Building Green: Sustainable Practices for Your New Home’s Quality Construction


As environmental consciousness has expanded, so too has the emphasis on sustainable building methods. While this is a good thing for greening our homes, it can make for a complicated landscape for soon-to-be homeowners. With so many “green” building decisions to be made—insulation type, HVAC equipment, what kind of windows and doors to use—how can you be sure you’re making the right ones? And if you’re not aiming to build an eco-friendly mansion, with what kind of mid-grade building won’t you violate the laws of energy economics and efficiency so much as to make an impact on your local and global environment?

1. Energy efficiency:

Think first about the design of your house. Use passive methods to plan it as an energy-efficient space by, among other things, taking careful advantage of the amount of sunlight it can receive. Sunlight doesn’t necessarily mean heat (or the opposite, cold), but within a building, it can certainly make a marked difference. All sunlight reaching your home is a heat gain for it, no matter how small, and any way you can properly insulate a home will make it lose less heat in the winter and less coolness in the summer. So far, so good. What are some ways to potentiate these improvements without spending too much? Also, how can we overcome some of the aesthetic objections to energy-efficient technology that some homeowners might have?

2. Conservation of Water:

  • Water Conservation:
  • Preserving Good Habits: Toilets, bathroom faucets, and showerheads are some of the largest culprits when it comes to an overabundance of water usage in our homes. However, by replacing these fixtures with water-saving models, we can save a lot more water than we might think, without sacrificing much – if anything – in the way of comfort. What do I mean? Well, a normal toilet – the “throne,” if you will – uses about 3.5 to 5 gallons per flush (gpf). But if you install a low-flow (or dual-flush) toilet, it will use just 1.6 gpf. That’s quite a difference – right around 3 gallons!
  • Get Rain Savvy: Harvesting rainwater is becoming increasingly popular as a way to reduce the demand for potable water. Countless properties around the world collect and use rainwater as a site-specific measure toward sustainable development.

3. Sustainable Materials:

  • Building materials can be chosen from options available in one’s local area. This greatly reduces the carbon footprint from the transportation that is required to move materials from one location to another, and it also supports the local economy. Some exciting new developments in sustainable and low-emission building materials have emerged. You might inquire more about these materials and get some samples. A few ideas are:
  • – Dimensional lumber from a local mill.
  • – Orientation and use of rammed earth, adobe, or cob construction materials.
  • – Using local stone, where appropriate, for steps, retaining walls, or even building facades.
  • – If you hire a contractor, you might even be able to achieve passive solar benefits by orienting the building to the south or utilize other aspects of your site for energy efficiency.

4. Waste Reduction:

The goal is to make the construction process as conscientious as it can be so that we throw away as few materials as possible. This means reusing as much as we can. Our new home is built on a decommissioned U.S. Navy base, and when we started designing it, we wanted to be net zero while also finding ways to express a positive life cycle analysis for the project. To do that, we’d have to get rid of as much carbon dioxide going into the atmosphere as we’d manage to sequester inside the building. And, of course, we hoped to bury no waste. To express these somewhat ambitious goals, we assembled a diverse team, and, I suspect, a somewhat opinionated one. “We’re architects,” says Isaac.

5. Indoor Air Quality:

  • Properly ventilate your home to eliminate contaminants and moisture. Use a mechanical ventilation system with heat recovery to improve air quality and energy efficiency.
  • Use natural cleaning products to keep the air in your home clean and to avoid bringing in harmful chemicals. Consider buying or making your own household cleaning supplies. You’ll find many recipes and tips in books, magazines, and on the internet—but allow plenty of ventilation for these cleaners too.
  • When decorating your home, consider putting in some indoor plants. Not only do they look nice, but they can help purify the air. Houseplants can naturally filter


You can ensure that the high-quality construction of your new home doesn’t harm the environment and, in fact, is environmentally responsible by adopting sustainable building practices. When you build a home, any home, you should expect it to be beautiful and comfortable, as well as a healthy, safe place for you and your family to live. With a sustainable home, you can be certain that the practices used in your home’s construction will result in a responsible environmental impact. Every time you cut down a full-grown tree, for any reason, you need to plant at least one tree in its place.

Note: Find construction information and good home building companies like Grit Build at

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