Sustainability Trends for Residential Construction
The sustainability trends for residential building haven't necessarily been headline news, largely because the adoption has been anything but uniform. When it comes to modernizing construction, many companies have been content to stick with the processes that have been proven to work rather than disrupt the status quo. However, new technology, techniques, and tactics are beginning to make their mark on new Morris County homes. Those who want to stay informed of where the industry is headed should make note of the following.
Solar and Geothermal HVAC
Keeping the home at a reasonable temperature can sap a lot of energy, but solar and geothermal technology makes use of renewable energy from above and below.
- Above: The ions on solar panels are activated by the sun to produce electricity.
- Below: The Earth's stable 60° F core can be pumped through the rooms to either heat or cool it.
These renewable solutions may not be free, but they pay back their investment both in resale value and utility bills. This 'trend' has even bypassed the definition in California, where all new homes are required to have solar panels starting in 2020.
Recycled Walls, Floors, Insulation, Etc.
Homes made of bark, insulation made of old denim, bricks made of bottles, floors made of wine corks: recycled materials make stable and aesthetic choices for homes today. And while this particular fad is still largely in its infancy, the continued exploration of how these materials can be manipulated and manufactured is encouraging to say the least. There's also been a push toward reducing harmful chemicals produced in residential construction. Paint made from milk and limes won't release the same compounds as traditional paints made with volatile organic compounds.
The roof of the home can reach 140° F in 90° F weather, making the rest of the home that much warmer. That one roof will heat the rest of the air around it and the collective effect in a city (or even a suburb) can increase the temperature of the surrounding area. If that city has a layer of smog, the layer will trap the heat of the burning roofs and cause the area to become that much hotter. Cool roofs use a reflective paint to lower the temperature of the roof up to 50° F to protect both homeowners and their neighbors.
Low e-glass was made to trap heat during cold months and radiate it during hot months. Smart technology uses Wi-Fi to sense the temperature outside and alter the temperature based on the number of people inside it and the force of the sun's rays. Homeowners may be able to save up to a quarter of their energy bills just by purchasing or retrofitting a home with this kind of advanced glass technology.
Zero-waste homes are the death of utility bills, something that most homeowners would be very happy to get on board with. But while they sound ideal, there's no standard for building them just yet. The only requirement they need to meet is to use renewable energy and recycled materials to function. For example, these homes may be made with soil and clay combined with water run-off systems to protect the walls from moisture damage and mold.
The vast majority of these trends are still optional, but there's no reason for this to remain the status quo. As we learn more about what sustainable trends can do for our neighborhoods, wallets, and carbon footprint, we may see a major revolution in the very near future.