There are more elements to creating intrinsic value than can be counted, but below are what we have found to be 6 of the most important building blocks of a sustainable design:
- Less exposed exterior wall surface area equates to greater energy conservation. Remember that every inch of wall that is exposed to the elements is allowing energy (hot and cold air) to escape, no matter how good your insulating qualities are.
- South facing windows need overhangs (awnings or eaves) that are specifically designed for your home’s latitude. Living in a home with natural solar energy will simply feel better; winter and summer. If you have a lovely south-facing wall with lots of windows, that’s great for winter energy bill savings, but without the proper awnings, you’ll be spending all of your savings to cool your house in the summer. Insulated shades that cover those windows at night are a must.
- When designing the footprint of your home (think of it like the dead man chalk line that runs all the way around the perimeter), every time you move your chalk in and then back out, it’s costing money that you won’t necessarily recoup in the value of your home. Not only do you pay for additional concrete for those footings, but the excavation costs to dig the trench and the labor to build the forms are all added costs. Then, look up. Your roof line will have to follow those ins and outs. Ching Ching! Not saying we should all live in a box, but think about every bump out in a creative, holistic way.
- Minimize window sizes on the north side of your home while maximizing windows on the south side. Design trade-offs quite often necessitate creation of bedrooms and living areas on the north side, but armed with this insight, there are design choices you might be able to make that will enhance the livability of your home.
Can you put your garage on the north side?
Can you put closets on the north side?
Can you put bathrooms on the north side?
Can your wall of kitchen cabinets or pantry be on the north side
- Eliminate halls where ever possible. Hall space costs as much to build as a bedroom. This little tidbit is often forgotten when viewing impressive designs drawn by expensive architects or simple “free” plans found on-line. Homes with creative use of interior space have much more living or storage area than their less fortunate neighbors with expensive hallways.
- Value engineering. In designing your home, it is important to have someone who understands the building process. Minor changes to the layout can mean substantial saving in building costs. Especially in multilevel dwellings, it is important to understand load paths from the roof, all the way down to the ground that it sits on. Sometimes moving a wall just a few feet can result in thousands saved in the construction process. Planning for this while in the design stage can help to eliminate expensive changes or wasted material expense down the road.