Archive for March, 2012

Core Green Design Part 1: the “Pretty Good Home”

Sunday, March 18th, 2012

Recently over at Green Building Advisor, a great resource for green building knowledge, there’s been a hot discussion around the concept of building a “Pretty Good House.”

Now at first glance, that sounds like a bad deal. Don’t we want to live in a house that’s more than just “pretty good?” Yet the idea behind a “Pretty Good House” is to provide a new type of roadmap for building a green home, one that focuses on cost-effective and common sense energy and durability performance, rather than trying to build to the exact requirements of a green building certification.

Don’t get me wrong, I think that green building certification programs like LEED or Passive House are wonderful, well-thought out ways to create a building with reduced environmental footprint and lasting value for the homeowner, but they aren’t for everyone. Certification means that a widely-recognized green label gets placed on your home—but it also means extra cost in certification fees, and building to a checklist of requirements that may not have the flexibility to match everyone’s budget or design constraints. By contrast, a “Pretty Good Home” is a home that doesn’t certify but that incorporates those green building and energy efficient features that made sense to the project and were cost-effective, enabling homeowners who don’t have the flexibility or funds to go all the way to a Passive House the opportunity to live in a house that functions well and has a reduced impact on the environment.

Since it isn’t a certification, but rather an idea, green building professionals across the country have been given the opportunity to weigh in on what green strategies define a “Pretty Good Home” in their particular climate. Recently, some of my suggestions for a “Pretty Good Home” in a North Carolina climate–what building scientists often refer to as a “mixed-humid” climate–were featured in a follow-up post at Green Building Advisor. Whether you’re building a home that aims to go all the way to Passive House standards or one that merely aims to have some Pretty Darn Green features, these are the most important green strategies that I recommend to customers building in a climate that is cold in winter, warm in summer, and humid for a good portion of the year.

1. Passive Solar design
2.Insulation values exceeding minimum code requirements
3. A “right-sized” home that incorporates outdoor living space
4. Solid heating and cooling system design
5. Smart water management

In follow-up posts on this blog, I’ll go into each of these design principles in more detail.