4 ways to build a more sustainable home

4 ways to build a more sustainable home

Written by: Raina Mendonca


Published date: September 8, 2022


Photo courtesy of Homestead Modern; Hawk & Mesa designed by Jeremy Levine Design

If you are in the enviable position of building your dream home, it is also your responsibility to optimize the way it uses the earth’s resources.

A sustainable home makes efficient use of resources, energy and materials to reduce your environmental impact. “If you can create a space and layout that is integrated into the place, has high-quality materials and can last for generations, that’s really the most sustainable thing,” says architecture. Daveed Kapoor of Los Angeles, who specializes in ethical housing projects and improving public spaces.

Below, we’ve outlined four effective ways to make that happen — and in some cases, you don’t need to start new construction to make meaningful changes.


Greywater system

Every home in the West—and certainly any new construction—should reuse its gray water.

Gray water is wastewater used for household laundry purposes, such as water from showers, baths, and laundry. The Greywater system redirects gray water to a filtration process to remove debris, such as hair, lint and chemical contaminants from detergents and shampoos, instead of allowing it to enter the sewer system. trench. Once filtered, the gray water passes through an underground drip irrigation system and is discharged directly to the roots of your lawn or garden.

Greywater systems can range from simple to complex designs. A simple system that diverts gray water from your laundry room to your yard can cost as little as $2,000. If you’re looking for a more sophisticated whole-house system to distribute filtered water throughout your area, it could cost as much as $12,000.

“Gray water contains nutrients that are especially great for plants,” says Steve Bilson, owner of ReWater Systems, which designed the gray water system in Gwyneth’s Montecito home. “Anything that can make it through the filtration system – like organic matter from shampoo or skin cells – breaks down in the soil and turns into fulvic and humic acids, which are food for plants. So you’ve got a very synergistic situation in context. ”

The Greywater system is super low maintenance — the filter only needs to be changed once a year.

Source: This online guide can help you find what type of gray water system is best for your home.


Passive temperature control

A home’s particular location, climate and sun’s path all determine how a sustainable home is built and oriented. If you’re starting from scratch, you can design passive systems to naturally heat and cool your space so you don’t rely on mechanical ventilation most days of the year.

For example, to avoid direct heat gain in Los Angeles, it is important to limit the number of west-facing windows. This will keep your home cooler throughout the day and evening, when the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. If your home is in a colder climate, widening the windows where there is more solar energy will help keep the space warmer.

Along with layout design, ensuring that your home is properly insulated can reduce heating and cooling costs and improve comfort levels. Moving away from fiberglass and using more earth-friendly alternatives like blown-in cellulose, Rockwool and denim insulation is one way to implement a sustainable home model.

“The key thing before you put insulation is to make sure your building is airtight,” says Kapoor. It is a constant battle between the interior and exterior of the house, as air circulates unintentionally in and out of the area surrounding the building. Checking for potential leaks or drafts during construction will help keep your home cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

Source: Find the best home design tips for your particular climate.


Landscape design

According to landscape designer Edwina von Gal, the key to a sustainable landscape is relinquishing control. “A landscape should be allowed to age and grow gracefully,” says Von Gal. “Gardens are designed to be independent.”

For starters, minimize the amount of lawn in your yard. Ask yourself how much grass you really use for playing and walking, and be realistic about it. Ultimately, that answer will determine your lawn size.

When mowing (reducing size), cut the grass relatively tall, about three to four inches. Cutting the lawn too short will reduce the leaf surface of the grass and open up the soil to the sun. This can cause weed infestations, fungal and bacterial diseases. Having more leaf surface will protect the soil from drying out and provide more photosynthetic surface so the roots can absorb more energy.

Clover is also a great addition to the yard: This plant absorbs nitrogen from the air and stores it in the roots, bringing additional nutrients to your soil. It also has a symbiotic relationship with grasses. “It tolerates heat very well and makes your lawn look greener,” says Von Gal. Clover is inexpensive and easy to maintain, as it requires little or no fertilizer.

Source: Learn more about sustainable lawns, soil, and native plants using these helpful online landscape design guides.


Solar power panels

The sun is a powerful source of energy and it can be converted into electricity for your home through solar panels (without air pollution and fossil fuels, of course). And when solar panels are combined with a battery backup system, energy can be stored so that your home is self-sufficient, even during a power outage. If your budget doesn’t include a battery system, using energy from solar panels along with the grid allows you to use solar power when the sun is out and grid power when it’s not.

Solar panels are designed to work in both sunny and cloudy environments. “For example, in California, you need 10 solar panels because it’s sunny every day,” says Ryan Corbett, co-founder of the Santa Barbara Solar Group. “You might need 20 panels in New York or a cloudy environment to get the same output, but it will work.”

Once installed, solar panels have very low maintenance costs and can be a worthwhile financial investment. “The idea is to get rid of that electricity bill so you don’t have to worry about rising utility costs,” says Corbett. “The initial investment is a bit difficult, but after researching, it makes a lot of sense. In the end it has to pay for itself”. It’s a win-win situation for both you and Mother Earth.

Source: Find solar installation companies near you and compare quotes.

Related reading

Details The Best Bathrooms, Kitchens and Bedrooms from Gwyneth’s New Home

How to redo your bathroom (without renovating)

Lessons in Luxury Comfort from an Interior Design Master

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