The search for The Greenest way I can build a new Home

The best methods, The best materials

What is Green Building in the Northeast U.S.? I’ve consulted the following book many times in designing new spaces. I’ve found the information in what has been provided to me through searching The Passive Solar House links.


The Passive Solar House by James Kachadorian

Book Review

Rule #1: Build in Reference to your Surroundings

Position the long direction of the house in the East/West direction and plant deciduous trees along the South. James gives direction for how to know your site. ‘Make a point of being on site at sun rise and sunset at different times of the year. Develop a sense for which direction the prevailing wind comes from…in addition to solar orientation, consider access, view, wind, direction, snow removal, power, septic and water.” In the past when I have mentioned Slow Building, this is the direction I was seeking.

Rule #2: Design on a 12 month basis. ‘Accommodate and benefit from the sun’s shifting patterns and other natural seasonal cycles.’

Rule #3: Provide effective thermal mass to store free solar heat in the day time for nighttime use. The above diagram is a graphic from the book where he notes ‘achieve thermal balance by sizing the storage capacity of the thermal mass to provide the heating needs of the building through the night.

4″ slab over 12″ CMU is approximately 10″ of solid concrete.

10″ x by the building x and y dimensions = the ____ cubic feet of volume.

Ways of keeping the heat in include thermo-shutters, as described in the image below. However, you want to make sure that your building envelope is a closed cell construction to protect the R values you’ve invested in it as well as to prevent insect damage. The envelope is something that you may ‘Dress as you please.’

This is a graphic for a wall section, envelope, that you would find in the north-eastern United States. For example, the vapor barrier is always to be on the warm side, and in this area the warm side is the heated side of the home, on the interior because we heat in the winter. This leads us to Rule #4:  Insulate thoroughly and use well-sealed vapor barriers.

While constructing a home for my family I studied Advanced Framing, also termed Value Engineering. This means building with typical construction methods, but arranging the building components  in a smarter way. The simple spacing of 2×6’s at 2′ on center versus 16″ or the ways in which to construct a corner and header of a window frame are two examples in which less wood can be used to build a solid home.  Look at these sites listed:  Building Science Consulting and The Energy and Environmental Building Alliance

Getting back to the book, the author makes it a point to differentiate between house wraps and vapor barriers. House wraps are designed to stop wind, not moisture, and a vapor barrier is an extremely important part of the building envelope sandwich.

Tightly sealed buildings should exhaust and vent to the outside through controlled or deliberate openings. For example, areas that have excessive moisture such as the bathroom, kitchen and laundry rooms. So, what are deliberate and controlled openings about?

I sought out the information on the internet and found Scandinavian Homes; Passive houses who described a Ventilation heat-recovery system by Temovex. These systems control the air-exchanges in a home, and in the winter months when we don’t want to pump out our expensive heated air with necessary ventilation, they have a way of recovering the heat without compromising our inside air quality.  Click here to see how the Temovex works in expanded terms.

With a balanced mechanical system, you control the amount of ventilation in the house. Not too much on windy and cold days and enough on humid and mild days…A whole house ventilation system helps to provide consistent temperatures though-out the house or apartment. The house or apartment must be reasonably well insulated and draft-proofed for the system to work to its highest potential…Temovex units make your home into a thermos! You retain the heat in the building without the need for unnecessary new thermal energy…

In chapter five the book begins to describe floor plans and layouts in the same way it invites you to learn your site. ‘We should layout the home’s rooms in relation to the patterns of the sun; that is, morning areas and activities should be planned for the east side of the home, and evening activities generally on the west side.’ The sun and normal living habits migrate from the east to the west. For example the living room should be well warmed by mid day, but the breakfast area should be warming first. I found these images on this site.

This plan uses space efficiently and uses the space below the stairs for storage of the water tank and air circulation equipment.

This leads us to two important and key rules to this entire passive strategy.

Rule #5: Utilize windows as solar collectors and cooling devices.

Rule #6: Do not over-glaze.

What the book provides here is an in-depth lesson on how to calculate exactly what your home needs to maintain a comfortable living environment. I suggest you find the book to learn about this exactly. You can find the book at Amazon by clicking the picture below.

The author tells us that ‘There are not cookbook recipes for solar design.’  A summary of the design procedure is provided by Google Books, and is represented below.

Rule #7: Consider the contribution of solar energy (indicated by insolation values for your region) and natural processes (including breezes and shade) to the heating and cooling of the home, in order to avoid over sizing a backup heating system or air conditioner. A home that is oriented to true south, is tightly constructed and well insulated, and has operable windows for air circulation should not require large fossil-fuel burning equipment to maintain thermal comfort.  Size the conventional backup systems to suit the small, day-to-day heating and cooling needs of the home.

Rule #8: Provide fresh air to the home without compromising thermal integrity.

Rule #9: Use the materials you would use for a conventional home, but in ways that maximize energy efficiency and solar gain.

Rule #10: Remember that the principles of solar design are compatible with diverse styles of architecture and building techniques.

Other ideas to come… what about Malcolm Wells Earth Sheltered Homes or those by Jacques Couelle?

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One thought on “The search for The Greenest way I can build a new Home

  1. I’m impressed, I have to admit. Rarely do I come across a blog that’s equally educative
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