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Ballard Locks Residence: Green Home Remodel – Built Green 4-Star Certified

Building Green

What Kind of Sustainable Home is Most “You”?

Sustainable homes come in all shapes and sizes. If you’re thinking of upgrading your home with more sustainable options or are building a new home altogether, it’s worth considering your sustainability priorities and what type of sustainable home will best meet them. So, what kind of sustainable home best suits you?

May 19, 2022

It’s difficult to find someone who isn’t striving for more sustainable home. Its meaning and how it is achieved can be different depending on the person since everyone has different needs they want met. Luckily, there are many ways to approach sustainable design practices and within each approach are many more ways to implement them.

The compact sustainable home.

Your preferred mode of transportation may be: Walking.

Home typologies: Urban apartments & condos, tiny homes, and boat living.

Crow's Nest Cottage – City Cottage – Board &  Vellum Interior Design FF&E
Compact Comfort

Small living spaces are ripe with opportunities for creative solutions. Custom furniture, pieces that tuck away for easy storage, and flexible arrangements leave little to be desired.

Decreasing the size of your is home is an easy-to-understand way of reducing your carbon footprint. A small place to heat and cool means reducing the fuel and electricity that is required. Small homes have other ecological benefits for everyday, too! Since you don’t have a lot of room, you have no choice but to be very mindful of the “stuff” you bring into your home, so you can end up decreasing your consumer footprint overall.

Some Potential Difficulties

  • Small spaces tend to get cluttered quickly.
  • Privacy can become an issue.
  • Compact size appliances and equipment can be more expensive than standard sizes, since they’re considered specialized.
  • Smaller homes can be viewed as a deterrent to resale value.

Some Potential Strategies

  • Be thoughtful about what your exact needs are.
  • Develop innovative storage solutions. This is a must!
  • Opt for multi-functional furniture, fixtures, equipment, and spaces.
  • Develop conflict resolution strategies with your housemates. Cohabiting in small spaces forces you to confront versus run away from issues, which can in turn develop stronger relationships!

The recycled sustainable home.

Your preferred mode of transportation may be: A cool vintage car.

Home typologies: House remodels, adaptive reuse, loft conversions, historic preservation, salvaged materials.

Designed for entertaining, the kitchen features a large central island with plenty of space for both prep and gathering. – North Beach Refresh – Board & Vellum
Big Changes

This remodel was achieved entirely within the footprint of the existing home, proving big changes are possible without entirely rethinking your home.

Updating an existing home is immediately more sustainable than building a new one due to its embodied energy. By choose to live in an existing home, you decrease the need for new materials and eliminate the energy and waste of the demolition process.

If a house remodel in not in the cards and new construction is warranted, opting for salvaged materials or materials with high recycled content can help decrease your carbon footprint, as well.

Some Potential Difficulties

  • Floor layouts of existing homes may not jive with your family’s needs.
  • Remodeling your home can take longer, be more difficult, and can often be more expensive.

Some Potential Strategies

  • Lean into the quirky floor plans! They will give your home a unique quality.
  • Alternatively, revisit floor layouts to see how they can better suit your family dynamics.
  • Take inventory of what your needs are and see if they can be satisfied by tweaking something that already exists rather than building something entirely new.
  • Improve what you can, like updating a leaky building shell so your home is more thermally comfortable.
  • Visit local thrift shops, salvage yards and home furnishing donation stores for building materials.
  • Embrace imperfection.
  • Avoid single-use products.

The innovative sustainable home.

Your preferred mode of transportation may be: Fully-electric vehicles powered by batteries or hydrogen fuel cells.

Typologies: Net-Zero homes, Living Building Challenge, Passive House.

Ballard Locks Residence: Green Home Remodel – 4 Star Green Home
Built Green

Not every high-performance home has the same look. This home in Ballard is 4-Star Built Green certified but still retains its original charm.

Modern engineering and design have made truly remarkable strides in innovative technologies. Investment into these impressive innovations not only puts you at the forefront of sustainable tech but will push forward the research and development to make these improvements more accessible to everyone.

Some Potential Difficulties

  • Technology life cycles can be very quick, and highly tech-dependent designs can feel or be outdated quickly.
  • Leading technologies are often difficult and expensive to maintain due to a lack standard use.

Some Potential Strategies

  • Install of solar roof panels, smart systems, composting toilets.
  • Consider high-performance building materials.

The passively sustainable home.

Your preferred mode of transportation may be: Rideshare.

Typologies: Passive House, smart homes, multifamily homes with property managers.

A home with a California feel and midcentury design feel with wood accents. – Board & Vellum, Custom Residential Design Services
Energy Savings

Operable skylights, a heat recovery system, a rainwater cistern, and wool insulation are just a few of the passive strategies these homeowners used make their home more eco-friendly.

This home is for those who like to “set it and forget it.” With passive strategies, you can rely on building design that makes it effortless and convenient for you to optimize energy efficiency and improve air quality and thermal comfort. The idea here is focusing on your home’s default settings from the onset so you don’t waste energy (mental included) later on.

Some Potential Difficulties

  • With so much focus on making the right decisions at the onset, it can quickly become overwhelming.
  • Upfront costs can be more substantial than a home where you make sustainable improvements over time.

Some Potential Strategies

  • Have your home commissioned, which means having a technician set up all your equipment to factory default.
  • Upgrade your exterior building envelope, invest in insulation, and install high-performance windows.
  • If you’re building new, orient your home to take advantage solar energy and use thermal mass to your advantage.
  • Install smart systems in your home.

The shared sustainable home.

Your preferred mode of transportation may be: Bikeshare.

Typologies: Multigenerational housing, multifamily housing, cohousing, congregate Housing, DADU & ADU on single family lots.

Scout Apartments – Board & Vellum
Community Living

Shared spaces with lots of room to gather, socialize, and share are a great way to foster community within larger developments, like apartment or condo buildings.

A home that fosters sustainable social relationships is key to a sustainable home and community. You can share resources, share expenses, and share stories.

Some Potential Difficulties

  • Everyone has different ideas of what is important to them, sometimes conflict can come up when planning these spaces.
  • Living in a community often means needing to put the interests of the group before your own.

Some Potential Strategies

  • Be intentional about your decision-making process from the beginning.
  • Create spaces that invite social interactions while keeping in mind the need for privacy.
  • Plan for communal storage spaces, community amenities such as gardens, workshops, halls.
  • Plan for spaces large enough so that you can congregate with those in your community.

The resilient sustainable home.

Your preferred mode of transportation may be: Public transit.

Typologies: Aging-in-place, durable building materials.

A hightop table with hightop chairs is at the center of a wood deck. Behind is a built-in grill with a sink and countertop. To the right is a large bar top with chairs that looks into the kitchen via a large, operable window.
Future Thinking

Upfront decisions, custom details (like the kitchen-to-deck passthrough), and thoughtful additions (like the outdoor kitchen) will take this home into the future.

Designing for resiliency promotes the long-term use of your home and, therefore, makes it less likely you’ll need to spend money and resources to change it up in the future.

Prioritizing thermal comfort, air quality, and natural daylight will increase the chances of your homes living suitability. It’s a conscious decision to confront the true costs of “fast” consumption by focusing on long-term and extreme needs.

Some Potential Difficulties

  • More durable and quality materials can represent higher upfront costs.

Some Potential Strategies

  • Anticipate future needs in your home design.
  • Prioritize materials that are durable.
  • Implement spaces and design solutions that anticipate natural disasters and severe weather, employing multi-functional solutions to meet varying needs.
  • Install systems that will permit your home to be self-sufficient during natural disasters like generators and solar panels.

The healthy sustainable home.

Your preferred mode of transportation may be: Biking.

Typologies: Red-list free homes, Salmon Safe, outdoor rooms.

A large canopy covers a deck with an outdoor kitchen, hot tub, and shower. - Backyard Covered Kitchen – Board & Vellum
Outdoor Living

Access to great outdoor spaces not only increases your home's livable space, but allows you all the great benefits of nature and fresh air.

Your home is where you spend most of your life. It’s no wonder that you would want it to create an environment to help you be as healthy as possible. The healthy sustainable home focuses improving air quality, thermal comfort, and access to natural light.

Some Potential Difficulties

  • This strategy can take extensive material research.
  • Finding a balance between air sealing and natural ventilation.

Some Potential Strategies

  • Ask for Environmental Product Declarations or EPDs.
  • Eliminate hazardous materials in your home like lead and asbestos through abatement.
  • Install air purifiers and HEPA filters.
  • Be conscious of the materials being installed in your home.
  • Prioritize natural materials.
  • Design layouts that take advantage of connections to the outdoors and solar orientation and encourage outdoor living and natural ventilation.

Most homes will fall many of these categories, combining the sustainable strategies that best reflect your individual needs and align with the resources that you have.The good news is that Energy and Building codes are always improving to make some of these solutions standard and more easily attained.

No matter what strategies you use, spend time to evaluate your sustainable design decisions to see which make the most sense for your household, and prioritize getting the best systems and products that you can.

Would you like to read more from the team?

If you enjoy reading our blog as much as we enjoy writing it, that just makes our day! You might also enjoy a few of the related posts below. And, if there is a topic that you wish we would cover, let us know!

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Sustainability in Buildings: High-Tech or Low-Tech

If you have sustainability goals for your project, it may be difficult to know whether low-tech, passive strategies are the way to go, or if high-tech solutions are going to better meet your goals. Here, we’ll walk you through when to crunch numbers and when to just follow your gut.

What Kind of Sustainable Home is Most “You”?

Sustainable homes come in all shapes and sizes. If you’re thinking of upgrading your home with more sustainable options or are building a new home altogether, it’s worth considering your sustainability priorities and what type of sustainable home will best meet them. So, what kind of sustainable home best suits you?

Considering a project? Or, just curious about something?

Send us your questions about design, architecture, interiors, landscape, LEGO rooms… Anything, really. We’re always eager to meet new people, and we’d love to get to know you, your project, and your goals.

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