Green Home Building Power
Created as an educational learning tool, here Scott Simpson Design + Build explores the impact that green building offers – and the calculations that make it as efficient as possible.
When we had the opportunity to build a home in Wilmette, Illinois we really wanted to do something that was going to be environmentally-friendly, was not going to contribute to landfills and was going to help conserve energy – not just for ourselves but for others.
We’re trying to make this house as green as we possibly can. We use science and math to evaluate how efficient these green techniques are going to be in the future. One of the first calculations we made was for rainwater harvesting tank to irrigate the property by recycling the rainwater that lands on the roof. So we figured out how many gallons of rain would land on the property during a one-inch rain event and then we figured out how big a tank we would need to actually use that harvested water to irrigate the property during the growing season. We also calculated how many kilowatts of energy we can actually make from the photovoltaic cells we have on the roof – based on the need for the house during certain parts of the day.
It is key to have an architect who can understand what you need to do to build a green home as there’s a lot that goes into it and it’s a little bit different than building a traditional home. We include everything from solar panels that will heat the house through the floors to using as much recycled content as we can. We bought a bunch of lumber that was dismantled from a Thomas Edison factory in New London, Wisconsin and used it to build the maple flooring and the front porch. There was a Catholic convent down the street that was being turned into condos and we were able to reclaim that tile and install it here. The trees that we cut down in the backyard were used for the window sills. We even dismantled some giant pickle barrels for the exterior siding. For a playroom and gym below the garage we were actually able to go to an old school gymnasium and take up a basketball court – so instead of throwing it in the garbage we’re going to use it for another sixty or seventy years. It’s just another way of using recycled materials. When we tear down a house we work with contractors who can recycle ninety-seven percent of the materials. They crush demolished concrete, recycle it and bring it back to another local job to recycle the product and use less fuel in transport – all of which minimizes our impact on the environment.
In the long run building this house in this way will save money. It’s going to take some time to see results but it’ll be worth the investment. Just to know that the hot water coming out of the shower was heated by the sun makes taking that shower even all the more fun because we know that we’re not using energy other than from what’s naturally there, from our Earth.