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Sustainable Home Design

Sustainable Design for your Home and Buildings is a Growing Concern

Sustainable home design and building analyses are the focus of the latest  studies devoted to reducing the carbon footprint on our planet.   Related issues involve energy efficiency and Life Cycle Analysis of the items and materials in our homes and buildings.

Rand Soellner, AIA/NCARB is currently taking a series of continuing education units and many of them have to do with sustainable design (or SD), one of the requirements of the American Institute of Architects.  Some of the CEU courses review expected subject matter, like appliances.   Any review of sustainable home design would not be complete without some discussion of appliances.

Sustainable Home Appliance Designs from Manufacturers:

For instance, Electrolux recently published an educational article with an emphasis on sustainable lifestyle design features.  Their course module had much to do with newly improved ovens, range cooktops, washers, and dryers.  Manufacturers striving to compete among the more energy conscious consumer market want to comply with Energy Star, which is the US DOE/EPA program that monitors, tests (and/or monitors testing), documents and reports on the energy efficiency of various devices.  Energy Star does not report on every type of appliance.  Among those that it does are: refrigerators, dishwashers, and freezers.  Since we all come into personal contact with appliances on a daily basis, we develop a close relationship with these devices, as they are what cooks our food, keeps it preserved, and cleans our tableware.

Life Cycle Analyses for Sustainable Design for your Home and Other Facilities:

The design of your home in a sustainable situation implies that there is some attention being provided to the energy efficiency not only of your appliances, but of other devices and features of your house.  For instance, the air-conditioning system, heating, hot water heater(s), doors, windows, insulation, roofing, relationship to the surrounding environment, and the manner in which the home is built, operated, and ultimately either preserved or demolished.  These sorts of entire-life reviews and comprehensive assessments of your home is a way of thinking called Life Cycle Analysis.  Most people do not think much about what the ultimate destiny will be of their house when they move in.  No, there is too much to do; arranging furniture, setting up computers and other devices and to start living there.  Sustainable concerns are not in the forefront of issues at this time.

Well, long before you move in, there should be some thought as to what will ultimately happen to the materials, features, and systems that are built into your house.  Why?  Because, if enough forethought can address and solve in advance how your home’s materials can be recycled and not thrown into a landfill, that will be several tens of tons of materials that can continue to provide useful service life to other people and hopefully not require additional energy to be expended to produce similar materials that might be useful to others.  If sustainable home architects can think of their designs in terms of using recycled materials that come from other second-generation reuse sources and plan ahead as to how those materials can be passed along to possible 3rd and 4th generation reuses, then there will be a whole lot less energy required to continue making homes for all of us.

Sustainable Definition:

Sustainable means allowing us humans to have a reasonably comfortable lifestyle that can continue indefinitely and not come screeching to a halt when something happens like: running out of oil, or having drinking water so polluted that it poses a health hazard.  Sustainable home design use energy efficient appliances, higher levels of insulation in a helpful manner, doors and windows that block unwanted exterior heat, cold, and humidity, and using other materials and systems that contribute to our enjoyment and health while stepping more lightly on this planet.  The idea is to use less energy in a material and system’s Life Cycle.  This will normally result in lower greenhouse gases being ejected into our atmosphere, because it will probably take less fossil fuel to be burned to create the energies required to manufacture, operate, recycle, and dispose of such improved sustainable items.

Recent Sustainable Studies:

Recently, we came across one study for commercial buildings regarding electric hand dryers, of the sort you might normally see in educational restrooms for children to use to dry their hands.  This was one of the most exhaustive studies we have ever seen about such a sustainable subject and the design of such a seemingly innocuous device.  It was about LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) being the new gold standard for proving sustainability claims.  It was authored by Roger C. Brady, AIA, LEED AP.  This study went into a detailed analysis of comparing the energies consumed to produce, deliver, install, use, maintain, remove, and ultimately dispose of the hand drying optional methods.  As you can imagine, the subject matter was quite dry.  That does not mean it was not useful.  This was a comprehensive professional analysis whose results were checked by an independent 3rd party.  Possible environmental damage was examined for the various hand drying methods: standard paper towels, recycled content paper towels, current standard electric hand dryers, and the new high efficiency energy efficient hand dryers.  After exhaustive analysis, the results seem to indicate that the new high efficiency hand dryers have a superior ranking in terms of sustainability and  in terms of Life Cycle cost as well.  Not what we would have thought at the outset, but apparently proven through substantial study and calculation.

Not exactly the subject matter of an engrossing novel, but still interesting in its intense focus on this one device and how its proposed usage can help save energy and result in less environmental damage over the lifetime of the device.  Sustainable issues were the focus of the study on the design of this humble device.  The peer review was conducted in accordance with the standards of ISO 14040 and 14044.  The point here is that it is a good thing that manufacturers of such products are so carefully analyzing the energy consumed, the environmental hazards, the maintenance, operation, and end of life scenarios for their equipment.  Never before has there been such concern about the sustainability for humanity’s quality of life.  And to see a manufacturer for something as seemingly unimportant as a hand dryer devoting this sort of sustainability analysis to the design of their wares is to be applauded.  Excel is this particular company, by the way.

Implications for Sustainable Home Design :

We can assume, we believe that manufacturers of sustainable home-oriented devices and materials will share the same enthusiasm as commercial manufacturers for sustainability and continue to improve their environmental and energy efficiency quotients to design items for the benefit of homeowners and the quality of life on our planet.

Contact for Sustainable Home Design :

Rand Soellner   1. 828. 269. 9046  www.HomeArchitects.com rand@homearchitects.com

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green home design universityGREEN HOME DESIGN UNIVERSITY QUESTIONS, for those of you taking Rand Soellner Architect’s course of green instruction, about the above subject:

1.  Sustainability means what?
a.  The ability to ride your bicycle for miles on end without needing to stop and rest.
b.  Humans to have a reasonably comfortable lifestyle that can continue indefinitely.
c.  Keep on doing what we are doing in terms of energy consumption without a care for what such consumption may have for the rest of the planet.
d.  All of the above.
e.  None of the above.

2.  What do Life Cycle Analyses include?
a.  Checking one’s heart monitor while using exercise equipment.
b.  Carefully studying the little spiders that can walk on water on ponds.
c.  Comprehensive examination of manufacturing, transport, installation, use, maintenance, operation, and disposal of a device or material or system used in homes and buildings.

3.  Why should anyone care about a manufacturer studying the design of their devices and materials to make them more efficient, consume less energy, and to be recycled at the end of their service life?
a.  Because it might just be cheaper.
b.  This doesn’t matter and should be of no concern to anyone living on this planet.
c.  Because such improvements can result in a more sustainable lifestyle for everyone, if all manufacturers are responsible enough to create products with such care.
d.  All of the above.

If you are continuing in your Green Home Design University course to the next level,
Favorite this page now, by clicking on your “Favorites” menu choice in the upper left of your Windows Internet Explorer window,
then click here:  Energy Efficient Residential Hot Water Heaters to go to the next level 21.
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answers:
1. b., 2. c. , 3. c.
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