Many homeowners come to Giraffe with questions about lowering their heating bill or creating a more comfortable climate for their living space. Their home loses heat or it’s inefficient, and it’s a great concern of theirs. These clients might not use the term, but they’re asking about sustainable design.

We all want to be comfortable in our homes, and sustainable solutions can provide that extra comfort. Giraffe’s goal is to become the authority in sustainable design in the Ann Arbor region. Our staff throughout the company are driven by sustainability—from designers to builders to our company’s office team.

Dreaming of a more efficient or environmentally friendly house? Here’s a brief introduction to sustainable design for your home.

What Is a Sustainable Home?

Sustainability is a set of multifaceted principles that come together to reduce resource consumption. The concept applies to every aspect of design, construction, and home life. Sustainability looms largest in a home’s heating and cooling demands, but it also includes electrical, water, and environmental resources. Those considerations have implications for the means and methods of construction, where and how your materials are made, and what they’re made of.

While green products can play a role in the sustainability of your house, it starts at the design phase and carries through construction and the entire life of a home. Many of the early design decisions around a homebuilding or remodel project have sustainable implications. There are myriads of design considerations early on, before hammer meets nail.

If you’re designing a home from the ground up, sustainable design involves considering how and where the house is situated on the property to maximize solar gain during winter months. It includes designing the interior to cool the living space through cross-ventilation instead of air conditioning.

How Affordable Is Sustainable Design?

Many homeowners are concerned about the affordability of sustainable design. While the most effective sustainable practices are the most expensive ones, they pay for themselves—sometimes with dividends—over the course of time.

For example, we designed and built a passive solar house that applied LEED principles to the home. While the project had a larger budget, the homeowners’ energy bills now are virtually nothing. They have a wood-burning pellet stove that they can use for additional heat if needed, but they rarely need to use it out of necessity. The home provides incredible comfort with very little energy consumption.

Sustainability on a Budget

If you’re on a more restricted budget, you can still enjoy a more sustainable home. Start by getting an energy audit. An energy audit is an assessment of your home that evaluates your current energy consumption and identifies measures to make your home more efficient.

Next, share your audit results with a design-build firm. At Giraffe, we’ll offer inspired design possibilities that fit your budget while enhancing the sustainability of your home. We’ll also present building material options, and review the pros and cons of each.

Your dollar will go farthest by investing in insulation. Spray foam insulation provides the least heat loss, but it’s expensive and has a level of toxicity. A nice middle-ground option is blown-in cellulose. We’re also beginning to explore a new Havelock wool insulation that initially looks promising. Either way, thoughtful and innovative design, combined with thermal insulation, will give you the greatest comfort and return on your investment.

Often, another low-cost option for improving sustainability is to replace aging appliances and fixtures with energy-efficient and low-flow ones. This can have a noticeable impact on your water and electrical bills, especially if you’re replacing fixtures that are more than a decade old.

Becoming the Leader in Sustainable Design

At Giraffe Design-Build, we believe good design is sustainable design. They’re one and the same. While there is some cost to realizing the sustainable home of your dreams, the investment will pay for itself. Even if your budget is limited, we can work with you to provide the greatest sustainability possible.

Need to talk to a design-build team about making your home more sustainable? We can provide inspired solutions you’ll be delighted with, for years to come.

Let’s start the conversation today!