Homeowners on the coast live in environments that require high performance from building materials and construction techniques. So we should be quick to take advantage of approaches that maximize energy efficiency. I've picked up some helpful ideas during three decades of building at the shore and from the latest research in green construction.
• Downsize. A compact home saves on materials and monthly energy costs. Consider your lifestyle when allocating space. Do you really need a master bedroom big enough for beach volleyball? Are you going to feed an army out of your kitchen? Often, smart design in cozy surroundings provides more satisfaction than square footage would.
• Work with nature. When siting your home, take into account water tables, winds, and the course of the sun. Careful planning will let you enjoy maximum natural light and ocean breezes, and reduce the toll on heating and cooling systems. Install solar roof panels for electricity and hot water.
• Consider tried-and-true design. Porches and overhangs keep interior temperatures down in sunny climates. During harsh winters, steeper roof pitches prevent snow accumulation.
• Keep it tight. Sloppy construction leaks energy. Pay attention to details in HVAC ductwork. For example, to avoid overworking heating and cooling systems just to compensate for temperatures in uninsulated attics or crawl spaces, keep ducts within the insulated envelope of the house.
• Capitalize on technology. The list of renewable resources―from bamboo flooring to products made from recycled materials―is growing. Seek alternatives to traditional materials.
• Do your homework. Check out the latest edition of Green Building Guidelines: Meeting the Demand for Low-Energy, Resource-Efficient Homes, published by the Sustainable Buildings Industry with support from the U.S. Department of Energy. Visit sbicouncil.org or builderbooks.com.