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Community and Q&A

Storage space in attic vs. living area

Athyrium | Posted in Green Building Techniques on


I have an old, leaky house and dream of a new energy efficient home of about the same size (1200 sf). Right now we use the attic and knee walls for storage. From what I have read, it is no longer considered energy wise to use attics in new homes. But, if we loss that space (and won’t have knee walls), we will have to build more square footage to accommodate our stuff. That does not seem particularly green. Please advise.

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  1. user-2310254 | | #1

    You can still have an attic for storage. But you may want to make it a conditioned attic so you can bring your ducts (HVAC) into the conditioned space. (See for more detail.)

    More importantly, I don't think you need to worry about this particular issue until you begin the design process. There are many strategies for making a structure more energy efficient while also accommodating occupant needs.

  2. STEPHEN SHEEHY | | #2

    We recently moved from a 200 year old, 4300 square foot house to a new, 1850 square foot (outside dimensions) Pretty Good House. A few ideas that worked for us:
    1 Get rid of stuff you don't need or use. Start now, not the week before moving day.
    2 Don't focus on the size of the new house. Design it, including whatever spaces you need/ want and let the design determine the size. A good architect is a big help.
    3 Built-in storage takes up much less space than storage in furniture.
    4. You need space for stuff that can't (lawn mower, snow shovel) or shouldn't (Christmas ornaments) take up room inside living space. We have a big garage, with unheated storage above.
    5. Today's typical open living, dining, kitchen space works in a small house.
    6. High or cathedral ceilings help make a small space seem bigger.
    7. Plan a decent sized mechanical room for water heater, electric panel, utility sink (wow, was that a good idea!), laundry, maybe an HRV, maybe a solar inverter. Small, efficient homes can use a minisplit or two which hang on the wall and don't use up much space.
    8. Plenty of windows to brighten up the spaces.

    Have fun. Designing a new house is scary, but when you are in your new, perfect house, you'll be glad you took the plunge.

  3. morganparis | | #3

    A yard barn is cheap as can be and can make a great landscape feature

  4. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #4

    Some of the information you have received seems backwards.

    In older homes, the small attics behind kneewalls were often outside of the home's conditioned space, and therefore subject to freezing in winter (and responsible for all kinds of problems, including ice dams).

    In a new, properly built green home, the small attics behind kneewalls will be inside of the home's conditioned space, and will be usable for storage if the homeowner thinks the area is valuable.

    For more information on this issue, see “Two Ways to Insulate Attic Kneewalls.”

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