Kephart Living


Thursday, May 8, 2008

Beautifully Green

Toyota’s “Prius” and Honda’s “Insight” hybrid vehicles have distinct looks—you can’t help but notice when they drive by. Why do some automakers ignore the special qualities their hybrids offer and camouflage them within an old familiar skin? Is this what buyers want—new technology presented in the same old wrapper? Look at Apple’s “I-Pod”. Or Whirlpool’s new energy star “Duet” washers and dryers in cool metallic grey, mounted on a pedestal for ease of access. These new technologically advanced gadgets have a distinct look that is different from their older counterparts. Can homes express their energy efficiency, comfort and durability in beautiful packages too or are they destined to look like every other house in the neighborhood?

While green design is heavily related to technological advancements, there are natural modifications that can be made. NAHB has included many of these in their newly released Green Building Guidelines. Having windows face south, for example, makes a big difference in keeping a house warm during the winter. The low winter sun angle is available, but since many windows are facing the wrong side they are unable to reap its benefits. Planning the orientation of homes on lots could be done in a more efficient manner; many neighborhood plans and home designs fail to consider the characteristics of the environment in their region. Instead, “traditional” styles continue to dominate in today’s new home market in spite of their lack of adaptability to solar orientations, window locations, shading, prevailing winds, views, yearly rainfall and landscaping.

With the invention of Freon refrigeration, home air conditioning opened up the housing market in places that people once avoided, like Arizona. Up until now, these air conditioning systems were heavy energy users, but in the near future photovoltaic collectors built into homes will be cheap enough to use the sun to generate electricity to run them. All of this is done in defiance of Mother Nature telling us that it is way too hot to live in Phoenix in the summer. Because of technological advancements, however, we can live just about anywhere we want. In fact, Phoenix continues to be one of the fastest growing regions in the country.

Let’s put an end to the square box two story houses with windows scattered indiscriminately around the four compass points ignoring the path of the sun and providing no shade for windows in the summer. Longer rectangle-shaped houses with most windows arranged along the long south elevation will do a better job of collecting the sun’s heat in winter. Shading the windows in the summer will keep the heat out better than high performance glass alone. We need new land planning lot patterns that will facilitate the ability of builders to orient their new homes to the sun. With a little planning and creativity, green homes can be designed to be beautiful, efficient and smart.

posted by Custom Blogs @ 3:22 PM 

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