October 5, 2012 by: Ben Heimsath

Many of our clients are interested in green building but still are not sure if it is worth it.  Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about green building:


What is green building?  Can it be practical?

Green building, or sustainable design, refers to a growing concern with maximizing efficiency and reducing waste and energy consumption.  While many ideas are still in the experimental stages, there are many green building techniques that have already become established and can be considered best practices in the general building industry.
The recently completed Purple Heron Residence in Austin, Texas was awared the highest 5-star rating from Austin's Green Building Program.
The focus on green design and construction seems like a recent phenomenon, but has deep historic roots.   Pioneers in places like Texas built efficiently with local materials to maximize comfort without electricity or air conditioning, and with limited heating.   While innovators continue to develop a dizzying array of new products and technologies, some of the best residential green building ideas are time-honored and practical solutions.  These have worked for hundreds, and in some cases, thousands of years.


Do Green Buildings have to look "high tech?"

No!  Green building does not have a style.  Green building is the concept of building environmentally sensitive buildings that use less energy, provide more comfortable living spaces, and use less (and less toxic) materials.  This begins by designing your building to take advantage of and work in tune with your natural surroundings—solar, wind, trees, and topography.  It may be a coincidence that a lot of the younger designers promoting green building have produced very contemporary homes.  These designs can be quite beautiful, but when green features are promoted, many people get the false impression that green design must also be contemporary.

Looking at historic or traditional houses in your area will often show you what works.  For example, in hot central Texas, we see porches that offer spaces for outdoor living while shading walls and windows.  Many homes have high ceilings with ceiling fans, and large double-hung windows to coax in the breezes.

In northern climates, wResidential-Green-Building-FAQ-Rainwater-Cisternhere cold is an issue, steep roofs help keep snow from piling up, and smaller windows help limit drafts.  Basements extend foundations below the frost line.  Fireplaces (usually placed on interior walls) also help keep houses warm.  Instead of screened porches, exterior rooms are often enclosed with glass to form 'sunrooms' for cold winter days.  

A good architect can work with green building concepts and come up with just about any style you desire. A glass box in the Alaskan tundra may not be the best concept, but most styles can be developed and built to work efficiently and comfortably in your climate.
This farmhouse has a rainwater tank that has been in use for over four decades.

Can't wait for all our Green Building FAQ's?  We've assembled responses to the most frequently asked questions about Residential Green Buidling.  Download your answers here.

Residential Green Building FAQ's



Austin/ Residential Design & Construction/ Architects and Construction/ Sustainable Deisgn