What Makes a Home Design Eco-Friendly?

Designing a house involves intense effort on many different levels, all of which are interdependent. For this reason, there are often many different professionals involved in the design process including architects, engineers, and interior designers.

These same people will be involved when the design is eco-friendly, each adding their particular skills to ensure that every element of the house is sustainable and in sync with the environment. For example, on a very basic level:

1. Architects will determine the design and style of the building and take responsibility for its visual appearance as well as its functionality. When designing an eco-friendly house, an architect will ensure that it has a tightly sealed thermal envelope with superior insulation and energy-efficient doors and windows. He or she will choose materials that are renewable, including sustainably harvested wood and recycled steel.

2. Engineers play important roles in building projects, depending on what is required. While a consulting civil engineer might offer a broad service, many engineers specialize, and you might find individuals taking responsibility for electric, heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC), plumbing, or  mechanical engineering solutions in Chicago, New York, or whichever city or area his client’s house is located.

3. Working with the architect, an HVAC engineer will usually take responsibility for HVAC systems, ensuring that they are highly efficient and totally controlled.

4. Energy issues are of primary concern to mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) engineers who will design solar systems for power and for heating water. Heat pumps will often be incorporated into these systems.

5. An interior designer will take charge of the interior of the building, specifying finishes, materials, and products for inside spaces. Like an architect aiming to maximize sustainability, an interior designer who is environmentally conscious will pick items that have the lowest possible environmental impact.

These include quickly renewable organic materials like wood, natural stone, wool, and quick-growing bamboo, provided, of course, they have been harvested or extracted in a responsible manner, as well as synthetic materials that have been made from recycled waste or materials that can be recycled at the end of their lifecycle.

In fact, of all the professionals involved in a build, an interior designer probably has the greatest capacity to minimize waste reduction. Instead of discarding items because they are no longer in vogue, they can design for longevity and rethink style, recycling, upcycling, and repurposing all sorts of things.

Of course, the homeowner plays a pivotal role too, because the professional team is designing according to his requirements, needs, and preferences.

What Makes a Home Design Eco-Friendly?

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Sustainability is at the heart of an eco-friendly home. This translates to energy efficiency, water efficiency, and the use of sustainable materials and systems for every possible element of the house and home from the structure to carpets and blinds. But, of course, within each of these areas, there is a myriad of options that make it a reality.

The very best eco-friendly homes are constructed in accordance with passive building standards that aim at zero energy. This means the house is designed to produce as much energy as it consumes, ideally on site.

Key areas include:

⦁ Energy that is generated using environmentally required reduction targets that are focused on conservation.

⦁ Insulation that keeps the house warm in winter and cool in summer without the need for costly, inefficient heating and cooling systems. This is a boon when it comes to interior design, particularly soft furnishings, because they can be chosen to suit all seasons.

⦁ The thermal envelope, which shields the interior of the house from the outside, and relies not only on insulation, air/vapor retarders and so on, it also depends on the design of wall and roof assemblies as well as doors, windows, and everything else that opens and shuts. It is vital that the design ensures highly insulated “envelopes” do not develop moisture problems that are both unhealthy and unsightly, and can impact negatively on the structure of the building.

⦁ A well-designed roof that overhangs south-facing windows in the northern hemisphere to help prevent overheating in summer. Designed sensitively, it will add to the style of the house, as will the doors and windows used.

⦁ Controlled ventilation that reduces any health risks associated with indoor air pollution and promotes a more comfortable indoor environment and adds to the general ambiance of the interior.

Energy-efficient heating and cooling systems including ductless heat pumps that operate as space heaters in winter and air conditioners in summer. While HVAC is a technical business best left to engineers, there are ways that an interior designer can ensure that the visual elements of heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning look good. An interior designer might also suggest using stand-alone heating and cooling appliances including gas or electric fireplaces and ceiling fans that add to the look and feel of a room.

⦁ Energy-efficient appliances, which, though more expensive, use less energy and emit fewer pollutants. These include the full range of kitchen and laundry appliances including refrigerators, washing machines, and so on. Energy Star appliances exceed the minimum efficiency standards set by the federal government and are a good investment.

Energy-efficient lighting that is both functional and decorative, and one of the best ways to cut electricity bills. Even though incandescent bulbs haven’t been banned, it’s a no-brainer not to use compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs).

⦁ Water-saving initiatives from the use of low-flow showerheads to rainwater-harvesting systems. The latter is particularly useful for landscaping and backyard home improvements.

The Benefits of an Eco-Friendly Home

Eco-friendly homes are water- and energy-efficient, and because of the focus on sustainability, they require less maintenance than the average home. So-called green materials are generally more durable than other materials too.

Ultimately, eco-friendly homes save money because they cost less to operate. But, as mentioned above, they also offer superior comfort. Eco-friendly homes are also healthier because of the focus on air quality

Because of these factors, they are an excellent real estate investment that typically offers a much higher ROI than homes that are not particularly eco-friendly.

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