Perhaps the most obvious solution would be to install solar panels on the roof, or to consider placing wind turbines on the property (which is contingent on compliance with local building codes). Green grass roofs are exceedingly popular and offer a unique way to help the home itself become more efficient while concurrently helping the environment that surrounds it. Furthermore, while green roofs provide insulation, another surefire way to increase a home’s energy efficiency is to wrap it in as much insulation as is feasible. Many other solutions pertain to water usage – relative to both consumption and collecting rain water.
To make a home more energy efficient, an architect can add more heavy insulation in the walls to lower heating or air conditioning costs. Minimizing the number and size of windows also keeps these same costs low.
Passive solar design is also an extremely green way to design a building. Window placement is very important. Placing a large window that faces the sun (at peak times of the day) can substantially lower heating costs. The house can also be painted a dark color so that it absorbs more solar heat, or a light color to reflect heat. Thermal mass within the walls can trap heat as well. Proper heat circulation is vital. To keep heat from entering a house, awnings and low-emissivity blinds are used.
Other things to consider when making a green home include picking the site of the home. Building at a site close to mass transit will save occupants on transportation costs. Considering the natural features of the land, such as building next to a river, will save water resources. Only using plants that are native to the area will also reduce water and pesticide use.
An architect ostensibly chooses building materials, which is one of the main factors – besides location and orientation – in making a house “green.”
In this regard, building from renewable, low-energy materials is one contribution an architect can make. For example, instead of using brick and concrete – which demand a great deal of energy in their production and transportation – building from straw bales is the obvious green choice, though straw bale structures sometimes (sadly) defy building codes. Straw bale structures are better insulated and more fire resistant than either brick or wooden structures; plus, straw is annually renewable, unlike wood, which takes many years of tree-growth.
Location has been touched upon in other answers, but orientation is just as important. To be most energy efficient, a house should be built along the east-west axis, with long sides facing north and south. In the northern hemisphere, the southern side should be loaded with glazing (windows and glass doors), whereas the north side should be solid; the opposite is true in the southern hemisphere. In both, the east and west (shortest) sides should have relatively few windows, too.
Homes built in this way absorb the most sunlight and have the least heat loss, which means low energy input for heating. For cooling, simple curtains or blinds can take care of much of the heat gain from the southern side.
Integrating a greenhouse (along the southern side) into a home is perhaps the best way to stabilize temperatures and improve air quality indoors, without needing extra energy input.
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