Green Building Recommendations
Below is a list of all major suggestions offered in this book. You can use this list when building a home, remodeling, or considering a home for purchase. Note that a few items are repeated, as they pertain to several aspects of green building.
Selecting a Place to Live
1. Build in already developed areas
within cities and towns.
2. Choose a site with good solar exposure.
3. If considering the use of wind energy, choose a site with good, reliable
4. Choose a site suitable for earth sheltering.
5. Avoid building in frost pockets.
6. Be on the lookout for favorable microclimates.
7. Select a well-drained site.
8. Select a site with stable (nonexpansive) subsoils.
9. Avoid building in hazardous areas, such as floodplains, arroyos, and locations
potentially in the path of mud slides and avalanches.
10. Avoid building on or near marshy areas.
11. Do not drain wetlands to build a house.
12. Select a site with rich, productive soils for growing food and fiber.
13. Select a site that could provide some or all of your building materials.
14. Select a site with a reliable, clean water supply.
15. Select a site that is easily accessible and does not require extensive grading
for placement of the house or driveway construction.
16. Avoid noisy areas.
17. Check out environmental and community amenities such as recycling facilities,
bike paths, parks, and recreation. Consider living in a cohousing community,
ecovillage, or “new town.”
Siting a Home
18. Orient a home for maximum solar gain.
19. Don’t destroy the beauty of a site or build on its most picturesque
20. Nestle the house sensitively in the landscape, protecting views and delicate
21. Consider cluster development.
22. Build a house that is unobtrusive in the landscape.
23. Design a home that is compatible with the characteristics of the site.
Protecting a Site during Construction
24. Minimize land disturbance during construction.
25. Designate one access route to the site.
26. Designate a parking area or ask workers to park on the road.
27. Designate an area for delivery of building materials and other supplies.
28. Designate an area for stockpiling materials to be recycled.
29. Cordon off trees and areas you want to protect.
30. Stockpile topsoil for later reapplication, and protect it from erosion.
31. Do not stockpile soils around trees.
32. Recycle all waste from the building site.
33. Do not dump hazardous materials on the building site.
34. Hire a tree specialist to help develop a tree protection strategy.
35. Carefully site the home to reduce the need to remove trees.
36. Protect trees from physical damage by wrapping cardboard around their trunks.
Protect roots from damage.
37. Communicate the essential elements of the tree protection strategy to the
contractor, subcontractors, and workers.
38. Include fines in your contracts with the contractor to pay for damage to
39. Fertilize nearby trees before construction and water every two weeks during
40. Recycle trees that must be cut down.
41. Control on-site erosion.
42. Design driveways to minimize erosion.
Building a Healthy House
43. Eliminate or reduce the use of oriented strand board, plywood, and other
engineered lumber containing formaldehyde; specify low- or noformaldehyde products
44. Air out all engineered lumber before installation.
45. Eliminate or reduce the use of standard carpeting; install “chemical-free”
46. Install energy-efficient, closed-combustion-chamber, forced-vent furnace
or boiler and water heater.
47. Specify the use of nontoxic (low- or no-VOC) paints, stains, and finishes.
48. Install insulation that does not outgas or is not produced with ozonedepleting
49. Do not build near potential sources of air pollution such as power plants,
factories, and pig farms.
50. Do not build near potential sources of noise such as airports, major highways,
hospitals, nightclubs, and police stations.
51. Do not build near potential sources of low-frequency electromagnetic waves
such as radio and TV towers and electrical substations.
52. Seal oriented strand board and other engineered lumber to prevent outgassing.
53. Install vapor barriers and building wraps to reduce air infiltration to
prevent toxics from entering indoor air.
54. Seal cracks in the building envelope to prevent pollutants from seeping
into the interior.
55. Install radon protection such as polyethylene sheeting over the ground in
56. Install metal-shielded wires to protect against magnetic radiation.
57. Equip the home with natural ventilation.
58. Install exhaust fans in bathrooms, kitchen, and laundry room.
59. Install a whole-house ventilation system with heat-recovery ventilator.
60. Install an air filtration system as last resort.
Reducing Wood Use
61. Renovate or remodel existing buildings.
62. Build small.
63. Build simply.
64. Design the home to be built in 2-foot increments.
65. Build for durability.
66. Build for adaptability.
67. Design using optimum value engineering.
68. Use engineered lumber and wood products.
69. Use prefabricated trusses and other factory-assembled building components.
70. Reduce wood waste by recycling and reusing scrap lumber.
71. Use salvaged and/or reclaimed lumber.
72. Use alternative materials such as steel, straw bales, and earthen materials.
73. Use certified wood.
Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency
74. Build using an integrated or whole-building approach.
75. Build a small, space-efficient home.
76. Build using optimum value engineering.
77. Insulate the foundation and building envelope well.
78. Install the insulation correctly.
79. Seal cracks to prevent infiltration and exfiltration.
80. Ensure proper ventilation.
81. Install energy-efficient windows and doors.
82. Install shades or shutters to cover windows at night.
83. Design and build for passive solar heating.
84. Design and build for passive cooling.
85. Install an energy-efficient backup heating system.
86. Install a quiet, energy-efficient cooling system.
87. Correctly size the heating and cooling systems.
88. Install programmable thermostats.
89. Install energy-efficient appliances and electronics.
90. Install an energy-efficient lighting system (including compact fluorescent
light bulbs, measures to prevent overlighting, task lighting, individual controls,
and motion sensors and timers for light switches).
91. Install a ramp for wheelchair access or design the entrance so that it can
be easily retrofitted.
92. Install wider interior and exterior doors.
93. Build interior hallways wider.
94. Create turn-around zones.
95. Design bathrooms for wheelchair access (raise tubs 3 inches, install grab
bars, install sinks at wheelchair height, and build showers larger).
96. Build laundry rooms large enough for wheelchair access.
97. Install front-loading washers and dryers.
98. Design kitchens for wheelchair access (install countertops at wheelchair
99. Include a ground-level bedroom or a room that can be converted to one in
the floor plan.
100. Install special doorknobs and handles for ease of use.
101. Minimize or omit thresholds.
102. Prewire an intercom system.
103. Locate countertops at convenient heights for multiple users.
104. Install adjustable countertops.
105. Install switches and outlets in optimal reach zone.
106. Install cabinets in optimal reach zone.
107. Be sure the kitchen work area is sufficient and well organized for efficient
preparation of meals.
108. Design the home for smooth flow of internal traffic.
109. Design the house so spare bedrooms, extra garage space, and basements can
be converted to rentable space when family size shrinks.
110. Design the house so apartments (existing or planned)have private entrances.
111. Insulate for sound.
112. Consider building an earth-sheltered home.
113. When building an earth-sheltered home, choose a site with permeable soils
and good drainage, install a good drainage system around the house, waterproof
walls and roof, insulate walls and roof, check for radon, build above the water
table, build on south-facing slopes and incorporate passive solar design, backfill
carefully, and hire a professional designer/builder.
Passive Solar Heating
114. Choose a site with good solar access—exposure to the sun from 9 a.m.
to 3 p.m.
115. Avoid wooded lots or be prepared to cut down some trees on the south side
of the house.
116. Avoid building in the path of buildings or geologic formations that will
obstruct the sun.
117. Concentrate windows on the south side of the house.
118. Include overhangs.
119. Provide additional shade for the east and west sides of a house.
120. Install the proper amount of thermal mass to accommodate solar gain through
121. Build an energy-efficient structure. Be sure to insulate and seal the building
122. Protect insulation from moisture.
123. Design the house so rooms are heated directly by the sun. If this is not
possible, be sure to locate rooms with lower heat requirements on the north
side of the house.
124. Create sun-free zones inside the home.
125. Provide efficient, nonpolluting, and properly sized backup heating and
126. Subject the house design to analysis by energy software before you begin
127. Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs and
128. Install task lighting.
129. Position windows to take advantage of daylighting.
130. Install energy-efficient appliances.
131. Provide space to cook and dry clothes outside when weather permits.
132. Isolate water heaters and laundry rooms from the main living area.
133. Orient the home properly to minimize external heat gain.
134. Place windows properly to minimize external heat gain.
135. Use skylights sparingly or install solar tube skylights.
136. Avoid unshaded two-story glass walls.
137. Plant shade trees around the house, but do not shade south-facing windows.
138. Install overhangs and mechanical shading devices.
139. Paint the house a light color.
140. Install light-colored roofing material.
141. Install radiant barriers.
142. Install low-E windows.
143. Insulate the house well.
144. Create an airtight buidling envelope.
145. Site the home to take advantage of breezes for natural ventilation.
146. Locate openable windows to provide cross-ventilation and capitalize on
147. Design your home with an open floor plan.
148. Landscape to funnel breezes toward the house.
149. Install window and ceiling fans.
150. Install an attic fan or a whole-house fan.
151. Install thermal mass for nighttime cooling using natural ventilation, evaporative
cooling, or air conditioner.
152. Install an energy-efficient cooling system.
Solar and Wind Energy
153. Install a solar electric system.
154. Install a wind generator.
155. Purchase green power from a local utility.
Water and Waste
156. Install water-efficient fixtures, including showerheads, faucets, and toilets,
and water-efficient appliances, such as washing machines.
157. Install a catchwater system to meet some or all of your water needs.
158. Install a graywater system.
159. Install a blackwater system or composting toilet.
160. Plant trees and other vegetation to provide shade and natural cooling.
161. Plant a windbreak to protect against winter winds.
162. Utilize existing natural drainage by properly siting the home
and protecting natural drainage from damage.
163. Protect vegetation to reduce on-site erosion.
164. Minimize impervious surfaces such as driveways, patios, and sidewalks.
165. Plant turf between impervious surfaces to absorb runoff.
166. Revegetate denuded landscape in the vicinity of the house.
167. Apply a thick, rich layer of topsoil over the yard before replanting.
168. Plant native vegetation.
169. Plant xeric vegetation in arid or semiarid areas.
170. Mulch gardens, trees, and shrubs to reduce water demand.
171. Place plants that need more water near driveways, sidewalks, and downspouts.
172. Reduce grassy areas or plant low-water grasses.
173. Install an efficient automatic watering system with a timer, and water
early and late in the day.
174. Be sure water systems don’t spray onto impervious surfaces.
175. Install root-zone and drip-irrigation systems whenever possible.
176. Build a natural swimming pool.
Landscaping for Wildlife
177. Devote a portion of your yard to wildlife.
178. Plant vegetation that supports wildlife, providing shelter, nesting sites,
Planting Edible Landscape
179. Use part of your land to grow vegetables, herbs, fruit, meat, and fiber.