floors, roof overhangs, reflective barriers and other techniques to control natural solar energy.
    • In warm climates, face the broad side of the house to the north or south, to avoid excessive heat gain as the sun rises and drops in the horizon. Use deep overhangs or solar screens to shield glass areas from direct sun. Avoid skylights or greenhouse rooms, because they allow too much heat gain.
    • In colder climates, solar heat can be captured and stored in materials such as concrete or stone to be slowly released during the evening.
    • An open floor plan optimizes the effect of passive solar heating or cooling.
    • Doors and windows should be placed to catch the prevailing breeze and allow cross ventilation.
    • Lower inflow windows and higher outflow windows keeps air moving, as hot air rises.
    • A thermal chimney uses a hot zone, such as a glass cupola with windows or vents, to create rising air currents to pull air through the building.
    • Double glass panes provide an insulating air space between the panes, reducing heat transfer.
    • The metal oxide coating on Low-E (emissive) glass helps to keep solar heat out, and interior heat in.
  2. Ventilate attic spaces.
    • In hot climates, attic spaces can accumulate heat, transferring it to living areas below. AC ducts located in the attic will absorb this heat.
    • In cold climates, moisture can accumulate in unventilated attic spaces, causing wood rot or mold.
    • Continuous eave and roof ridge vents will create natural air flow through the attic. Air enters through the eave vents, and moves out through the ridge vents. As heated air rises, it ventilates the attic.
    • Lighter colored roof materials absorb less heat.
    • Reflective heat barriers on the underside of the roof deck help to reduce heat gain.
    • High levels of insulation in attics and exterior walls is crucial for comfortable indoor temperature in all climates.
    • Some research is being done on completely sealed, highly insulated attics.

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