Why we must build energy-efficient homes
Energy efficiency is a challenge that every homeowner must consider if they want to live in sustainable homes.
The United States’ current energy portfolio is more than 75% reliant on fossil fuels, resulting in greenhouse gas emissions of billions of metric tons per year. As the population continues to grow, and despite recent green energy initiatives, the environmental impact of energy consumption will increase significantly.
With the average family spending around $320 per month on utility bills, every cent saved is crucial. Over the long term, these savings could be the difference between a family living in their own home or existing below the poverty line.
Energy efficiency is also the most cost-effective way to reduce carbon footprints and greenhouse gas emissions. And it can also contribute towards reducing other pollutants such as water runoff.
Energy efficiency does not only help save money on utility bills but also can reduce the risk of health problems related to particulate matter from smokestacks and furnaces.
Does energy efficiency home building have to be expensive?
Can you build affordable, energy-efficient homes?
There is not one single way to build an energy-efficient home. You can make small adjustments or big changes to minimize the amount of energy used in a home, and architects and construction companies are coming up with some incredible examples of how to build low-cost, energy-efficient homes. Here are five inspiring, low-cost, affordable, energy-efficient designs.
Tighe Architecture designed this 42-unit building. It’s beautiful, and cost only $14 million to build. Developed specifically for low-income disabled residents, they attracted around 3,000 applicants for the units.
They benefit from a rooftop terrace and central courtyard, and solar panels. Building materials include aluminum, bamboo, and recycled paper. The design incorporates natural airflow, native landscaping, and a solar water heater.
Wakeland Housing & Development Corporation developed this amazing affordable housing project on the site of a disused motel. It was the first housing project to reach ‘net zero’ in electrical needs on-site in Chula Vista, thanks to its self-generation allowance. See our article, ‘Community renewable energy projects are the way forward’, for examples of how this works in New York and New Jersey.
This state-of-the-art development includes natural ventilation, tankless water heaters, Energy Star appliances, and low-flow water fixtures. In total, green features added only 2% to total costs.
This is a modern, highly energy-efficient building on Fifth Avenue in Pittsburgh. Providing homes for low-income families, it is a model for energy-efficient design. It was developed on a very tight budget and with aggressive sustainable goals.
This was the first recipient of the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, 2013 Low Income Housing Tax Credit Innovation in Design Award for “its excellence in design, implementation for current and future energy-efficient technologies, and leveraging of community and capital resources.”
It was built using passive house principles, including a building ‘envelope’ to reduce heating and cooling needs.
Located in the South Bronx, this stepped tower provides more than 200 affordable homes, and has attained LEED Gold certification and exceeded the NYSERDA Multifamily Performance Program and Enterprise Green Communities guidelines for environmental responsibility. In the main lobby, you’ll find a display that shows the building’s energy statistics. The building benefits from solar panels and a green roof, as well as enhanced insulation.
This urban infill project used reclaimed materials and energy-saving strategies in the build. These reduce the cost of living here, as does the onsite vegetable and fruit garden and owner-operated restaurant.
The design of the building draws light into it, and the gardens help to cool and cleanse the air. Energy-saving strategies include insulating fiber cement panel cladding, high-performance windows, a sophisticated mechanical system, and heat recovery, as well as drain water heat recovery from the common laundry facilities.
Can we deliver more affordable energy-efficient housing?
While creating energy-efficient housing is challenging, examples of affordable housing like this handful we have highlighted demonstrate that we really can do better. Isn’t it our moral duty to do so?
Affordable housing makes a real difference to the lives of so many. If we can move forward by designing buildings that use low-cost and reclaimed materials, and use techniques and technologies that enhance and deliver energy efficiency, shouldn’t we do so on a grander scale?
Energy-efficient homes deliver many benefits to owners and renters. They also deliver benefits to the wider community, and to our planet. We’re not sitting on the fence on this one.
At ACB Consulting, we are committed to building better communities, helping to deliver sustainable, low-cost affordable homes that will make a real difference to the people who live in them and the communities we develop.
To learn more, contact ACB Consulting.