The ties between the home-building industry and green technologies continue to strengthen as the demand for energy-efficient homes increases. Buyers look at more than the floor plan and living amenities of a home; they look for the use of earth-friendly materials, the installation of energy-efficient heating and cooling systems, and the structure's adaptability to future technologies.
Whole-House Systems Approach
Much like a holistic approach to health, a whole-house systems approach to home building requires the builder to extend his vision beyond the technicalities of construction. The project becomes an eco-system. The overall factors encompass the effect of the local climate on the structure, the orientation of the structure on the site itself, how the occupants interact with the structure and the enhancement of the structure and infrastructure through the use of energy-efficient materials and systems. Every facet must relate to all other facets in the project.
Within the whole-house systems approach, the structure design minimizes energy usage while maximizing comfort. The thermal envelope is the encompassing element that influences this dictum. The exterior, the interior structural elements and the operating systems such as heating, cooling and ventilation make up the thermal envelope. In an energy-efficient home, the exterior materials work in conjunction with the local climate to encourage consistent interior ambient temperature control. Other elements of the envelope include roofing, interior wall construction, ventilation systems, insulation, windows and doors.
Heating and cooling systems designed to work in tandem with the exterior and interior structural elements result in lowered heating and cooling costs. To further energy efficiency in a home, builders also look to lighting. Strategically placed windows, motion-detection sensory lighting and timed lighting systems reduce energy usage. Other energy-reducing options include plumbing adapted to low-water usage appliances and built-in adaptability to solar electric systems.
Energy Star-Qualified Homes
Builders who look to capture the market of buyers for green homes may seek Energy Star certification from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The criteria for Energy Star-qualified homes includes meeting the standards set out by the agency regarding insulation, window type, heating and cooling systems, duct work, and the inclusion of Energy Star-rated products including appliances, lighting fixtures and fans. More than 85,000 home builders in the United States have worked with the agency, resulting in more than 1 million homes being rated as Energy Star-qualified, according to the EPA website.
Shelly McRae is a freelance writer residing in Phoenix, Ariz. Having earned an associate degree from Glendale Community College with a major in graphic design and technical writing, she turned to online writing. McRae has written articles for multiple websites, drawing on her experience in the home improvement industry and hydroponic gardening.