Modern design principles certain help. Homes being built now are more efficient than old homes, for sure, and are very helpful in moving us toward a “green” nation. However, retrofitting of old houses with new technology is also helpful. I don’t think new designs are necessary, per se, but they are helpful. It’s also important to retrofit older homes and to pursue the other avenues available beyond home design (such as improving transportation). This is just opinion, though, I’m no urban planner.
To add, I think if you want to make a greener home you need new designs. For example, if you are building a home and you want to add solar on the roof, you will need to put the panel on the south facing roof, so the south facing roof should be facing the backyard (due to Homeowner’s Association). Also, for maximum efficiency it needs to be angled at a 30 degree tilt. Also while you are designing the home to fit solar it should be free of shading, so make sure no trees are in its way (DON’T CUT TREES DOWN THOUGH).
Yes, the current model homes and McMansions are huge energy consumers. Not to mention they require high amounts of materials and usually have large yards which are mostly manicured lawn areas.
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