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Community and Q&A

Need a green Kazoo

mapnerd | Posted in Project Management on

Remember Kazoo from the Flintstones cartoons? He hovered over Fred’s shoulder and helped him out with advice. That’s what I need now, but in the form of a green building expert. My family and I are planning to build a new home – what we hope will be the home are children grow up in and move out from. We’re looking at the long haul, so we want to make some good choices when it comes to our building envelope, heating and cooling, renewable energy, and various other “foundational” building aspects. We don’t care right now about pricey finishes and materials, we’re more focused on building a highly sustainable, energy efficient home that doesn’t require us to compromise on how we want to live in our house. Tall order, huh?

Now to the present – we are working with an architect friend on a plan. We’ve been through 5-6 iterations and have a floorplan that includes all of the spaces we want in a layout we like, but it’s WAY TOO BIG!! We’re also worried that some of our style choices (Craftsman) may result in more expense to build. I’ve received some great feedback from other green building forums, so I plan to try and incorporate some of those changes.

My question is (finally), what is your advice for finding a green Kazoo? I’d like to have someone help me evaluate our design, our construction choices, our materials & product choices, and most importantly help to keep me on the right path to building a green home. I’m open to suggestions.

I should mention that I live in area of the country with very little happening in terms of green building (Omaha NE).

Thanks a ton!


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  1. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #1

    You have a few choices.
    1. If you are beginning to doubt that your architect understands your needs, it may be time to choose a different architect.

    2. If you are happy with your architect, you may need to bring in an energy consultant to fine-tune your design. I'd start with an experienced energy auditor (HERS rater) — visit for more information on HERS raters. A good energy consultant should be able to suggest ways to tweak a design for better home performance.

  2. mapnerd | | #2

    Thanks, Martin. I'm happy with my architect on general design, but need a little more help on energy efficiency and sustainability. I will take your advice. I know a couple of raters locally who have a lot of experience.

  3. Riversong | | #3

    Beware. Energy-efficiency and sustainability or "greenness" are often contradictory goals. For instance, an efficiency consultant may recommend petrochemical foam insulation which is hardly a green product and creates a house unlike anything in nature - one that cannot breathe.

    It sounds as though you're in need of a green building consultant. But, before you can determine where and for whom to look, you'd best clarify what you mean by green or sustainable - as there is a vast spectrum that claims to fall under that rubric.

    And it may be that you're demanding too much of a design (or too little), particularly with the proviso that it "doesn't require us to compromise" on lifestyle. The American lifestyle is not even close to being sustainable, so before we can consider designing a sustainable home we need to challenge ourselves to "downsize" our lifestyles toward something that can fit inside a relatively green house.

  4. Daniel Morrison | | #4

    Hi Michael,
    We like to think that working your way through [**Green Basics**]( can help answer most questions about envelope and the systems you need for green home building.

    Green building is more about process and integrated design than about products, so don't sweat using foam insulation. At some point, you need to build the house out of materials, so yes, you do need to think about them; but focusing on products too much will be misplaced effort.

    Here's the list of **Green Priorities** (in order of importance and bang for the buck) that we've been working up:

    1. Orient the house for heat and light using the landscape
    2. Focus on insulation and air sealing
    3. Choose efficient appliances, fixtures, faucets, and shower heads
    4. Design an efficient lighting system
    5. Choose efficient (and small) heating/cooling equipment
    6. Choose efficient windows (triple pane in cold areas)
    7. Use less wood and concrete
    8. Alternative energy generation
    9. Materials that aren’t made with poison
    10. Bamboo floors and re-usable shopping bags

    Of course, many will quibble with some of the items, but it's a good big-picture starting point.

    Hope that helps,

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