You Don't Have to Go Weird to Go Green
|"You don't have to go weird to go green" according to architect Peter Pfeiffer.|
Pfeiffer, who has been designing green homes for two decades, says orienting a home properly on a site, using appropriate materials and exterior colors for the climate, wrapping the exterior well, and shading windows can yield tremendous energy savings.
Five pillars of green building
In terms of design, going green may involve scaling down square footage, building two-level, rather than one level homes; lowering ceilings a bit; placing skylights more strategically; and minimizing recessed lighting. Pfeiffer says all of this - and more- can be accomplished without sacrificing style, livable space, and beauty.
Form allows function
"Design errors consumer two times as much energy as solar collectors could ever collect," Pfeiffer says, with the single most important factor in energy savings being the orientation of a house. All floor plans should indicate the northern exposure, he says. Placing garages on the west side of homes helps control intense afternoon heat inside a home, he adds. Rather than a rain umbrella, a roof should be thought of as a shading device for the home. Then, the roof should be constructed using techniques, materials, and colors to best serve that purpose, Pfeiffer says. Overhangs can be used to shade windows, for example.
In most parts of the country, including all but the most extreme cold climates as in Minnesota or Alaska, more emphasis should be placed on design features that address air conditioning not only because of the energy savings but because of the damage condensation can do, Pfeiffer says. "Number one, control humidity," he says, noting that in half the country the air is drier outside a house than inside, but building codes are "just beginning to recognize this."
Passive solar design is more about controlling heat than bringing heat into a home, he says, but solar collectors are coming down in price, so he encourages builders to have homes, "solar ready," in case a client wants to install the collectors post-construction.
Go under cover
"Get the basics down before you do anything exotic - Just design the house to respond to its site," Pfeiffer urges.
The preceding article comes from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Business Management Department.