I asked Hive Modular's Marc Asmus
-- one of our Signature Architects
known for sustainable design -- for his top five green building suggestions. His goals are eminently practical. They comprise what he calls the "attainable sustainable." Love that phrase!
"1. Hire an architect or buy an architecturally designed plan. Many of the things that are now sold as green design used to be referred to as "good design." Architects are trained to take advantage of site conditions like solar orientation and prevailing breezes, to make efficient use of space, to build using the latest energy-saving techniques and green products, to detail the construction to provide quality of life features, like air exchange and moisture management, all in a way that can still be aesthetically pleasing in any style you prefer.
2. Build smaller. You'll use fewer materials, involve less transportation, less waste and will have a smaller impact on the land.
3. Build on an infill lot or in or near an established neighborhood. It uses a lot of resources to build new roads, driveways, wells, septic, utilities, etc. on a previously undeveloped site. When you build in an existing neighborhood you can take advantage of all the other infrastructure that exists nearby as well -- such as shopping, schools, business/work -- and do less driving for daily activities. Hive Modular's Plan 909-10
, at the top of the post, suits an infill lot.
4. Take full advantage of all the things you can do to increase the sustainable or green quotient that do not cost any money. For example, siting for passive solar gain and prevailing breezes, controlling runoff or collecting rainwater, and reducing the need for hard impervious paving are all planning moves that cost little or nothing.
5. Prioritize the green features that give the most bang for the buck. Adding extra insulation, a more efficient heating and cooling system, double or triple pane low-E windows, no VOC paints and cabinets, LED lighting, passive solar orientation and window arrangement and recycled materials whenever possible will add only a small amount to the cost to build, but will typically account for a large percentage of the improvement over a typical house. It is the "last 10%" to make a house extra green, off the grid, or net-zero that can really add to the cost."