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Designing an Energy Efficient Home: Simple is Good

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If you are building a custom home, you have the freedom to implement the design features that suit your aesthetic and optimize the natural characteristics of the site in order to develop a structure that meets your needs while respecting the environment at the same time. 

A structure that is simpler will have fewer opportunities for failure than one that is more complex. In the context of a green home, failure primarily means air and/or water leaks. The more transitions a home has, such as corners and connections between the walls and roof, the more likely it is that unwanted water and air will be able to enter your home. Air leakage is a concern when building green homes because when warm air escapes to the colder outside air, mechanical systems have to work harder to maintain the desired temperature. The same is true when warm air comes into the house in summer and cooling systems have to run more frequently. This leads to more energy consumption, higher utility bills, and a bigger environmental footprint.

To reduce the chance for air leakage, the exterior of a green home should have no more than three to four roof planes and six to eight corners. To put it in visual terms, a cube or rectangle has four corners, an L-shaped building has six, and a U-shaped building has eight. Additional features like dormers and bay windows add more corners and roof planes, adding complexity and increasing the chance that warm air will leak out of your home.

It’s worth noting that simpler structures also cost less to build because fewer materials are required. So, you not only get the bene ts of long- term savings from less energy consumption, but you also save on construction costs.

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