5 Ways Home Builders Can Build More Energy-Efficient & Sustainable Homes

By Chris Bolio, Alair Homes Houston

1 – Insulate the ENTIRE home envelope…not just the living space.

This means including the attic decking and exterior garage walls as a part of the insulation envelope. By protecting all your home mechanicals and plumbing within your insulation system, you will save energy and your home will be more protected from damage during extreme weather occurrences (i.e. Texas snowstorms).

2 – Build with concrete and steel…regulates temperatures, lasts longer, more attainable than ever.

Concrete homes are significantly more energy efficient because of thermal mass. They maintain the temperature in the home longer with less energy. This is due to the amount of energy it takes to change the temperature of that mass by one degree, so your house stays hotter longer in the winter and colder during the summer.

These materials are also much more sustainable, requiring less upkeep, lasting longer, and preventing deterioration, mildew and rotting.

With recent increases in construction prices, these options are more within reach, making it the perfect time to consider them now more than ever.

3 – Use recyclable(ed)/sustainable materials & clean products… cleaner and healthier for you and the environment.

Build with materials that have been recycled or can be recycled in the future, such as making beams from the trees on the original home site, using reclaimed wood for flooring, tiles, glass, etc. Using sustainable materials, such as fast-growing bamboo or cork can help alleviate pressure on natural resources.

Use products like paints, plywood, etc. that don’t have harmful chemicals and VOCs (volatile organic compounds) to help create an all-around healthier environment in our homes. This means making sure you’re only sourcing materials from countries that don’t use harmful chemicals in their products. Become more educated and mindful about the types and use of chemicals in all our products. 

4 – Smarter plumbing solutions… using PEX plumbing systems.

PEX piping has come a long way since it came to the U.S. in the early 80s. Today’s PEX piping has countless advantages over traditional copper or CPVC.

It’s more energy efficient because it only pushes hot water to the rooms in the house you NEED it, plus PEX can expand and contract without permanently deforming and without failure, which means it lasts longer and will hold up during weather extremes, or summer heat. 

5 – Lower your home’s carbon footprint… mother nature provides it, why not use it?

Solar power has advanced significantly in affordability and efficiency. Explore how to use less or no electricity by supplementing with solar.

Houston has plenty of rain (sometimes too much at once!) Why not harvest and store that rainwater for use later with a rainwater harvesting system.

Geothermal energy systems use the consistent temperatures of the earth to heat and cool your home by providing heat or acting as a heatsink to cool your home.