Designing Your Affordable, Energy-Efficient, Eco-Friendly Home

There’s a huge groundswell of interest in living more lightly on the earth. On the one hand, conscientious homeowners want to pollute less and protect natural resources. But they also want to save money on construction and energy costs and still have a beautiful, safe and comfortable home. Whether you call it natural building, green building or sustainable building, the eco-friendly building techniques outlined here meet all of these goals and more.

In designing your dream eco-friendly home, perhaps the most important consideration is affordability. This requires a realistic evaluation of individual and family wants and needs. Building small and simple, only what you need, will save money and headaches every step of the way, including reduced long-term energy costs and maintenance. Building small and simple means fewer resources are consumed, resulting in a smaller energy footprint for your home. That’s good for you and the planet.

Building affordably requires discipline and the right mindset. All too often people get swept away with ideas from home design magazines and luxury home tours. To build affordably and avoid budget creep during the building phase, put everything in writing and stick to the budget. Make a list of materials and then shop and compare prices. This one step alone, just a couple hours of effort, can easily save you $1,000 on a small home.

Do your research and plan meticulously. Every hour spent on planning will reduce problems (and unnecessary costs) later. Keep a careful eye on every detail. Even professionals make mistakes, so allow for delays and cost overruns. If you’re not a professional builder, be doubly careful. It is heart wrenching tearing out mistakes and doing things over. There are thousands of small steps in building a home and many of them must proceed in a certain sequence. Being your own contractor and building your home as a do-it-yourselfer is a good way to cut costs, but again, do your research, learn as much as you can and plan judiciously.

Going low-tech is one of the easiest ways to save money. We’re constantly bombarded with advertising claims that will supposedly improve our lives, when in reality they often complicate them. Scrutinize every product, every material that goes into your home. You may want to prioritize items that quickly pay for themselves. For example, we added vents in the gable end wall of our kitchen. (It’s a hot climate, year-round.) Everyday hot air rises to the top of the cathedral ceiling and flows out the vents … for free. Our kitchen stays cooler, the air is fresher and the refrigerator doesn’t work as hard. And soon, we’ll be enjoying our outdoor kitchen that will keep most of the heat outside. [Outdoor kitchen is now finished.] These are but a few examples of working with nature to improve the design of your home.

You can read the entire article for free at Civil Engineer Group.

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