Building Sustainable Homes

Grace Spaulding


Buildings provide a very essential need for humanity: shelter. A sustainable building has little negative effect on the environment and aims to provide optimal energy efficiency and the materials used to build it are disposed of safely.

Central Question: What is the relationship between the amount of money spent on housing and the degree of sustainability that it upholds?

Why Building Sustainable Homes Matters

Surveys done through the United States government revealed data of new residential construction in March 2013 that showed significant growth since March 2012. The percent increase from 2012 to 2013 of single unit building permits was 28%, housing starts 29%, and housing completions 35%. With this growth in housing, it is important to look for ways to proceed that are sustainable.

Also, not only are there more houses being built, they are being built larger.

Chart depicting that newer homes trend to be larger
Chart Depicting Newer Homes are Trending to be Larger

All this new and growing construction is also taking up a significant amount of energy; in Indiana that number is about 20%.


Indiana Energy Consumption by Sector, 2010

Indiana Energy Consumption by Sector, 2010

Other Factors to Consider

Residential building faces some challenges in “going green” that corporate buildings do not need to worry about.

  • Residential buildings are not able to gain positive publicity from having environmentally friendly features the way a corporate building can. When people are in the market to buy a house physical qualities, such as the granite counter top, are typically more enticing to the buyer than energy saving amenities that are behind the scenes.
  • The housing industry faces lack of longevity. Corporate and university buildings are usually constructed with the intention of being used for the corporation indefinitely. This makes investing in sustainable features that may save resources and money down the road but are more costly up front more likely for corporate or university construction. The same cannot be said for residents. In 2011, 74% of residences were rented. Residents are far less likely to make a sustainable investment for it may take longer to pay it off than their stay in that residence.


How Do You Make a Building Sustainable?

Energy and Resource Saving Systems

  • Water saving flush option for toilets
  • Motion sensor lights
  • Sprinkler systems that are programmed not to run when it rains
  • Heating and cooling systems automated to minimize energy and resource usage
  • More efficient insulation
  • Also using recycled materials in construction such as recycled roofing or carpeting


Costs in Conclusion

Even though initially installing these sustainable systems and features into a building is more expensive, in the long run they save money and resources. However, often times the sustainable options for residences are simply not affordable anyways. Even so, corporations are moving toward sustainability and programs are reaching out to make it a less costly option for the average homeowner.



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