Resource Efficient Features Definitions

Features appearing in case studies are listed below by category.

Site and Design Green Products
Indoor Air Quality Waste Management
Energy Efficiency Water Conservation
Universal Design

Integrated Design

Homes and their surroundings operate as a system with all components (products, location, orientation, equipment, etc.) functioning as one. When designed so each component interacts efficiently with others, the home has achieved an integrated design. Integrated Design brings together the client, the design team and the construction team to optimize resource efficiency and environmental performance starting from design, during construction and through to the end of the home's useful life.

Site and Design
Site and Design Features

Planning is key to resource efficiency. How a home is placed on the site contributes significantly to the comfort and energy useage of the home. Resource efficient design takes location into account relative to both human and natural features and strives to reduce economic and environmental impacts during construction and throughout occupancy. For a more complete discussion of green site and design considerations and many resources related to this topic, visit the Green Design chapter of the Residential Construction Hub. Features listed in this category include:

  • Using the existing infrastructure (urban infill; cluster development; promixity to commmunity services)
  • Preservation and protection of sensitive areas (wetlands, shorelines, mature forests, wildlife migration routes)
  • Consolidation of utilities along previously disturbed areas
  • Preservation of trees and other existing vegetation
  • Minimal impact on site topography, soil characteristics and natural drainage (limit cut and fill; limit heavy equipment to avoid soil compaction)
  • Orientation for use of renewable energy
  • Orientation and design for daylighting
  • Proper window sizing, location, and shading
  • Subcontractors involved in resource efficiency through clear planning and training

Green Products
Green Products Features

What makes a product "green" can depend on a variety of criteria including how appropriate it is for the application, safety for contractors and homeowners, durability and maintenance considerations, conservation of energy and raw materials, local availability and affordability. For a more comprehensive discussion of green products and to find product directories, visit the Green Products chapter of the Residential Construction Hub. Case studies demonstrate the use of Green Products in each of the following areas:

  • Foundation (insulated concrete forms; frost-protected shallow foundation; recycled glass aggregate; fly ash concrete; non-solvent damp proofing)
  • Structural Frame (structural insulated panels or forms; recycled decking; certified sustainably harvested lumber; engineered lumber; finger-jointed studs)
  • Sub-Floor (zero formaldehyde oriented strand board (OSB); natural cork; recycled or salvaged underlayment)
  • Windows (low emissivity windows; shading devices)
  • Doors (insulated exterior doors; recycled and/or recovered content; certified sustainably harvested wood)
  • Insulation (non-toxic; recycled content; HCFC free rigid foam)
  • Exterior Wall Finishes (natural and indigenous materials; durable fiber cement siding; recycled content siding, fascia, soffit or trim; certified sustainably harvested wood; low VOC and non-toxic stains and paints)
  • Roof (durable "lifetime" warranty; recycled content material)
  • Finish Floor (natural or recycled fiber carpet and backing; reused or remilled wood; natural linoleum; certified sustainably harvest wood; bamboo or cork; recycled ceramic or glass tile; non-toxic adhesives)
  • Cabinetry and Trim (agricultural waste or formaldehyde-free recycled wood particleboard/MDF cabinets, shelving and countertops; certified sustainably harvested wood; fly ash concrete countertops; non-toxic stains, paints, and finishes)
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Indoor Air Quality
Indoor Air Quality Features

Indoor air quality is of increasing concern in homes. Studies indicate that indoor air is often less healthy than outside air and can cause respiratory problems and more serious health risks. A discussion and references of this topic can be found in the Indoor Air Quality chapter of the Residential Construction Hub. The case studies demonstrate design and construction practices that reduce occupant exposure to pollutants and provide cleaner indoor air through these features:

  • Use of products with minimal off-gas
  • Use of water-based finishes
  • Sealed combustion or power vented appliances
  • Reduction of textiles; maximized hard floor surfaces
  • Bathroom fans, kitchen fans, and dryer vented to outside and tested
  • Separation of uninhabited areas (and potential sources of pollutants) from occupants
  • Ventilation design related to climate conditions
  • Water mangement for foundation, attic, and walls (grade to drain away from buildings; air/vapor retarders; capillary break; waterproofing; flashing along valleys and penetrations)
  • Detached garage or attached with "advanced sealing" (sealed top and bottom plates, corners, and penetrations)
  • Ducts and furnace cleaned just prior to occupancy
  • Harmful gas monitoring and control

Waste Management
Waste Management Features

Waste management includes reducing waste by designing it out (procurement, planning and employee training) or separating and reusing materials on site. It can also include recycling waste off-site when all other attempts to reduce or reuse it have been taken. For a more complete discussion of this topic, visit the Solid and Hazardous Waste chapter of the Residential Construction Hub. Waste Management features included in the case studies are:

  • Efficient use of materials (i.e. 24" on center, Optimum Value Engineering (OVE); design on standard material dimensions
  • Employee waste reduction training
  • Inventory and housekeeping procedures
  • Post spill cleanup procedures
  • Packaging return and reduction
  • Waste reduction through process modification (e.g. central cut area to reuse scraps; alternative chemical application methods
  • Deconstruction
  • Weather protection provided and maintained for stored materials
  • Recycling of construction waste
  • Alternatives to burying or burning construction waste
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Energy Efficiency
Energy Efficiency Features

Energy efficiency is perhaps the best known and researched category of green building. Many energy conservation practices have become standard in today's building industry. A variety of reward, certification and rating programs are also available to encourage energy efficiency. For more discussion of this topic and important references, see the Energy chapter of the Residential Construction Hub. Case study features in this category (those that go somewhat beyond standard practice) include:

  • Building Envelope (window overhangs, insulated exterior wall sheating; insulated headers, house wrap; sealing of plates and corners)
  • Mechanical Systems (active renewable energy design; 90% or higher efficiency furnace or boiler with sealed combustion; radiant heating; whole house fan; multi-zoned thermostat)
  • Water Heating (solar, geothermal or waste heat recovery; insulated hot water pipes; water heater within 20 feet of highest use)
  • Lighting (solar powered outdoor lighting; compact fluorescent bulbs; air tight insulation; contact-related can lights; lights colored walls, ceiling, and carpet)
  • Reporting of performance data (blower door test; product ratings)

Water Conservation
Water Conservation Features

Drought, stormwater and depth to groundwater are increasingly important issues for the home building industry. Measures can be taken to conserve water use and protect water quality in both the construction and occupancy phases of a home's life cycle. More information and references about this topic can be found in the Water Use chapter of the Residential Construction Hub. Case studies include and describe these features:

  • Best Manages Practices (BMPs) for stormwater (landscape planters and swales; porous pavers; ecoroofs; minimal impermeable driveways, walkways, and patios)
  • Greywater collection and reuse
  • Rainwater collection and reuse
  • Wellhead protection
  • Vehicle and equipment cleaning and maintenance
  • Water efficient applicances, equipment, and fixtures
  • Landscape design (including drought resistant plantings; zoned irrigation system)
  • Phase construction (reducing disturbed areas)
  • Single stabilized construction entrance (established and maintained)
  • Site covered and stabilized at construction completion
  • Webinars and other resources can be found on the Environmental Sustanability Resource Center site.
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Universal Design
Universal Design Features

People age and sometimes are faced with special needs during their lifetime. A home designed and constructed to accommodate these different phases of life allows greater adaptation for a wider range of occupants. Universal design features provide the means to accommodate residents without extensive remodeling that can create quantities of debris. The case studies include descriptions of features like these:

  • Access to community support services (health services, food services, transportation)
  • Safety and security (controlled visitor access and lighting)
  • Exterior access (sheltered access, no steps, slopes less than 1/12, wide entrance doors)
  • General living space (single level; convertible layout; wide hallways; pocket doors)
  • Kitchen (non-slip flooring; level handle faucets; anti-scald valves; appliance access; lighting)
  • Bathroom (five foot turning radius; grab-bars; hand-held shower head)
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This showcase is for educational and informational purposes. It is meant to provide ideas and contacts for further assistance. We do not endorse particular products or services. It is the responsibility of the user to check references and facts prior to making use of the information.

The contents of this website are public information and may not be copyrighted in any form, sold or used for profit in any way. The information within the showcase may only be printed when this notice is included and credit is given to the Peaks to Prairies Pollution Prevention Information Center and the individuals cited in each home profile.