Sustainable homes have come a long way from mud huts with thatched roofs. Still, even today those homes offer lessons for building eco-friendly kit homes with materials that reduce environmental impact and offer high insulating properties.
From saving on monthly utilities, improved indoor air quality, and reduced construction site waste, to increased equity and resale value, sustainable kit home building is much less a fad and much more conventional practice.
Design and construction go hand in hand when building sustainable kit homes. These homes should improve the lifestyle and overall health of the occupants while reducing the environmental impact.
Why Build Sustainable Kit Homes?
- Reduced energy consumption
- Easy to use renewable energy sources
- Reduced water consumption
- Significant cost savings on heating, cooling, and lighting
- Lower carbon footprint helps the environment
- Easy to use recyclable or biodegradable building materials
- Eliminates or reduces construction site waste and pollution
- Increases equity and resale value
Using Sustainable Building Materials
Strict advocates of sustainable building argue for using low-tech mud brick, straw, bamboo and timber from sustainably-managed forests. Recycled materials, such as repurposed steel and sustainable concrete infused with recycled plastic, offer green alternatives that reduce the amount of build site waste going to landfills.
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On the other end of the spectrum, techies turn to materials such as solar roof tiles, which provide higher insulation than traditional roofing and produce clean energy, both leaving a smaller carbon footprint.
Buildings a sustainable home with structural insulated panels (SIPs) provides higher insulation values and a stronger, more energy-efficient structure than a conventional stick-built dwelling. Prefabricated home kit panels also reduce outside noise, block outside pollutants, and produce less wasted material.
It’s not all or nothing. Each sustainable material used reduces the environmental impact, and often utility costs.
Maximizing Energy Efficiency
The importance of insulation cannot be overlooked when considering a sustainable kit home. A properly sealed and insulated house kit increases energy efficiency up to 3x. Builders are turning to materials such as recycled paper and even straw bales as alternatives to traditional fiberglass and Rockwool® insulation. That’s why SIPs support your sustainability goals, delivering 48 percent more energy-efficiency than conventionally insulated stick-built homes.
SIPs are high-performance building panels made of a rigid foam insulation core, sandwiched between two structural panels of oriented strand board (OSB). Aside from the high R-value of prefabricated SIPs, using them for exterior walls, roofing, and flooring helps to seal the building more efficiently than traditional building methods. The result? A kit home that is inherently stronger, more energy-efficient, and even quieter than a conventional home construction.
A sustainable kit home must also consider the benefits of premium windows. The typically higher costs of quality, triple-pane, argon gas-filled windows are offset over the long term by the energy savings they offer.
More Efficient Heating and Cooling
Likewise, installing efficient heating and cooling systems in your house kit must be a priority to achieve better sustainability. Older furnaces, such as those manufactured before 1992, may waste 30 percent of the fuel need to heat or cool a kit home. That’s money down the drain.
The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE. External Link. Opens in new window.) recommends using a condensing furnace which wastes very little fuel, resulting in a lower monthly utility bill and less impact on the environment. Geothermal heating and cooling, which uses the ground’s constant temperature, offers another alternative if the lot where you’re building your kit home is large enough for that type of system.
Additionally, installing a programmable thermostat delivers further savings on your monthly utility bill. In fact, there are lots of smart technologies for small homes that help lower your carbon footprint.
Improved Air Quality
Anyone suffering from allergies, asthma or other breathing problems know how pollution and pollen can make life miserable – and in extreme cases, they can even be life-threatening.
Luckily, a well-insulated and sealed kit home keeps pollutants and pollen where they belong – outdoors. That’s why our structural insulated panels are designed to be airtight. Not only do SIP house kits provide a seal that keeps out drafts and hot air, but breathing is improved for everyone visiting or living in the home.
Construction Produces Less Waste
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, construction and demolition generated over 534 million tons of waste in 2014. This includes concrete, lumber, bricks, glass, metals, and plastics.
Sustainable kit homes combat this in several ways, because a good deal of leftover building materials can be recycled and reused.
What are some uses for scrap building materials?
- Sections of “scrap” lumber can be reused for other projects.
- Concrete and masonry waste can be used as site filler.
- Left-over insulation may be used as sound baffling for interior walls.
- Excess plastics and metals can be donated or sold to recycling centers
- Cardboard packaging materials can be recycled or used as a weed barrier beneath decorative mulch.
Home construction with SIPS reduces job-site waste 30 percent and reduces construction time compared to conventional stick-built homes.
Increased Property Value
Investing in green and sustainable features when building a home returns savings on utilities, among other things. Moreover, these features may benefit the equity and subsequent resale value of the home.
In a National Association of Realtors survey of its members on sustainability, the group found increased attention in the real estate market to energy efficiency and sustainability.
Key Findings of the National Association of Realtors Report
- 71% of survey respondents said energy efficiency promotion in listings was very or somewhat valuable.
- 62% of realtors found clients were at least somewhat interested in sustainability.
- 40% of realtor respondents reported their MLS has green data fields, and they typically used the green data fields to promote those features and energy information.
- 40% of homes with green certifications spent neither more or less time on the market.
- 80% of respondents said properties with solar panels were available in their market and 39% said properties with solar panels increased the perceived property value.
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Installing Energy Efficient Appliances and Fixtures
From light bulbs to toilets, kit home fixtures significantly impact their sustainability.
It’s no secret that compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) and LED bulbs consume less energy compared to incandescent bulbs, but many people avoid buying energy-saving bulbs because of the initial cost.
While they may have a more expensive upfront cost than incandescent bulbs, these newer alternatives last many times longer and operate more efficiently, using a fraction of the energy.
The replacement cost and energy consumption of a traditional bulb over 20 years tops out at over $200. Compare that to one CFL at $54 over the same time. The energy-sipping LED comes in even lower, at just $34.
Creative design also helps, For example, choosing the proper location and orientation of your kit home can make the most of natural light. Studies over the years show that natural light has a positive impact on your emotional health and productivity.
Your home’s orientation towards natural light can also help reduce heating and cooling costs.
Water-saving toilets are now the norm, using 60 percent less water per flush than older toilets.
Some green builders advocate the use of composting toilets that use drying agents such as sawdust to help decompose the waste, which can later be used for fertilizer.
Being Kind to Mother Nature Brings Rewards
The green building movement came about from the need to create more energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly structures for residential and commercial use. Incorporating high tech and low tech materials reduces our kit home’s carbon footprint and its negative impact on the environment.
House kits from Mighty Small Homes deliver savings for the homeowner while being kinder to Mother Nature. That’s how sustainability and livability come together in our eco-friendly kit homes.