Green Trends in Homebuilding

Like any craft, homebuilding is subject to trends stemming from popular opinions and new technologies. With 2014 coming to a close in the next couple of months, now is a great time to look back on some of the most interesting trends of the year, with a focus on the ecological side of homebuilding.

Passive homebuilding

The term “passive” sounds strange when used in a homebuilding context, but in this case it refers to allowing the design of a home to be dictated by its climate and location. This involves:

  • an airtight building envelope, which promotes excellent insulation and a consistent indoor temperature
  • specialized ventilation systems
  • excellent quality windows and doors to protect the interior of the house from the elements
  • utilizing windows to capture direct sunlight and heat in the winter, but not the summer

For more information on passive homebuilding, please see the Passive Homebuilding Institute of the United State’s very informative website.

Renewable energy

Solar Panels3

Installing solar panels, while still far from mainstream, is a growing trend. Not only can the solar energy harvested from your own roof offset your energy bill, but it can also boost the resale value of an existing home. Solar advocate website CostofSolar.com states:

“The exact numbers vary from property to property and installation to installation, but recent research shows an average increase in resale value being $5,911 for each 1 kilowatt (kW) of solar installed. In a state like California, for example, a small 3.1-kilowatt (kW) system can add an average of $18,324 to the value of a medium-sized home.”

New materials

Building materials are always changing, seeking the best blend of cost-effectiveness with function. Some unconventional home building materials include:

  • bamboo and cork wooden flooring
  • carpets woven from corn fibres
  • plant-based polyurethane foam insulation
  • recycled wood/plastic composite lumber

“Cool” roofs

GreenRoofImage by flickr user AmericaU Sustainability

Traditional dark-coloured roofing options such as tar shingles are not the best bet in hot sunny climates, as they add additional heat to an already sweltering situation. Cool roofs can simply be lighter-coloured versions of traditional materials, which reflect the suns rays rather than absorbing them, and help keep your house a little cooler.

A more extreme option is a “green” roof, which incorporates local plant life and can act as a great secondary garden for sun-loving plants if you have an easily accessible roof.

Different Yard Strategies

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Your house may stop at the front door, but your property doesn’t. What you do with the remainder of your lot plays an important part in the overall look of your house. There is more than one way to go about planning your yard, and this article briefly looks at three different strategies.

1. The Traditional Grass Lawn

Most suburban houses boast immaculate green lawns. This staple of North American living is non-negotiable for some, but keeping that lawn perfectly manicured can be a lot of work. Larger plots of grass may require a lot of extra effort to keep maintained.

Consider what type of climate you live in?

Some climates are definitely better suited to growing the beautiful bluegrass you see in commercials than others. If not, consider native types of grasses that are available. Also, be sure to the methods of watering your grass if you are in an area prone to droughts. Additional care, such as mowing, aerating, and fertilizing your lawn can be done by professionals.

2. Grassless Landscaped Yard

A great alternative to grass in a smaller lot is to add stone, gravel, and garden bed features to your lawn. This route involves more initial planning, but can result in easier upkeep. In a small lot with a high fence, a meticulously landscaped grassless yard can almost appear an extension of the home, rather than a distinct outdoor space.

3. Wild Yard

While only really an option in more remote areas, letting your yard stay wild is a great way to enjoy the natural beauty of your new home. This requires minimal upkeep, primarily in the form of clearing away underbrush if you live in a forested area and removing hazardous plants such as stinging nettles or poison ivy.

Of course, you can incorporate features from any or all of these three approaches into your own lawn. Make sure you use the natural features of your lot to your advantage, and never discount the effect a great yard can have on making a fantastic home.

Favourite A-Frame Picks

An overlooking loft gives a spectacular feeling of spaciousness to an otherwise practical plan. A wide sundeck wraps the front of this design…providing easy access to the main floor. Two large bedrooms are on the main floor with the master bedroom and ensuite situated in the loft. This house may be built with or without a basement.

An Overlooking Loft | Plan No. 228107

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A_222242_otherThis design you have a choice for the master suite location; it could be on the main floor as shown, or you might choose to move it to the upstairs loft. A porch shelters the front door leading to a roomy foyer with a handy coat closet. The central fireplace could be finished in stone to maintain a rustic atmosphere.

An A-frame For Year-round Living | Plan No. 222242

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Dormers A Plus For Master Bedroom And RooflineThe large living area has a vaulted ceiling and great view to the front of the house. A full laundry room, full bath, and large bedroom complete the main floor. This large a-frame looks great thanks to the interesting roof line formed by dormers in the loft bedroom.

Dormers A Plus For Master Bedroom and Roofline | Plan No. 102016

House Plan of the Week #10

This multi-featured design puts the emphasis on good indoor and outdoor relationships. With plenty of windows to take advantage of natural light and scenery, this home also provides a large covered sundeck which can be enjoyed throughout the year. The interior spaces are open and inviting, with a Kitchen open to the Dining and Great room area. In addition, the basement has the potential to transform into any living space, from extra bedrooms to a cozy family room. This plan is fit for any sized family.

Enjoy the View | Plan No. 201781

How To Buy A Lot

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1. Contact a REALTOR®

Lots can be found all over, sometimes there are existing buildings, sometimes they are listed as “commercial” properties.
Talking to a REALTOR® about what you are looking for in a lot enables them to help you find the type of property that will work best for you.

2. Get your finances in order

If you will be getting a mortgage to purchase this property, now is the time to contact your mortgage broker and fill in a mortgage application. Get a 90 day hold on the credit offered. Secure buying power is key to making sure your lot purchase doesn’t fall through at the last minute.

3. Go see properties

Now that you know your price range, start seeing the properties your REALTOR® finds. If you see something you like, go to the development or land department in your city. Find out:

  • What does the zoning allow for?
  • What is the OCP (Official Community Plan)? Cities and towns will have a plan for 30 years or more into the future. This will help determine potential value.
  • If rezoning is possible. This is important if you’re looking to rezone for long-term investment, and less so if you’re just interested in living on an acreage.

This is also the time to figure out what sorts of amenities the lot has, including utilities like electricity and natural gas.

4. Check comparables

Don’t let one lot win you over and offer the full asking price up front. Check on comparable lots and recently sold lots nearby to help inform you on a fair offer to make.

5. Write an offer

Enter negotiations with the property-owner, by writing an offer using the information you gleaned from checking out comparables.

  • Work out the price, timing, and dates.
  • Determine the subjects (which include a survey of the land, and engineering report, and other things your REALTOR® might suggest.)

6. Come to an agreement

After a few rounds of offers and counter-offers, you and the seller have reached an agreement! You will remove the subjects by having your surveys and engineering reports done, and ultimately you will pay a deposit, usually about 5% of the agreed-upon price of the lot.

7. Select a notary and lawyer

Your REALTOR® will help suggest a notary and lawyer to help finish up the transaction. Register in the land titles office to secure your ownership of the property.

8. Build your house

Congratulations! You now own a lot and can start construction of your dream house or new investment property.

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All information courtesy of Oscar Barrera – www.obsold.com

Icons made by Freepik, Scott de Jonge, SimpleIcon, Icons8 from flaticon.com

Graphic © House Plan Hunters 2014

House Plan of the Week #9

Gorgeous contemporary design fit for everyday living. This town-home brings elegance and practicality under one roof. Each unit totals at 1818 sq.ft. featuring a master bedroom completed with walk-in closet and en suite, open living area with covered patio and a garage with the potential for an extra leisure room on the ground level.

Cozy Duplex | Plan No.  195226Cozy Duplex

 

House Plan of the Week #8

The inviting shelter of a wrap-around porch beckons you as you approach this traditional charmer. The large foyer with its curved staircase provides you with an unequal visual treat. A large conveniently planned family area awaits you, it features a fireplace and access to either pool or patio.

Curved Staircase A Visual Treat | Plan No. 222184