Green Energy Home Process

Green Building Process

AA DESIGNS is very conscious about the environment and preservation of natural resources. We are building in an environmentally friendly way by following NAHB (National Association of Home Builders) Green Homebuilding Guidelines. Green Building has many green building elements, product and techniques. Because all our homes are custom designed we can build your home with any available green items, products and features you select. Most green homes include high efficiency furnace, programmable and remote control thermostats, high efficiency water heater, high efficiency spa and pool heaters, low emissivity (Low E) windows, high efficiency light fixtures and light bulbs, timers and motion and occupancy sensors for lights, fans and other electrical items, Smart Home control systems & elements, R-40 attic insulation, R-12 basement insulation,passive heat recovery ventilators, low flow kitchen and lavatory faucets, water-efficient low flush or dual flush toilets, ENERGY STAR® rated appliances, low volatile organic compound (VOC) paints and stains, envelope sealant moisture & air penetration barrier, enhanced construction practices, etc.. WE MAKE SURE glass areas are shaded by landscaping, rooflines, awnings and shutters on southern and western exposures. New method of improving insulation is a construction of non-vented attics with insulation applied directly to the underside of the roof.

Preserving natural resources (i.e. trees, water, etc.) and reducing energy consumption (i.e. electricity, fuel etc.) results in less power plant emissions and therefore less air pollution. Another benefit of a green home is its long term cost-effectiveness. Because green homes use fewer resources, require less energy to cool and heat, and use high-efficiency concepts and appliances, the homeowner will benefit from much lower energy bills. Green buildings have higher up front costs but much lower overall life-cycle costs.

Other benefits like improving occupant health, increasing productivity, reducing pollution and cutting down landfill waste are simply priceless. Visit

NAHB green features and products are organized in five categories:

  1. Energy efficiency
  2. Resource efficiency
  3. Indoor environment quality
  4. Water efficiency
  5. Site selection and development

1. Energy efficiency

Energy efficient ENERGY STAR Windows

Window area usually comprises a substantial percentage of the total home wall area. The U-factor measures the rate of heat transfer (or loss) while R-value measures the resistance to heat transfer or loss. R-value is a measure of conductivity. Windows have only 15% to 25% of the R-value of an opaque insulated wall, and in addition they cause direct solar gains in the summer, both of which substantially add to the overall cooling load. We use only ENERGY STAR labeled windows. Efficient Windows Collaborative website has information about the type of glazing recommended for your climate. Low-E coatings for windows are recommended for all regions of the US. Select windows with as low a U-value as affordable, since they offer the best insulating value (note that U-value is the inverse of the R-value). In cooling dominated climates use a window that has a low SHGC. Always select frame type that provides a thermal break, e.g., wood, composite, vinyl, or aluminum with a thermal break. Using high efficiency windows improves thermal performance and reduces the risk of window condensation. For passive solar designs and homes that are constructed with large amounts of glazing in a specific orientation, it is helpful to use windows selected for each orientation (for example high SHGC on south face for direct solar gain). Refer to the websites for more detailed understanding of how window technologies perform in various climates. To find out more about heat losses, U-values, R-values etc. please visit the following websites:

Eliminate all air leaks

Air leakage accounts for as much as 20% – 30% of energy loss through the building envelope. Although insulation reduces energy loss, air infiltration can compromise the efficiency of a building by allowing conditioned air to escape directly outdoors (or outdoor air inside), bypassing the insulation. Additionally, not only can cooled (or heated) air leak to the outdoors, but airborne water vapor can move from a warmer to colder location and form unwanted condensation. The following items are necessary to prevent air escape:

  • Seal all gaps between the foundation and the sill plates
  • Seal the bottom plates of all exterior walls
  • Ensure air barrier continuity at all framed cavities such as air chases, soffits, coffered or dropped ceilings, and behind tub/shower units on exterior walls
  • Caulk or foam all electrical, plumbing, heating penetrations between floors (including attic, basement, crawl space, and garage) and to exterior
  • Block and seal cantilevered floors and knee walls
  • Weather strip all attic hatches and knee wall doors
  • Insulate, caulk or foam fill space between window/door jambs and framing
  • Caulk or foam fill HVAC register boots to sub-floor or to any drywall (if they penetrate the building envelope)
  • Use sealed combustion gas fireplace or a wood-burning fireplace with gasket sealed doors

Increase cooling system efficiency

Select HVAC equipment bearing ENERGY STAR label and check energy efficiency information in manufacturer’s specifications. We recommend you use only 14 SEER or higher efficiency HVAC system.

Increase water heater efficiency

Install a new water heater that provides the same amount of hot water while using less energy. Water heater energy rating, specified as the Energy Factor (EF), allows you to compare different water heaters. EF is the percentage of purchased fuel (electricity, gas, propane or oil) that is used for heating water, and it includes losses through the tank as well as flue losses. Electric heaters have a higher EF than gas heaters since they do not have flue losses, but they are usually more expensive to operate than gas heaters.

To select high efficiency water heater compare the yellow Energy Guide labels of similar equipment. Review manufacturer’s specifications for Energy Factor information since the EF is not always prominently displayed on the unit.

Insulate all hot water piping

By insulating hot water pipes you: 1) reduce heat losses when hot water moves through insulated pipes to the faucet, and 2) slow loss of heat while water sits in the pipes before use. Foam pipe insulation is relatively inexpensive and easy to install. In addition to providing energy savings, insulating hot water lines adds convenience, comfort, and water savings. Hot water gets to the faucet fast and no water runs down the drain while waiting for it to get hot.

Use ENERGY STAR advanced lighting package

ENERGY STAR fixtures use about 1/3 of electricity of standard fixtures to provide same light. Although average cost of ENERGY STAR fixture may be higher than comparable standard fixture, the energy efficient bulbs last longer (average about 7 years) and cost less to operate over their lifetime. Replacing twenty ENERGY STAR fixtures in a home with electricity costs at 10.5 cents/kWh will generate almost $100 annual savings to the homeowner in energy and bulb replacement costs, after adding the higher initial cost.

Minimize outdoor lighting use by activating it only when needed

Install motion sensors and daylight sensors on all outdoor lighting. These sensors activate outdoor lighting only when it is needed, for example to light an entry as you return home after dark, or to maintain security by illuminating outdoor areas whenever motion is detected. Most fixtures come with built-in motion and darkness sensors, but motion and darkness sensors can also be added to existing light fixtures.

Reduce appliance energy use

Install ENERGY STAR labeled appliances including ovens, refrigerators, dishwasher, washing machine, dryer, etc.. ENERGY STAR labeled appliances use an average of 20% less energy than standard appliances. ENERGY STAR labeled dishwashers and washing machines also use less water. Look for the ENERGY STAR label when selecting major appliances or use the yellow Energy Guide label to compare efficiency of similar appliances. For a list of appliances meeting ENERGY STAR criteria and list of local stores that sell ENERGY STAR appliances visit:

Check this website to estimate lighting energy savings of Advanced Lighting Package:

Reduce artificial lighting by providing natural light

Install tubular skylights (Light tubes) in rooms without windows. Light tubes provide natural lighting to dark interior spaces while minimizing the inherent energy losses of standard skylights. Light tubes have a smaller diameter roof penetration than skylights and feature an additional layer of insulating glazing at the ceiling level.

Resources: Tubular Skylights (NAHB Research Center technology fact sheet) =1&CategoryID=14

2. Resource efficiency

Build your home with concrete walls

Concrete is a green product made of natural and recycled ingredients it conserves trees, one of our scarce natural resources. In addition there is no scrap wood or wood dust, wasted byproducts and debris left at the construction site. The concrete forms are also re-used hundreds of times during their useful life.

Use advanced framing techniques that reduce the amount of home building material while maintaining the structural integrity of the home.

Use building dimensions and layouts that maximize the use of the resources by designing your home in way that minimizes material cuts.

Add a covered entry (awning, canopy, trellis or covered porch) at exterior doors to prevent water intrusion and subsequent rotting of joists, sills and finishes. Use recommended size of roof overhangs and eaves for the climate you’re building in.

Minimize impact of drainage systems

Install gutter and downspout system to divert water minimum 5 feet away from the foundation, and from there into designated onsite drainage area. Minimize or eliminate impervious surfaces, design driveways, walkways, and patios to allow storm water runoff to infiltrate to the ground. Un-compacted gravel, crushed stone and open or porous paving blocks can be utilized for walkways and other light traffic areas

  • Install continuous and physical foundation termite barrier in areas where subterranean termite infestation is a problem
  • Install enhanced foundation waterproofing
  • Create on site area for sorting and recycling of all scrap building materials
  • Use recycled content building materials and recycle all excess materials
  • Use wood and wood-based materials and products from certified suppliers
  • Use materials manufactured from renewable resources (e.g., agricultural byproduct based products such as soy-based insulation; bamboo; wood-based products)
  • Use locally available and indigenous materials whenever available

3. Indoor environment quality

  • Safe Ventilation of Heating & Cooling Equipment: Design all heating, cooling and water heating equipment into isolated mechanical room or closet with an outdoor source of combustion and ventilation air.
  • Air Filtration: HVAC and forced air conditioning and heating systems
  • Provide mechanical ventilation: Minimum 7.5 cfm per bedroom and 7.5 cfm per bathroom. Make sure ventilation is controlled automatically or continuously.
  • Vent kitchen range exhaust to the outside
  • Install a tightly sealed door is between the garage and living area: Tightly sealed door provides continuous air barrier between garage and living areas
  • Ensure PB (particleboard), MDF (medium density fiberboard) and plywood are certified to low formaldehyde emission standards: ANSI A208.1, ANSI A208.2 and ANSI/HPVA HP1, respectively. Composite wood / agrifiber panel products must either contain no added urea-formaldehyde resins or must be third party certified for low formaldehyde emissions.
  • Use green flooring materials including cork, bamboo, engineered wood flooring, concrete, carpeting made from recycled materials, etc.. Visit:
  • Install carpet, carpet pad and floor covering with green label adhesive: Green label adhesives meet Carpet and Rug Institute’s indoor air quality testing program or meet equivalent thresholds verified by a third party.
  • Install moisture resistant backer-board: Under tiled surfaces in all wet areas.
  • Keep plumbing supply lines out of exterior walls as much as possible
  • Install vapor retarder: Directly under slab (6-mil) and on crawl space floors (8-mil)
  • Insulate hot water pipes: In all unconditioned spaces with ½” thick foam insulation or other coating that comparably prevents condensation.
  • Mask all openings during construction: Mask all openings, HVAC outlets, vacuum ducts, boots and air grilles during construction. Thoroughly clean all outlets before turning on the central heating/cooling system to minimize dust and contamination.

4. Water efficiency

  • Locate water heater less than 30 feet from kitchen(s) and bathrooms
  • Use only ENERGY STAR® water-conserving appliances (e.g., dishwasher, washer, water heater, spa heater, pool heater, etc.)
  • Install water efficient shower heads: which use conventional aerator or venturi technology to provide less than 2.5 gpm water flow rate.
  • Use water efficient sink faucets and aerators to provide less than 2.2 gpm
  • Use water efficient toilets: Dual flush or Ultra-low flow toilets with less than 1.6 gpm/flush, or toilets with Vacuum-assist (if specified)
  • Install water efficient landscape sprinkler system: Use programmable timer, moisture sensors, low-volume non-spray irrigation system featuring drip irrigation, bubblers, drip emitters, soaker hose, stream-rotator spray heads, etc..

5. Site selection and development

Select the site to minimize environmental impact

Avoid construction in or near environmentally sensitive areas as identified through site foot-printing process or third party by:

  • Contacting Wetland Institute
  • Checking Local jurisdiction’s guidelines
  • Site foot-printing process results
  • Review set of detailed site plans

Choose an Infill Site

Vacant or underutilized land served by existing infrastructure that includes road, electrical power, sewer, and water.

Choose a Greyfield Site

Previously developed land with at least 50% of the surface area covered with impervious material including abandoned or derelict former commercial sites, such as shopping centers, that are not significantly contaminated.

Minimize slope disturbance:

  1. Complete a hydrological/soil stability study for steep slopes and use this study to guide the design of all structures onsite
  2. Limit development footprint on steep slopes (greater than or equal to 25%)
  3. Align road / driveway with natural topography to minimize grade and reduce cut and fill
  4. Reduce long-term erosion effects through the design and implementation of terracing, retaining walls, landscaping and re-stabilization techniques

Minimize soil disturbance and erosion:

  1. Use alternative means to install utilities, such as tunneling instead of trenching, use of smaller equipment, shared trenches or easements, and placement of utilities under streets instead of yards
  2. Schedule construction activities to minimize exposed soils
  3. Demarcate limits of clearing and grading

Manage storm water using low impact development:

  1. Develop and implement storm water management plans that minimize concentrated flows and seek to mimic natural hydrology
  2. Preserve and use natural water and drainage features
  3. Minimize impervious surfaces and use permeable materials for driveways, parking areas, walkways, and patios

Design landscape plans to limit water and energy demand to preserve and enhance natural environment:

  1. Select turf grass and other native or regionally appropriate vegetation species
  2. Formulate a plan to protect, restore or enhance natural vegetation cleared during construction, phase landscaping to ensure denuded areas are quickly restored
  3. Limit turf areas of landscaped area, selecting native and regionally appropriate trees and vegetation in a way that complements the natural setting
  4. Group plants with similar watering needs (hydro-zoning)
  5. Use native, drought-tolerant landscaping plants to reduce irrigation water
  6. Specify planting of trees to increase site shading and moderate temperatures
  7. Design vegetative wind breaks or channels as appropriate to local conditions
  8. Require onsite tree trimmings or waste of regionally appropriate trees to be used as protective mulch during construction or as a base for walking trails
  9. Establish an integrated pest management plan to minimize chemical use of pesticides and fertilizers

Maintain and protect all wildlife habitats and conserve onsite vegetation:

  1. Prepare designated existing trees and vegetation for the impacts of construction through pruning, root pruning, fertilizing, and watering
  2. Minimize disturbance of and damage to trees and other vegetation designated for protection through installation of fencing and avoidance of trenching, significant changes in grade, and compaction of soil and critical root zones

Minimize onsite soil disturbance and erosion:

  1. Create “no disturbance” zones using fencing or flagging to protect vegetation and sensitive areas from construction vehicles, material storage, and washout
  2. Demarcate limits of clearing and grading
  3. Install and maintain sediment and erosion controls
  4. Stockpile and cover good soil for later use
  5. Reduce soil compaction from construction equipment through laying mulch, chipped wood, or plywood sheets
  6. Stabilize disturbed areas within the EPA recommended 14-day period
  7. Improve the soil with organic amendments and mulch

Note: Site Selection is the sole responsibility of the client. Clients interested in a green site are responsible for researching the feasibility of the location for their specific needs. AA DESIGNS will increase the “site-clearing” and “landscape” portion of the construction budget (if required) to comply with any of the guidelines listed above.



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