Sustainable Building Design: The Hybrid Answer to the Gas Guzzling House


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Americans are becoming increasingly aware of the environment's importance to health and quality of life for today and future generations. Issues such as global warming and rising energy costs are rarely escaping the headlines. The need for energy sustainability has becoming paramount especially in light of the emergence of China and India as great industrial powers and global competitors for dwindling resources. The media continually looks to the automobile as one of the leading culprits of energy waste, and certainly hybrid technology is proving that we can make great improvement, but what about “gas guzzling homes"?

There is a new movement in government and amongst eco-willing developers called “Sustainable Design" which is creating more resource efficient models of building construction along with healthier living environments by combining the latest energy saving technologies in sort of a “hybrid" home. New home builders who employ such design techniques are finding a very positive response from consumers who would like the option of a more eco-friendly home, if only given the choice.

Hybrid Features of Sustainable Design

Energy Star® Compliance: The home must be able to use 30% less energy than the former government standard, which is called “The 1993 National Model Energy Code". To achieve this reduction in energy use, a builder may employ the following:

a) Energy Star appliances which use 10-50% less energy as determined by the federal government.

b) Low-E spectrally selective windows which filter out heat emission without reduction of sun light.

c) Improved insulation to improve heated and cooled air retention. Sometimes this is combined with cellulose attic insulation using eco-friendly materials such as specially treated recycled newspaper.

d) Tightly sealed ducting which prevents heated or cooled air from escaping and being wasted.

e) Energy efficient heating and air conditioning systems which use the greatest amounts of energy in the home.

NOTE: Be sure that the new home was independently verified for its energy use, comes with an Energy Star certificate and has the Energy Star emblem placed near the home's voltage box.

Solar Power: Homes equipped with photovoltaic cells can convert the sun's energy to heat water and generate electricity. When many homes are unoccupied during the hottest hours of the day, homeowners can actually reverse the electric meter and sell excess power back to the utility. A home that has the capacity to sell as much energy as it uses is called a Zero Energy Home.

Water-Efficient Landscaping: Drought tolerant native plants and multi-programmable irrigation clocks using a minimal amount of water are of increasing importance in the warmer climate zones of the United States.

Water-Efficient Faucets: Water saving fixtures can still provide a desirable water pressure while saving about half the water that would otherwise be wasted down the drain.

Tankless Water Heating: Why continually heat 50 gallons of water? With an on-demand water heating system, you only heat the water as needed.

Recycled Carpet: You could never tell the difference, yet a 2,000-square-foot home which uses carpet from recycled plastics prevents approximately 10,000 two-liter bottles from going to the landfill!

Low VOC Non-Toxic Paint: Volatile Organic Compounds evaporate from paint into the air and are harmful for the health of the occupants as well as to the environment. Ask your builder if they use Low VOC paint.

Central Vacuum: These systems eliminate the re-circulation of dirty air reducing allergens and dust mites from inside the living area. Because the electric motors are larger and concealed in the garage or basement, they are quieter, more powerful, and can draw more cubic feet of air per minute from deep within carpet, baseboards, blinds and fabrics.

Eco-friendly developers such as Pardee Homes in southern California ( are making sizable gains in sustainable design and contributing to America's need for energy and green house gas reduction. For example, for every 2,200 new Energy Star homes built by a willing developer, roughly 10 million pounds of greenhouse gases are prevented from entering into the atmosphere. As more builders across the entire nation become Energy Star partners, the energy savings becomes tremendous. Home buyers are also saving money over the long run in lower energy costs and potentially higher home resale value and gaining a healthier more comfortable living environment.

For a complete list of Federal Energy Star partners visit energystar. gov under “Builders, Raters, Sponsors, and Lenders of New Homes. "

Rick David writes for and other online publications of consumer interest. Pardee Homes is an Energy Star partner and eco-friendly builder of new homes in Southern California, and the Las Vegas Valley of Southern Nevada. ( )


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