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Principle #4 – Sustainable Building

Determining the Sustainability Prescription for Your Home Renovation

Large overhangs shade this Lake Lanier home’s large windows which maximize view and natural light.

Sustainable building

Sustainability is the new frontier of residential design and construction. Key stakeholders are working hard to have a say in what is green and why. Government has been quick to incent sustainable building. And most importantly, owners are increasingly asking for it. Everyone involved in a home renovation project recognizes that a sustainable house is a higher quality, better performing home.Sustainable homes both actively and passively conserve the rate that resources are used: How? Here are a few examples:

  1. Larger overhangs shade windows in the summer and let the sun in the winter.

  2. Orient rooms to the sun to provide better day lighting.

  3. Smart framing that doesn’t cost any more allows full insulation coverage.

  4. Seal penetrations in the house envelope before putting on the final exterior material.

  5. Designed and balanced mechanical systems for each home’s configuration.

  6. High performance insulation allows for the mechanical unit to downsize 30%, saving both upfront and operation costs.

Jones Pierce strategies in the sweet spot for sustainable construction and design—influenced by industry thought leaders—for homeowners considering renovation:

1. Design smart.

Make sure to position spaces in the home thinking about the orientation of the sun for day lighting, coordinating morning sun for morning activities and other programmatic functions and passive solar design in regard to energy conservation.

2. Specify smart.

Increase building performance. Over the last 5 years we’ve been using icynene foam insulation in 80% of our client’s homes. This high performance spray foam seals the house, protecting against moisture in basements, reducing heat in attics and reducing heat loads on air conditioning units. Another alternative insulation is cellulose, which is recycled paper pulp treated with borate for the added benefit of pest control and sound attenuation.

3. Minimize wood.

Although prevalent in the Southeast, wood requires some of the highest maintenance of exterior materials. When wood or the look of wood is desired, we specify cementations siding like Hardi-plank for durability along with man-made trim products like Azek or similar products. Brick, stone or stucco are other durable products for the exterior with minimum maintenance.

4. Upgrade windows and doors.

Low E argon windows and doors with a long-term warranty provide protection from solar gain. We also recommend 100% aluminum clad windows with for durability and less maintenance.  We like all clad parts on the outside, simulated divided light sashes and wood interiors for a historically correct looking windows.

5. Seal your exterior.

Ask your contractor to provide house wrap, integrated flexible window flashing and full flashing of all penetrations to provide quality air sealing. Provide a blower door test to measure the installation.

6. Optimize HVAC systems.

Ask your contractor to provide Manual J calculations, high efficiency filters, programmable thermostats, full mastic ductwork sealing, outside air supply, humidity control and protected ductwork during construction. A higher end alternative system is geo thermal, which can also be used for water heating.

7. Improve indoor air quality.

A well sealed house using a high efficiency mechanical system with outside air supply provides improved indoor air. (In addition, the use of Fantech bath vents on timers for bathrooms, as well as exhaust fans in the kitchen hood that all vent directly to the exterior.) Other strategies include selecting interior finishes with low VOC emissions such as paint, carpet, wood floor finishes, and cabinet varnishes.

8. Conserve energy.

Install all Energy Star appliances. Install dimmers on all can lights. Use CFL (compact fluorescent lights) in utility spaces. Plan for and / or install solar panels to augment electrical needs. Radiant barrier roofs reflects the sun’s heat before can get into the home.

9. Consider plumbing.

Hot water tanks with sealed combustion chambers or tankless water heaters are rapidly becoming the norm. Gray water treatment is another strategy that can provide plumbing for future or immediate unit installation. Another water conservation strategy is connecting the gutters to a cistern for rain harvesting for lawn and garden irrigation.

10. Automate your home.

Make sure to include a full pre-wire of your home, and install a modular controller capable of accommodating future needs.

Jones Pierce can help you address the important issues surrounding sustainability … and more. If you are interested in creating a project with prescriptive sustainability or have friends who are, read more about the first step of the process, the Jones Pierce Viability Study. The Viability Study provides you the information you need to make sound decisions before embarking on a renovation project.

A few useful links:

Click Here to go back to the Jones Pierce 10 Principles.

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