2018 Green Home Design Year in Review

Taking a look back at the biggest trends in green home architecture and design 

By GREGG TAYLERSON 

Wow, 2018 is almost over and what a great year it has been for the building industry! Let’s take a look back and evaluate what the trends were, where we are, and where are going. 

This year, we saw an even greater interest from homebuyers to seek out a potential home that offered green sustainable features. These potential homebuyers included not just your typical “younger generation millennial” type buyer, but spanned across a multitude of generations. They ranged from millennials, to Gen-X-ers, up to seniors, and even Baby Boomers. 

The features most desired by this wide range of potential buyers included ENERGY-STAR rated appliances, more energy-efficient windows and more water-conserving features. Some even asked for insulation that exceeded the current code to take into account future changes or upgrades. This more conscious buyer was looking to purchase a home that would not only save them money in terms of efficiency but also make them money on future resale by having a greener, more sustainable, and more energy-efficient home, thus making it more desirable to future buyers. 

According to an NAHB report, a whopping 70 percent of potential buyers expressed the desire to purchase a home with these features in mind. Homebuilders responded in kind by more than a quarter of their new construction being built that meets Bronze-level certification. Other builders response to this trend by using better insulation, creating a tighter building envelope, and including more efficient HVAC systems and water heating systems– all of which lead to more efficient homes. Other trends, which have become the norm rather than the exception, include low VOC paints and adhesives, vinyl tile with cork backing (which is a sustainable material), Low-E glass, and low-flow faucets to conserve water. 

Many in California are already familiar with most, if not all, of these trends as they have become required by state law. As I wrote in an earlier article regarding curb appeal, other popular trends that are not only attractive but sustainable include reclaimed wood for exterior siding, natural materials like brick, stone, and metal, and “cool” roofs to lower energy costs. Even trends in lighting haven’t escaped the desire to be energy efficient. As LED lighting gets more affordable to purchase with improved color ranges, an increasing number of energy-conscious builders and buyers have turned to LED lighting as a healthy, energy-saving alternative to fluorescent. 

So, what does all this mean as we move forward? As greener, more sustainable, and more efficient homes become the norm, we become happier, healthier, and more productive individuals. When we take into account these trends, people are now living in healthier homes. This is important because we are spending more and more time indoors than ever. Using low VOC paints, stains and adhesives, designing homes that allow for more natural light, and having a tight building envelope that reduces air particulates that can cause allergies are all features that make for a healthier home. Studies have shown that longer exposure to natural light, rather than artificial light, greatly enhances mood. 

Aside from the direct health benefits that improve one’s quality of life, the idea that you are “fattening” your wallet also enhances mood! Saving money due to the implementation of greener products and practices that lower energy costs, oddly enough, makes us happier. LEED-certified homes are designed to use about 30-60 percent less energy. As stated earlier, installing ENERGY-STAR appliances and water-saving devices can save a homeowner thousands over the course of a year. I don’t know about you, but that sure would increase my mood! Also, the idea that you are doing something to improve the environment also has an intrinsic value that cannot be measured. 

We sometimes forget how important our living environment is to us. It has become more than just a place to provide shelter. In many ways, our home has become our own miniature world where we not only eat and sleep, but also where we work, play, and interact! As the implementation of greener and more sustainable products catches on around the building industry, most, if not all of these practices will become industry standards. Our homes will become happier, healthier environments for us to live in. And I, for one, am excited to see what is in store for 2019 and how far we will go. 

Gregg Taylerson is the owner/creator of Napkin-Sketching: A Design Studio. He may be reached at info@napkinsketching.com