Sustainable Building Trends
"Going green" isn't just a flash in the pan. For more and more Puget Sound homeowners, sustainability is an important part of planning a dream home. Here are some of the popular sustainable features currently on trend.
Ductless Heat Pumps are continuing to gain in popularity. Not only do they not require ducts, they can end up being the most affordable heating solution up front and also offer the deepest energy savings over the long haul.
Another trend is insulation on the outside of the home. Outside insulation is installed behind the siding and under the roofing. Typical insulation is broken up by the wall studs and the roof rafters. When you add even a moderate amount of continuous rigid insulation to the outside of your walls or your roof you have a fully insulated structure, allowing you to save significantly on energy costs. This kind of rigid insulation is capable of lasting for 100 years or more.
An important consideration in sustainable building is rain screen siding application. Considered a "best practice" for climates where there is a lot of precipitation, this simply means that the siding goes on top of battens, which make a ventilation space behind the siding. In damp weather, siding gets wet front and back no matter how it is installed. In old buildings with no insulation, the furnace or fireplace would just dry the siding out when it got wet. But now that we insulate our buildings, the siding needs some airflow behind it in order to facilitate a good dry out between rainy days.
Even though it may be hard to believe with all our rain and cloudy weather, solar panels placed on south, east and west pitches work in the Northwest. We have an impressively long sun arc in summer and there are plenty of photons bouncing around even on high-white-cloud days. Fortunately, you don't have to have a southern-facing roof pitch to take advantage of solar energy. Low-slope east and west pitches produce 90 plus percent of the energy produced by south-facing pitches. Even better news is the fact that currently there are impressive federal and state incentives available for homeowners who build homes with solar panels or retrofit with solar panels.
if you are building or remodeling, you may want to ask your contractor about an insulated concrete form basement. ICF basements are an affordable way to create a comfortable, seismically sound, energy-efficient basement. And if you are building or remodeling your garage area you really ought to give some thought to creating a sensible charging area for an electric car. In addition to the increasing abundance of all electric cars, some new hybrid models feature batteries that can be charged.
Finally, consider creating a rain garden. Many of our Puget Sound area homes have downspouts that dump to splash plates and roof rainwater just flows into soggy yards all winter long. Rain gardens get water away from the house and distribute the water safely into the ground instead of causing unwanted runoff. The added bonus is the beauty of the garden's vegetation.
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