Getting the Green Light on Sustainability

Posted by Woodrow Aames ~ July 12, 2010

Builder Magazine recently declared that while it's difficult to predict, the future is already here. The magazine interviewed a wide range of construction experts, green and sustainable authorities, and Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) architects to take a wide look at where we're all headed.

According to Builder, there are predictable trends that we're all likely to see immediately, soon, and eventually. These include:

  • Integrated housing systems, where insulation, paint, windows, doors, and flooring all work to curb HVAC costs.

  • Modular homes that use structural insulated panels in floors and roofing to speed up construction time and improve protection against the elements.

  • Increased solar with rooftops that include solar systems installed in a less extrusive, less expensive, more-integrated fashion.

  • High R-value windows (R7+) that are standard, rather than sold and linked by tax incentives to convince consumers of their benefits.

  • Energy monitoring, where homeowners receive dashboard reports and alerts on-the-fly so they can adjust their energy use.

  • Materials from agricultural waste, where consumers can choose building materials such as flooring products and veneers that are made from the unused parts of common agricultural products like wheat.

  • Internal water reprocessing that allows homeowners to save on precious water and high bills, eliminating septic systems and working with low-pressure faucets and showerheads required by law.
Going with the Flow

Many of these trends are pioneered in building by participants of the Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing (PATH). The PATH concept house includes movable internal room partitions, wireless switches, tankless water heaters, weatherproofing barriers, a graywater reclamation system, soybean-based expanding foam insulation, quick-release plumbing fixtures, and a standing-seam steel roof with a 150-year lifespan.

In Washington, D.C., the Takoma Village demonstration development of 43 units include geothermal heating and cooling, fiber cement siding, solar domestic hot water systems, recycled content carpeting, low-toxicity wood preservatives, and energy saving horizontal axis clothes washers.

Will all these changes cost homeowners more than having traditional building components and energy sources? At first, they probably will. But as more and more innovative systems are required to match new building and green energy codes, prices are bound to come down.

More architects and designers will be using computerized "energy modeling" software that juggles energy needs with available components. That's pretty exciting. I'm sure many of you agree with me that sustainability begins at home.

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