Boulder Architect Cherie GoffIn this 3-part blog series, Cherie breaks sustainable design into three steps. The first covers reducing energy use through Passive Heating and Cooling, the second covers options with Mechanical Systems, and the third covers Indoor Air Quality, Water Efficiency and Sustainable Materials.

Indoor air quality, water efficiency and sustainable materials:

Sustainability goes beyond reducing energy use. It also means creating a healthy environment for the family that will live there. Some of the other things to consider when designing a green home include the following:

  • Indoor air quality:

      • Install clean wood burning stoves or gas fireplaces.
      • Provide fresh outdoor air. “Seal tight and ventilate right” is key to good green design. Tight homes reduce energy use but require good ventilation. Providing a heat exchanger is a good option for Colorado.
      • Moisture control. This is not as big of an issue for our climate as others. Still, it is important to control the moisture in bathrooms and kitchens. Providing proper ventilation to these areas is key to good air quality.
      • Garage. The best practice to reduce pollutants from the garage entering your house is to have a detached garage. This is not always practical in our climate. Other techniques include installing a garage exhaust fan and not locating any air handling equipment or ducts within the garage.
      • Radon Mitigation. Radon gas levels are high in may areas in Colorado. Either a passive or active system can be installed to mitigate gas build-up in your home.
      • Air filters. High efficiency filters can be installed to remove more indoor air particles. A filter with a MERV 8 is considered “good” in LEED for Homes, while a MERV 13 is considered “best”.
      • Preoccupancy flush. Many construction materials and finishes off-gas volatile chemicals during construction. Flushing the house prior to moving in is a good idea. This includes running all the mechanical systems while keeping the windows open for an extended prior of time.
  • Water Efficiency:

    Reducing water usage is important in Colorado. Here are some key approaches:

      • High efficiency fixtures including toilets, faucets and showers.
      • High efficiency irrigation system and “xeriscaping”
      • Use of grey water
      • Rain water collection. Colorado has strict laws regarding rainwater collection and use. Most of our clients do not meet the criteria that would permit rainwater collection. We would be happy to go over this with you in more detail.
  • Materials:

    We believe the best thing for reducing your impact on the environment through materials is reducing the amount of materials you need, and selecting durable materials that will last the life of your home:

      • Size: The size of your home is the number one impact on material use. The good news is that well design homes can be smaller while providing the homeowner with an enhanced living experience. We believe, if you love your home, you will take care of it and live in for a long time – and that is very green!
      • Selecting and using durable materials, requires little maintenance. This is a win-win. We do not know many homeowners who enjoy house maintenance, and considering a materials life cycle cost is key for green design. For example, we like eliminating wood fascia — which needs to be repainted ever few years — and replacing it with metal. Metal costs more upfront, but the lifecycle costs are less once you consider the cost of repainting.
  • Other green materials and practices worth considering:

      • Reducing on site material waste through recycling, framing techniques and products selection such as SIPs panels.
      • Selecting local materials that reducing transportation cost and pollutants. Sandstone is a local material as well as Beetle kill pine – which can be stained and used for paneling or millwork.
      • Using environmentally friendly products that are sustainably harvested or low-emission. There are a variety of products out there including FSC certified wood, low VOC paints and natural fiber carpets.
      • Consider the “cradle to cradle” philosophy when selecting materials. How much energy and what pollutants are generated to produce the material and to maintain it? Can it be re-used? While the philosophy requires a radical way of thinking, many companies have started to think in these terms reducing factory waste and incorporating reutilization.
Green isn’t a buzzword. In our business practice and in our profession, sustainable design is a basic criteria. HMH advances sustainability as a requirement throughout the planning and design process on all of our projects. We firmly believe that saving energy and resources is not only good for the environment, but also good for business.

We promote an integrated approach to sustainable design; employing interdisciplinary team of engineers and designers to explore and evaluate potential green design opportunities from the earliest planning stages.