Top 10 Practices for Designing a Sustainable Home

As interest in sustainable home construction continues to increase at a rapid pace, net zero homes are becoming more prevalent than ever. The term “net zero”, while often used incorrectly, is used to describe a home that generates as much energy in a year as it uses. Passive house buildings consume 90 per cent less heating and cooling energy than conventional buildings, making them the perfect choice for homeowners and building owners in the effort to achieve Net Zero. OnGrowing Works partner, Kim Walton, is the owner of Bow Crow Design and has spent the last 40 years designing energy-efficient homes. She has many insights to share about keeping your home as affordable, healthful, energy-efficient and comfortable as possible.

Here are Kim’s suggestions for 10 practices when designing a sustainable home (in order of importance). Implementing these practices will make getting to Net Zero easy.

1. Small, simple footprint

When thinking about your home’s design, try to make effective use of your space. While a box or rectangle layout is the best option for a passive home, it doesn’t have to be boring, and you can add your own personal flare to make your home uniquely yours.

2. Extremely well insulated

An airtight and heavily insulated building envelope surrounding your home is crucial to conserve energy. A good envelope reduces the amount of inputs needed for heating and cooling and requires less renewable energy like photovoltaic panels to get to net zero. Investing in the building envelope once will pay off for the lifetime of the building.

3. High-performance windows

The best windows you can afford are worth the investment and how they are installed can make a big difference. To determine the best ways to utilize the windows in your home, speak to a professional.

4. Think about orientation

By thinking about the orientation of the building as well as the indoor spaces, you can take advantage of solar gains, prevailing winds, and natural shading. This strategy can reduce energy usage at no additional cost.

5. Maximum solar exposure

Correctly specified windows will directly reduce the amount of energy required to heat your building. The sun can be your best friend and something that you will want to utilize to its fullest potential.

6. Open floor plan

Reducing the number of walls will let light and air easily move throughout your building. The less enclosed areas, the less energy will be required to regulate indoor temperatures.

7. Efficient electrical loads

Make sure that the fixtures and appliances you choose for your building are energy efficient, and always remember to unplug unnecessary cables when they’re not in use to avoid overloading your outlets. Being more mindful of your electricity usage is a great way to make it more sustainable.

8. Air quality

To ensure that the living conditions within your home are as healthy as possible, manage fresh air circulation with a ventilation system. Not only will this improve air quality, it will also help to regulate the temperature throughout and reduce the amount of additional energy required to do so.

9. Accommodation of renewables

While rooftop solar panels are the easiest way to incorporate renewable energy into your home, consider implementing a rainwater capture system too. Having a store of water on hand at all times so that you don’t have to rely solely on external water sources protects you and your family against potential water scarcity and reduces the cost of your monthly water bill.

10. Conscious lifestyle

Whether it’s the use of renewable energy sources or remembering to turn off your lights, appliances and electronics when they’re not in use, there are a plethora of things you can do to maintain an environmentally conscious lifestyle. By combining the nine sustainable home practices listed above, you will ensure that your building and the lifestyle that it fosters are as sustainable as possible.

If this list appears daunting, don’t worry. Not all ten of these practices need to be implemented at the same time, and we encourage you to work through each one at your own pace. While sustainability is an investment, over time it will save you a considerable amount of money and reduce the energy your home requires to be fully functional.

Ready to start your home’s journey towards Net Zero? Contact us today!

About Bow Crow Design
Bow Crow Design is a Central Alberta-based building design and consulting practice that specializes in Passive House and Net Zero projects all across Canada. With 40 years of industry experience, Kim Walton is an expert in energy modeling and building science, and she is dedicated to fulfilling her clients’ visions through functional, healthy, durable, energy-efficient, site-specific, beautiful and fun solutions. With a special emphasis placed on sensibility, affordability and sustainability, Kim partners with OnGrowing Works to advise on various building designs. By suggesting best practices for energy-modeling and insulation envelopes, Kim helps ensure that clients are left with the best and most environmentally friendly results possible.


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