From the rise of the sustainable building movement and LEED, to developments in the renewable energy sector, the world we live in could see a huge positive impact thanks to the houses we live in. Below are 5 ways homes today have, and will continue to change for the better by utilizing technologies we already have.
Many people assume that transportation, or perhaps industry, are the primary drains on our nation’s energy resources. They would be wrong. Buildings, including more than 128 million residential homes, consume 44 percent and 36 percent more energy than the transportation sector and industrial sector, respectively. In total, buildings consume more than 40 percent of the nation’s energy. Residential buildings alone currently eat up nearly a quarter of this nation’s energy. That’s a massive amount of energy consumption.
So what are the primary culprits of this massive energy drain in our homes and offices? Air conditioning, heating, and to a lesser extent, lighting. Space cooling and heating comprised up to half of typical family’s utility bills. However, most homes are literally just blowing money away thanks to inefficient systems such as improperly-sized HVAC or uninsulated ductwork. Unfortunately, there is a culture of turn-key suburban housing that leaves much to be desired.
Considering that most American’s spend some 90 percent of their time indoors, the places we call home, the structures in which our lives unfold, ought to be held to higher standards of excellence. Green, sustainable building design and construction can provide quality living spaces. As more Americans embrace responsible lifestyles that don’t further burden our children with unpayable debts, degraded land, water, and air, American homes will move away from the wasteful McMansions of the pre-recession era. The new era of building includes genuine design, sustainability, and livability.
1. Distributed Generation
Distributed generation is changing paradigms, not only in regards to how power is produced, but also who is producing it and where. It’s going to get a whole lot more democratic, that’s for sure. Unlike highly centralized modes of power production, such as coal-fired power plants, smaller, onsite generators such as rooftop solar do not rely on the grid for distribution. Furthermore, onsite generation creates clean power when you need it and where you need it. No hassle with power transmission, infrastructure, or any number of other efficiency-killing bottlenecks inherent in the grid today. Power will literally be in the hands of families, not utilities or plant owners. The ability for systems to reroute around bottlenecks and self-heal, like the internet, will be critical. In recognition of this, leaders in the homebuilding industry are offering homes with inbuilt capabilities to generate electrical power as standard. Today, and into the future, houses will increasingly produce their own power – becoming mini, self-sufficient power plants in their own right.
2. Intelligent Efficiency
Homes themselves will become bastions of connectivity and information metrics through something known as intelligent efficiency. Homes will know where power is being consumed, how much power is being consumed, and even attempt to regulate usage accordingly. As time of day and peak power pricing becomes the norm, savvy homeowners will ultimately save money by optimizing their usage with the help of smart panel systems, battery backups, and easy-to-use interface software.
3. Space Age Technologies
Developments in the space program have translated into many useful domestic applications, from freeze-dried meals to solar panels. Unfortunately, homebuilding as a whole more or less hasn’t changed in the last 100 years. Laborers nail pieces of lumber together and call it a wall. Thankfully, new technologies are pushing the process of home construction into the modern era.
Technologies, such as spray foam insulation and multi-paned low-e windows, substantially reduce energy consumption, while increasing thermal comfort and building longevity. Efficient wood framing techniques, such as increasing the spacing between studs, are increasingly being employed which not only cuts material costs, but reduces heat transfer. Other space age hallmarks, such as solar panels, will eventually cover roofs from sea to shining sea, creating a shiny, power-producing sea of its own. The flourishing solar panel market is expected to balloon another 15.3 percent within the next few years.
4. Growth of Urban Centers, Decline of Suburbs
As most Americans continue to hurt from ever-rising gas prices, utility bills, and a disenchantment with suburban lifestyles, many will move back into the cities – a kind of re-urbanization. For the first time this year, since the 1920’s, the U.S. cities have experienced greater population growth than their respective suburbs. Americans young and old, facing a reality of wage stagnation and chronically high energy prices, are increasingly choosing to forego the unattainable, and highly unsustainable, traditional American lust for big houses and big cars. In contrast, most Americans would simply prefer to live well-rounded lives connected to services, work, and community.
5. Me and You
Of course the biggest change to the American home has involved, and will continue to be driven by the inhabitants themselves. Americans don’t want, and frankly don’t need, bigger homes, with more garages for more cars. We want better homes. While aspirations to own unnecessarily large abodes will always exist, most Americans agree that “better” means more energy efficient. Better means green.
Think Better. Build Native.
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