Decisions made early in the design process have a huge impact on how the house will perform over its lifetime – not only how much energy will be required to operate it, but also how comfortable it will be to live in. Keep in mind:
- Sustainable buildings encompasses design, building materials, and construction techniques. Success depends on the active participation of everyone who has a hand in the process.
- Solar orientation of the house has a powerful effect on comfort and energy use.
- Site conditions, such as natural vegetation, patterns of water runoff and seasonal water tables, and the direction of prevailing winds at different times of the year, have an important bearing on how the house should be sited and built.
- Room layouts that take into account how and when different rooms are used will be easier to heat and cool, and they’ll be more comfortable.
According to estimates from the U.S. Green Building Council and the Department of Energy, by the time 3% of the design budget for a new house has been spent, 70% of the energy use over its lifetime has been set in stone. So, what does that mean? It means that a tiny fraction of all design decisions- those made at the start of a project – largely determine how much energy will be required to operate the house.