Top Green Trends in Residential Design

These green movements are becoming the standard for builders

By GREGG TAYLERSON

If you are like me, the alarm went off one morning and, suddenly, it was 2019! While 2018 was certainly a stellar year for residential architecture and “green” design, this year is shaping up to be another leap towards sustainable design being the norm and not just trendy. While many of these “trends” are certainly not new or surprising, advancements in technology have made them even better. 

Take a look at some of the latest movements in residential architecture design and construction.

Greener to the Last Drop!

When it comes to water, you do not normally want to think of it as green, do you?

Well, in terms of preservation of and useful efficiency of water, you do! Water is quickly growing to be a scarce resource worldwide, so it is important to find water to preserve and protect this life-giving resource. The main conditions that are driving water to become more and more valuable are the fact that there is a growing freshwater demand, while at the same time, there is a depletion of usable freshwater resources.

As homeowners, designers, and builders, we – as major users and consumers of water – are implementing into our designs ways in which we can combat the problem of waste. Water-saving faucets and low-flow showerheads, efficient kitchen amenities and fixtures, and natural water collection and storage are just a few of the ways that preserving water is becoming the norm in the residential realm. Toilets are also in on the act, as they account for almost 30 percent of water usage in the home. Installing water-efficient toilets can have a high impact. The homeowner will not only see a reduction in their water bill, but will also be helping to preserve the environment.

Waste Not, Want Not

Everyone knows that being wasteful is not the best way to be sustainable. The mere word “waste” is the exact opposite of “preserve.” When we think of waste, it is usually about not using something to its fullest extent, or to the best of its ability.

While many of us immediately think of visible items, like efficient bulbs to reduce energy waste or low-flow faucets for reduction of water waste, we almost never think of those hidden items that can greatly reduce waste. If you have not guessed it, I am talking about insulation. Adding extra insulation, and using the properly rated insulation in roofs and walls, can greatly reduce energy waste. Speaking of roofs, properly regulating the temperature levels in the roof can also have an impact on energy costs. An emphasis on properly venting the eaves and ridges is being more widely recognized around the building industry as a way to reduce energy waste and lower monthly operating costs of HVAC equipment.

Work Smarter, Not Harder

The saying “work smarter, not harder” is something we have all heard at least once in our lives. Now, this statement also applies to our homes! Having our homes on more automated systems is a growing trend that does not seem to be going away, especially as the technology gets better and more cost-effective.

Networking a home’s operations on our portable devices, such as our smart phones and tablets, allows us to control our home’s lights, television, and mechanical systems from the touch of a screen. Setting up a home system that is more conducive to an individual’s lifestyle can make a home more efficient, comfortable, and, in some cases, safer. While the jury is still out on this growing trend in terms of upfront cost and future disposal of the technology, it looks like the smart/automated home is the future of home control.

From Zero to Hero

While this certainly is not new in states like California, the net-zero home idea is catching fire across the home building industry and in more markets across the country. For those new to the concept, basically, a net-zero home means that energy production should be equal to energy consumption.

Net-zero, or Zero Net Energy, homes are a combination of the use of energy collection and storage systems with the usage of energy efficient products and appliances. However, the net-zero concept is applicable to a wide range of resources such as energy, water, and waste. Energy is typically the first resource to be targeted because it is expensive and has a high carbon footprint. As we have seen, there are many ways to reduce energy costs including adding insulation, using heat pumps instead of furnaces, using low-E double or triple glazed windows, and adding solar panels to the roof. Combined with advancements in energy harvesting and storage through photovoltaic systems and wind turbines, net-zero homes and neighborhoods and becoming more and more of a reality than just a science-fiction pipe dream.

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