Green construction was once a cool trend— thankfully, it's now becoming the norm. In the latest construction surveys run by the National Association of Home Builders and Dodge Data & Analytics, at least one-third of multiple-family and single-family home builders report that green construction constitutes at least 60 percent of their design portfolio. Those numbers are expected to grow rapidly over the next few years, especially taking into consideration Northern California’s Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) boom.
In fact, if you foresee an ADU on your property in the near future, you’re already being environmentally responsible. An ADU's minimal square footage burns less energy and generally comes with a smaller environmental impact than bigger homes. And by incorporating these green design-build ideas into your ADU design, you’ll be helping the planet all that much more:
1. Adding Sustainable Construction Materials
Sustainable building materials are an important green consideration. Take flooring, for example, we can source everything from linoleum made with recycled materials to bamboo and cork, which are both renewable resources. In fact, some of the new linoleum products can last between 25 to 40 years—and then be recycled once their lifecycle is done.
2. Conserving Water
Photo courtesy of the Family Handyman
Freshwater is a precious resource, and with every new ADU we build, we encourage our clients to use as many water-saving features as possible. Some of the great water-saving options to consider include:
Low-flow faucet aerators and toilets
Energy Star-rated appliances (especially washers)
Tankless water heaters
Rainwater collection systems to maintain gardens and landscapes
Rain gardens instead of pipes to filter and utilize runoff
Besides these options, new water-saving home systems are becoming available almost every day. Another we like is a shower system that pauses your shower once the water is at your ideal temperature, so water stops pointlessly flowing down the drain until you step in. During your ADU planning phase, our design team will talk to you about all the potential water-conservation options we can incorporate into your plan.
3. Harnessing Solar Power
Photo Courtesy of Accessory Dwellings
If you’re building a new ADU in any of these Northern California cities, you have an incredible opportunity to incorporate clean, low-cost solar power into your new build from the start—something harder to do in remodels of older homes. If you decide to use solar power, you’ll want to take your home’s design and geographical placement into account in order to maximize energy collection. In fact, if you generate extra energy, you can even sell it back to the utility company for some extra cash. There are also tax breaks and incentives available to homeowners who add solar power. So, not only can you feel good about using the sun to power your ADU, you can earn some money with it as well.
4. Greening Your Roof
What your roof is made out of can make an enormous impact on how energy efficient and green your ADU turns out to be. Some roofing materials reflect the sun’s heat away from the roof, keeping the home naturally cooler to reduce energy costs. Although roofing materials like metal, terra cotta, white tiles, slate, and green roofing membranes usually cost more up front, they can reduce your long-term energy costs, and last a long time as well.
5. Tuning Up Windows and Doors
A lot of heating and cooling energy can be lost to inefficient windows and doors, but newer Energy Star windows and doors are really improving the situation. The newer models that we can install in your ADU not only keep ambient temperatures pleasant with less drag on your energy bills and the environment, they also cut sound transfer to keep it nice and quiet.
6. Introducing the Smart ADU
Programmable thermostats and other energy-saving technology is becoming more and more common and less expensive to install, particularly in new ADUs. Using a programmable thermostat enables you to adjust cooling and heating depending on times of day, vacations, times when everyone is out, etc. In addition to lowering your energy use for the environment, these systems boost your HVAC system’s efficiency, so it lasts longer and costs less to maintain.
And smart isn't just about thermostats. Smart lighting with LEDs, smart kitchen appliances and smart bathroom systems can keep those energy savings going in even more ways!
Build a Green ADU in Northern California
In addition to getting all the advantages of an ADU for your family’s needs while making a dent in California’s long-running housing crisis, your new ADU can get pretty close to carbon neutral, making it healthier for you, your family and our environment.