Environmental Trends in Energy Star Houses and Houses
My 10-year-old son has recently fallen in love with the Lord of the Rings Lego. There's something magical about building and creating that seems to capture the imagination of man, and there's something valuable about the lifestyle of a hobbit that draws followers to Tolkien's world stories. Perhaps the mid-world landscape or perhaps the simpler lifestyle. Anyway, my son is tied up and to be honest I like it too.
There Is Some Magic
As an Engineer, I spend much of my daily work helping builders and developers build higher quality buildings and more efficient homes. Of course they are not hobbit houses, but there are inspiring and creative things about the many different ways we can live and host ourselves.
I have the privilege of participating in Ontario's Sweet Home Competition where I can see some of the latest trends in environmentally friendly housing design. Very pleasant to watch. Seeing innovation brings a sense of excitement to the child engineer in me.
Paint is Changing
The housing market is changing and words like "energy" and "environment" are now part of the daily discourse. The Energy Star program helps us compare energy costs. Home builders now use paints with little or no VOC content (Volatile Organic Compounds), and all large box retailers also sell them to the public. This change occurred only in the last 10 years.
Insulation is good
The insulation performs consistently better and at lower cost. Building codes are constantly demanding more and more energy-saving and increasingly environmentally-friendly products (eg improved coolants in air conditioners). All of this means that new homes are warmer and more comfortable than ever, and that's obviously a good thing.
And more and more homes have fancy boxes saving heat for us, from Heat Recovery Ventilators (HRV's) to heat pumps, tankless or condensing water heaters, and more.
The Future Looks Bright for Energy-Efficient Homes
So where does all this go in the next 10 years? So how can housing look in the future? It won't be a Hobbiton, but I like the trends I've seen.
Builders and developers around Ontario are increasingly adapting to green building programs. Many municipalities strongly encourage builders to certify their homes as ENERGY STAR®, LEED® or BUILT GREEN® buildings.
Easier Than You Think
All of these programs are great and the ideas behind them are sometimes simpler than they seem. The name of the label simply proves that the building is built better – more durable, more efficient, healthier for the inhabitants to live … not magic, but better. And all for a reasonable cost (which is perhaps the real key). Expect to see more in the future, but not even more. Green programs will continue to distinguish the best builders, but most buyers are still buying space, so we won't see a sudden demand for green labeling of each new house.
Saving energy in your home is constantly becoming cheaper. The trend will continue. Comparing energy costs will become more common. Expect to see more insulation and more types than anything, from recycled denim to glass fiber and spray foam. And the occasional straw bale house for true Hobbit lovers. As long as it works (and if it all works), homeowners will benefit from lower energy costs. You will see more solar panels as well, but the insulation is quiet king.
Next Water Efficiency
An important trend that emerges silently is water efficiency. The Waterloo Area and other municipalities along the Great River talk about how to provide enough drinking water for the ever-growing population. The most expensive proposal in the table is the pipeline project, which is expected to cost more than $ 1 billion. Nevertheless, the smartest idea on the table is to intensely promote water conservation.
This affects the housing. See this list:
- Efficient Toilets
- Efficient Shower Heads
- Rain water usage
- Gray water usage
- Even recycling rain or shower water to do things like flush toilets
Both New and Renovated Homes Can Save Money
My favorite trends are those with new reach in both the renewal market. For example, RenewABILITY is a local Kitchener-based manufacturer that is a Canadian leader in Sewage Water Heat Recovery. This technology can be easily added to any home and makes a real difference … and dirt is simple. No moving parts. No maintenance. It just works.
What Happened to the Energy in Your Shower?
Have you ever thought about what happened to the energy in your shower? Just to drain yourself and wasted while heating the water? This maintenance-free product replaces the sewer and removes some of the heat from the water before leaving your home. There must be one in every house. Click here to check.
Most of the best ideas are: reclaim or recycle heat before losing. Remember the 3Rs from primary school? Reduce – Reuse – Recycle: this increasingly applies to housing, energy and water.
We may not all like to dream about Hobbit homes, but we can all enjoy energy and water efficiency, and if today's trends are a sign of the future, we look forward to it.