For Homeowners:

Increase Sustainability in Residential Remodels and ADUs
Renovating your home? Building an ADU? Interested in taking steps to reduce climate change and reducing energy costs? When designing new homes, architects have a wide range of tools that can reduce energy costs and address the climate crisis, from comprehensive–situating a house to best channel natural breezes–to the more mundane–such as choosing windows that reduce heat loss.

Here are twelve different options, ranging from simple appliance changes to more comprehensive steps taken during design and construction phases, for homeowners who want to examine their own energy usage and/or influence the climate crisis individually.

Analyze your starting point and set priorities for your project

Get a Professional Energy Audit of Your Home: Before initiating any remodeling or renovation, obtain a professional energy audit to pinpoint specific areas for improvement, ensuring a tailored approach to enhance overall energy efficiency and sustainability. This is often a great first step.

Use our commitment to these issues, talk to an architect; in 2021, AIA California declared climate action a core value. Many architects are experienced in helping analyze your home, looking at an energy audit, and working with homeowners and occupants through conversations to assess their current and future needs. From there they can offer different options to address the home’s current sustainability lapses and future needs. 

Reduce Embodied Carbon with Sustainable Materials

Most of us know about “operational carbon,” greenhouse gas emissions from cars and gas-heated homes that use fossil fuels.  Embodied carbon refers to the greenhouse gas emissions arising from the manufacture, transportation, installation, maintenance, and disposal of building materials. 

It’s part of the reason that buildings contribute as much as 40% of global greenhouse gas emissions.  Prioritize materials with lower embodied carbon, such as wood, over conventional materials like concrete and steel. 

Swap Out Your Furnace for a Heat Pump System

Consider replacing your traditional furnace with a heat pump system, which can provide both heating and cooling efficiently. Heat pumps are known for their energy efficiency and environmentally friendly operation, making them a sustainable choice for home comfort.

Insulation Upgrade

Enhance insulation in walls, ceilings, and floors to improve your home’s thermal efficiency. This provides better temperature control and reduces the need for excessive heating or cooling. 

Green Building Materials

Incorporate environmentally friendly and sustainable building materials in your remodeling projects, such as FSC-certified framing and finish wood products, and other reclaimed and rapidly renewable materials. One insider tip is that many quality building finishes, such as tile and countertops, can be purchased at a discount from suppliers who are trying to get rid of inventory of discontinued products as well from the building salvage yards who resell reclaimed building products.

Windows and Doors

Invest in energy-efficient windows and doors featuring double-pane glass and effective weatherstripping to minimize heat loss or gain, promoting optimal indoor comfort while reducing energy consumption.

Energy-Efficient Appliances

Choose ENERGY STAR-rated products for the kitchen and laundry room to significantly reduce energy consumption, contributing to lower utility bills and a smaller environmental footprint. For instance, ENERGY STAR-certified clothes washers use 10-50% less energy and up to 50% less water than standard models and even more savings when compared to older appliances.

LED Lighting

Upgrade to energy-efficient LED bulbs throughout your home. They offer a longer lifespan and lower energy usage compared to traditional incandescent bulbs, supporting both cost savings and environmental benefits.

Solar Panels

Harness clean and renewable energy by installing current-generation solar panels on your roof, decreasing reliance on conventional energy sources, and lowering your electricity bills over the long term.

Rainwater and Graywater Harvesting

Collect rainwater from roofs and outdoor hardscape areas and capture used household water from showers, sinks, and laundry. This can be used for landscape irrigation as-well-as flushing toilets and can significantly reduce freshwater demand as well as wastewater generation.

Smart Thermostats

Opt for a smart thermostat that allows remote control and automated temperature adjustments based on preferences and occupancy, optimizing energy usage for heating and cooling systems.

Vacancy Sensors

Install occupancy or vacancy sensors for lighting and ventilation systems to automatically adjust usage when rooms are unoccupied, promoting energy savings and efficient resource utilization.

About AIA California
American Institute of Architects California (AIA California) is committed to harnessing the transformative power of architecture and design to address the greatest economic, environmental, and social challenges of our time. We represent more than 11,000 architects and design professionals who join together to design a better world.

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