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.
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.
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.”
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
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.