Tips For Building Towards A More Sustainable Home

by Rick Martin on March 7, 2013

When my husband and I were designing our new home a few years ago, we spent a lot of time ensuring that we would have a sustainably built home that would continue to operate efficiently for years to come. We learned many things along the way; too many for one blog, but I thought I’d share a few with you here.

1) Whether you will be building a new home with a custom home builder or undertaking home renovations in your existing home, you should interview a few builders and contractors to find someone who is truly experienced in sustainable building practices. It may take a bit of extra legwork but in the long run, you will be glad you took your time.

2) Many people think that a sustainable home will be cheaper. In green building, you are spending more at the outset on things like better insulation, using sustainable materials and finishes and installing more efficient systems. Over the life of your home, you should save substantial amounts of money on energy and water bills as well as costs associated with health or medical issues arising from poor indoor air quality.

3) Number 2 is a valid point but, there are, of course, certain, more expensive, approaches that may take longer to see a return on investment. If saving money is your main reason for building or renovating sustainably, make sure you do a cost-benefit analysis to see what is “worth” doing. An example from our experience is that of geo-thermal heating. In the city where we live, geothermal is still extremely expensive to install, meaning that we would be moved into a seniors’ retirement home and the system would still not have paid for itself. Obviously, we skipped this particular option and instead chose to spend our hard earned money on a high efficiency furnace and HRV.

4) Seeing as we’re on the topic of cost and most of us do have to work within a fixed budget, let’s talk priorities. Certain home improvements can help you save more energy, consume less water, and have much smaller environmental impact. According to the experts at, you can lose up to ten times more heat through your windows than walls if you have leaky single glazed windows. This makes windows a priority upgrade in my books.

5) Since many people seek eco-friendly features in their homes, a house that truly has these features generally sells more quickly and for a better price than conventional homes when put on the market. I know this wasn’t a real consideration for us as we were building our “forever home” but it is still a good thing to know considering the crazy state of the real estate market.

6) In many cases, choosing sustainable building practices also means that your home will contain fewer harmful materials to your health and the systems in your home may even help reduce or improve certain health problems. Discuss any particular health issues with your builder so that they can help address them in the design and building or remodeling of your home.

Beyond the intrinsic value of building a sustainable home and simply knowing that you are lessening your environmental impact, there are many other reasons to build green. Congratulations on taking the first steps to a more sustainable home.

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