Taking a comprehensive approach to enhancing luxury home construction with green building techniques
By JEFF BOGARD
When we think of luxury homes, we often think about the surface appearance: square footage, elegant proportions, expensive finishes, and a high-end look. But what about the actual infrastructure of a home? Designing and building a truly luxurious home involves taking a whole-house approach. Best building practices, a.k.a. “green building” achieve this aim by enhancing the energy efficiency, performance, and comfort levels of a home.
Waterproofed, Insulated Foundations: Using waterproofed concrete slabs with an outer layer of insulation can protect against outside elements. This kind of continuous exterior insulation creates less chance of moisturerelated issues in the basement and supports better thermal performance.
Exterior Wall Moisture Management: Typical exterior wall weather barriers are individual, stapled-on sheets that are vulnerable to leaks. Alternatives include using house wrap products engineered to provide better coverage, implementing techniques to channel moisture away from the walls, and encouraging airflow to promote drying.
Better Installation Methods for House Wraps: Typical house wraps are installed using slap stapling, where staples punch unprotected holes in the underlying weather barrier material that is supposed to keep moisture out. A better method is to use cap nails, which have a self-sealing gasket that completely covers the created hole.
Better Roofing: Clients should consider a moisture-resistant underlayment of at least 40 millimeters when installing roofing that uses natural or man-made slate, tile, or steel materials. Double underlayments, or two coursing, can provide an extra barrier against sun and weather exposure. In icy and snowy climates, installing self-adhering underlayment material can minimize moisture infiltration due to ice damming.
Superior Insulation Materials: Pink fiberglass rolls used in standard insulation contain gaps between strips that allow air to escape. For more effective insulation, use different types, such as a blown-in blanket system. Closed-cell foam insulation is most effective, but since it is more costly, we suggest using it only where needed. Rock wool, which is spun from lava rock, can be substituted for those with chemical sensitivities.
Reducing Thermal Bridging: Thermal bridging is when heat escapes through less-resistant pathways in a home such as wooden wall studs. Clients can reduce thermal bridging by installing continuous, rigid insulation on a home’s exterior in addition to placing insulation between wall studs.
Sealed HVAC Systems: Conventional HVAC systems typically use unsealed metal ducts to push air throughout a home, resulting in dust and other particles being distributed as well. For better air quality, luxury builders use a sealeddesign system in which air moves solely through sealed metal ducts, which picks up less dust and filters and cleans the air before distributing back into the home.
Implementing ENERGY STAR® Systems for a Top- Notch Approach: The ENERGY STAR program was designed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to encourage energy conservation through technological innovations. ENERGY STAR certified products are used in home systems to improve air quality, help control humidity, and better maintain consistent temperatures.
Using Healthier Materials so People Breather Easier: Avoid toxic chemicals by using natural materials like solid wood flooring, cabinets, and doors instead of vinyl or engineered wood products. For adhesives, sealants, and surface coatings like paint, use products containing low volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
Building for the Climate: In addition to following the best building practices for the regional climate, builders should examine how the sun’s path and house’s positioning will affect interior temperatures throughout the day. Take into consideration the direction a room faces, how many windows it has, and where those windows are positioned. A well-designed system will adjust air to maintain a comfortable temperature in every room, no matter the time of day.
Staying Informed About Green Technology: Green technology products harness energy and increase sustainability in innovative ways. The possible applications of these inventions continue to evolve quickly. Builders that stay informed are able to offer creative green solutions such as geothermal heating and cooling systems or solar panel installations.
Embracing Green Education: To build a highperforming home, a builder should possess demonstrated mastery of the theory and application of building science. A Master Certified Green Professional designation indicates experience and knowledge of green building techniques and technologies for creating sustainable homes. The best luxury homebuilders will act as expert advisors, helping homeowners understand the process, systems, and options involved in green construction techniques.
Green technology is more than solar panels, and a true luxury home is more than what meets the eye. What you can’t see in a home is just as important as what you can, especially when it comes to your health and comfort levels. Green technology offers enhanced energy efficiency and performance without impacting aesthetics.
For the future of home construction, certified luxury builders should seek to craft high-end, green homes that perform as beautifully as they look – and redefine what true luxury means.
Jeff Bogard is the Founder of Luxury Home Building Company R.E.A. He holds the NAHB Master Certified Green Professional designation. For more, visit reahomesllc.com.