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Residential Construction: Green Design
Table of Contents
Background and Overview
Green Design
Green Products
Water Use
Indoor Air Quality
Solid and Hazardous Waste
Codes and Standards
Where To Go for Help
Complete List of Links

Essential Links:

Advanced Buldings Technologies & Practices
This site contains ninety technologies and practices that improve the energy and resource efficiency...

Building Info Central: EEBA Criteria
Goals, objectives and criteria for energy-efficient and resource-efficient buildings.

Building on a Green Budget
Low-cost green design and construction practices for commercial and residential construction.

Homes Across America
This site profiles resource efficient homes throughout the country, highlighting techniques and tech...

Houses That Work: House Design Recommendations By Climate
Design recommendations are provided as a starting point for designing a specific house in a specific...

Model Green Home Building Guidelines
These guidelines were created for mainstream home builders. They highlight the ways a home builder c...

PATH Technology Inventory Toolbase
PATH?s Technology Inventory is a unique source of information on technological innovations in the ho...

Whole-House and Building Process Redesign
This roadmap was developed to strategically overcome the slow adoption of new technologies into home...

Designing a resource-efficient home is an integrative process. It involves site selection and evaluation, building design, construction, operation, maintenance, and deconstruction. All parties including contractors, architects, landscape designers, owners, engineers, government agencies, suppliers, and utility companies should be involved in planning and design for the most effective integration of components. A green home designs waste and pollution out of the process by combining site characteristics, materials, mechanical systems, and design elements to maximize resources.

Home design should consider:

  • Location relative to transportation, sewer, water, power, fire and other existing infrastructure
  • Natural site characteristics that may enhance or restrict design, e.g. solar access, stream corridor, on-site raw materials, cluster of trees, topographic rise, microclimate, soil texture, renewable energy sources, etc.
  • Efficient use of space for floorplan layout, e.g. shape and size
  • Environmentally and socially considerate parking and road network, e.g. efficient access, reduce impervious materials, community oriented
  • Green product material selection
  • Efficient and comfortable floorplan, energy and water efficiency, and indoor air quality
  • Home renovation and demolition
  • Construction waste management plan

Reasons to Change:

Green building practices reduce negative environmental impacts, while using the features of the site to enhance human comfort and health. Preserving site resources and conserving energy and materials in construction and building operations are important benefits. Planning can greatly reduce construction, utility, and maintenance costs.

If you have reservations about green building, be sure to check out the Top Five Bogus Reasons Not To Build Green, by Doug Seiter. The narrative provides reasons heard during the four years of the Built Green Colorado Program and why they are bogus. The article not only applies to those in Colorado but to builders throughout the nation.

P2 in Action: Pre-Design

Pre-design is the phase in which a site is analyzed for general sustainable characteristics. Incorporating green building practices at this stage can clearly define a green framework. Green design identifies the ecological characteristics of the site and addresses ways to integrate the building with the site. Pre-design issues include:

  • Proximity of the site to employment, transportation routes, and other amenities
  • Water supply and neighboring land uses
  • Existing infrastructure, i.e. sewer pipes, power lines, water mains, roads, etc.
  • Energy sources, both on-site (e.g. solar potential) and utility based
  • Ability to maintain and enhance biodiversity of site or recover a site that has been abused, i.e. stripped, eroded, invaded by non-native vegetation, etc.
  • Ability to avoid environmentally sensitive areas
  • Lot size (Smaller lots can accommodate comfortable, resource-efficient homes.)

P2 in Action: Site Analysis

Research and evaluation of physical and cultural characteristics of the site will influence construction plans, and resource efficient technology, systems, and materials. Relevant site characteristics may include:

  • Topographical features that influence drainage and air movement
  • Groundwater and surface runoff characteristics
  • Soil texture and characteristics (bearing, compatibility and infiltration rates)
  • Air movement patterns
  • Neighboring developments and proposed future developments
  • Parcel shape and access
  • Solar attitude and microclimate factors, e.g. snow and wind load
  • Sensitive areas such as wetlands, animal migration or mating areas, and endangered species of plants or animals
  • Neighboring cultural and architectural characteristics
  • On-site raw materials such as wood, stone, sand and clay available for construction
  • Existing trees and native vegetation

P2 in Action: Building Design

The building design phase integrates the site, floorplan, building orientation, landscaping, materials, mechanical systems, architectural characteristics, and construction practice guidelines into the optimal green home.

Building design issues typically include the following considerations:

  • Green products and materials
  • Passive solar and energy efficiency principles
  • Water efficiency and quality
  • Landscaping
  • Indoor air quality
  • Solid and hazardous waste management
  • Building codes and standards
  • Affordability and financing
  • Site preparation and maintenance guidelines

"One of the best ways to minimize the amount (and cost) of building materials required is to keep the size of the home reasonable. With thoughtful design, a small home can be very comfortable, functional and respectful of privacy." City of Austin's Green Builder Program

More information about these issues is available in related sections of this site.


The Topic Hub™ is a product of the Pollution Prevention Resource Exchange (P2Rx)

The Residential Construction Topic Hub™ was developed by:

Peaks to Prairies Pollution Prevention Center
Peaks to Prairies Pollution Prevention Center
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Hub Last Updated: 12/4/2012