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Building Green

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Building Green – It’s all about creating a better home 

Green homes are healthier for you and the environment. They are also much more economical to own, utilizing less energy, water, and require less maintenance. However, constructing or renovating a home in such an environmentally responsible manner requires significant planning, as well as educating and encouraging the architect and builder to prioritize greener materials and construction methods.

There are hundreds of green building techniques and products one can integrate into a home. A Green home starts with a “whole system” approach that takes into account the interaction and integration of various building design and material components. From this point, it’s a matter balancing costs with personal taste, and environmental benefits.

For new construction, consider a lot that takes the most efficient and cost-effective advantage of the existing location characteristics. The benefits of sun, prevailing winds, soil, water, views, and community services should be considered early on for their benefits as well as their potential negative effects.

During the property search, consult with your builder to visit the potential sites and give experienced advice on the probable costs of building green on one versus another. Tens of thousands of dollars and many years of aggravation can easily be saved by inexpensive consulting time during this phase of the project.  

The Right Building Team

Choose an architect, builder, and subcontractors based on their training and experience with, or at least openness to, green building techniques. Having such qualified, aware partners involved in the project is vital to ending up with a home that meets and exceeds your expectations.

Quality vs. Size

Build or buy a house that is reasonably sized for its occupants and use. Consider the financial and personal resources that will be required to furnish, clean, maintain, heat and cool, and insure the house. Think ahead and spend sufficient time in the planning, layout, and design phases. Smart, creative decisions here can make a smaller house feel larger while poor ones can make a large house seem cramped.

More size does not necessarily mean more service to or satisfaction for the occupants. A somewhat smaller home can allow for including additional or higher quality features in place of surplus square footage.

Work with Your Climate

Specifically design shading for where it is needed in the summer using trees, covered porches, roof overhangs, and window awnings.

Let the sun shine in directly where useful for winter heating, specifically through south-facing glass. Install low-E (emissivity) windows to reduce the potential for summertime overheating and retain heat indoors during winter. In our climate zone, long rectangular floor plans with the short ends facing east and west will typically make most efficient use of and control for the natural climate. Such designs will best endure the always low sun angles from the east and west, which are longest in duration and most direct during the summer. Proper glazing and overhang design on the southern exposure will provide significant daylight without unwanted heat gain, allowing for reduced electric lighting and incorporation of passive solar temperature moderation utilizing such features as exposed thermal mass walls or floors. Rectangular shapes also often work best for cross ventilation utilizing prevailing west-east winds. For cold, upper latitude climates, a squarer, compact floor plan is more efficient as it provides the lowest exterior wall to floor area ratio. Less exterior wall means less area to protect and insulate against the elements. Two-story homes can be a good way to get the same desired floor area from a smaller footprint, and they work well for incorporating natural ventilation

The Building Envelope

Where feasible use a high quality “total fill” type of insulation that completely fills wall voids (Request our free Insulation and Air Sealing fact sheet). Foam, caulk or seal with weather-stripping every penetration and crack to avoid air infiltration that could compromise energy efficiency, comfort, and indoor air quality. Professionally measure a home’s
overall seal with a “blower door test.” A worthy goal are air changes of <0.40 per hour.


Do not skimp on the roof, for failures in it can drastically affect all that lies below. Modern, better-sealed home envelopes do not allow for drying as did the drafty structures of the past. The best way to promote long building life is to keep it dry. Install a tile, metal or 40-year composition shingle roof that will ease concerns about deterioration and leaks
while adding to the home’s value. Tile and metal can be used safely for rainwater collection, and may also qualify for reduced homeowner insurance due to their fire-resistance properties.

A “cool roof” with a high solar reflective index helps reduce heat gain within the home.   

Natural Ventilation

Design window placement for good cross ventilation and to take full advantage of prevailing (typical) breezes. Locate windows on two sides of a room whenever possible. Use ceiling fans to move air.  Informed design can utilize the physics behind passive solar cooling, also called the “stack effect.” Warm, lighter air naturally rises, and when it is exhausted at high interior points where it collects, via a fan or operable windows/skylights, fresh/cool air is drawn in through open windows or vents at or near ground level. This is also known as the thermal chimney effect and the benefits of incorporated this occupant-controlled, cost-effective, non-energy intensive home enhancement include improved occupant comfort and indoor air quality, not to mention the downgrading or potential elimination of mechanical cooling capacity requirements.

Thermal Comfort

Select a high-efficiency air conditioner and furnace (14 SEER or higher). Have the HVAC contractor determine the correctly-sized equipment using the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) Manual J calculation
method and the house’s specific design, construction, and orientation characteristics. If equipment is oversized it will be noisier, costlier, and not operate long enough per cycle to run at maximum efficiency. It also will not dehumidify the air to its potential. Ensure that HVAC ducts are sealed with mastic rather than duct tape and that runs are as short and
straight as possible.

Average ducts, even newly installed, leak 20-30% of their capacity—install ducts within the conditioned space wherever feasible and have them professionally leak-tested. A good goal would be less than 10% duct leakage. Install a pleated-media filter (rated at MERV 6-12) to both help the HVAC equipment last longer and improve indoor air quality.

Indoor Air Quality

Install hard surface flooring such as wood, cork, concrete, tile, or linoleum wherever possible in place of carpet. Such choices are more durable and easy to clean, and do not off gas chemicals nor readily harbor mold, dust, dust mites, or other allergens or contaminants. Avoid vinyl products as well due to their short lifespan and off gassing characteristics.
Use low or no-VOC interior paints and finishes (under 50 g/L). Exhaust odors and humidity with fans in the bathrooms and kitchen, ideally controlled automatically by a humidistat. Continually introduce fresh air into the home
with operable windows or skylights, a whole house fan, or mechanical ventilation. (Request our free Indoor Air Quality fact sheet)

Products and Resources


Select ENERGY STAR® labeled products such as refrigerators, dishwashers, clothes washers/dryers, fans, air conditioners, dehumidifiers, home electronics, office equipment, etc.


Use compact fluorescent lights, motion sensors, daylight sensors, and dimmers wherever possible to reduce energy use. Use only the ICAT type of recessed can light. Research the many different types of available light fixtures and lamps, including how and for what purpose to use them.


Use durable siding materials such as fiber cement siding to eliminate rot, reduce the need for painting, and increase fire resistance. Use wood/plastic composite decking materials to reduce demand for redwood and the need for annual
resealing as well as increased fire resistance. Be sure to verify to verify the material content of such decking, as some products utilize virgin rather than recycled materials.

Water and Landscape

Use properly designed drip or controlled irrigation systems and, wherever feasible, native or well-adapted vegetation that requires little or no watering. Plant trees and shrubs for shading, cooling, oxygen, wind protection, noise reduction, and privacy. Place plants away from the home’s foundation and with space to grow to maturity without affecting the home’s structural integrity. Select turf varieties that require the least amount of water and are appropriate for the sun they will receive. Ensure that landscaping has plenty of topsoil and organic mulch. Consider a rainwater collection system to provide an alternate water source for garden irrigation while reducing run-off. In addition to reducing water use, the above practices will lessen the need for chemical fertilizers and pesticides that can harm occupants or their pets, or run off and pollute waterways.

To learn about green homes and how Castillo Housing can help you build a healthier and more energy efficient home, call us today to schedule a free no obligation consultation (813) 263 – 7835. We look forward to assisting you.   


Contact our team of professionals and start building your dream home today!