For a high performance home, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts

For a high performance home, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts

Story and photo by Steve Arel.

When it comes to constructing high-performance homes, everything truly affects everything. That concept is one of the key themes of the new Proud Green Home in Serenbe and an approach that can and should guide how sustainable structures are designed.

Think of home design in terms of the human body, with the body being a larger system made up of smaller systems all working together for movement and functionality.

Because of the way in which even the tiniest of materials or equipment can impact a project as a whole, identifying and understanding those links are pivotal to ensuring a home performs at its peak and provides its occupants superior comfort.

Still, the science of building extends beyond the obvious influences. Designers must consider other, often unpredictable effects, too, like wind and natural disasters.

“You have to consider every component,” said Chris Laumer-Giddens, co-architect of the Proud Green Home. “It’s like working with dominos. One slight change can have a ripple effect throughout the home.”

Take, for example, finishes used in paint for the walls and on flooring. Depending on the amount of products used and the levels of organic chemicals in the finishes, those compounds could lead to the designer considering a larger heating, air and ventilation system.

Watch builder Luis Imery explain building strategies to improve indoor air quality.

As a result, larger ductwork might be needed to adequately filter treated air throughout the home. But to make room for the larger ductwork, beams might have to be raised, which in turn could increase the overall height of the home.

“Who would’ve thought a paint product can change the height of the building?” Laumer-Giddens asked. “You have to understand that the paint is acting as a system that will affect all other systems in the house.”

Developers telling the story of the Proud Green Home hung artwork on the walls during its open house in mid-August to highlight certain themes related to the project. The canvas depicting how everything affects everything featured a series of different-colored arrows looping each other, with no definitive beginning or end.

Planners can – and do – spend countless hours mulling potential impacts.

“When do you stop?” asked Laumer-Giddens. “When you have the right balance.”

The process is never-ending and different for most every project because of the unique variables associated with each – the budget, the homeowners and the location.

Tom Reed, Chattahoochee Hills mayor and Serenbe resident, uses an iPad to learn about the different aspects of the Proud Green Home during its open house.

“You can be a designer or architect who either doesn’t care or doesn’t consider that whole concept and never-ending loop and be successful,” said Jodi Laumer-Giddens, co-architect of the Proud Green Home. “But they’re not taking into account what it’s providing or not providing the homeowner in terms of longevity. You can skip those considerations, but it has consequences.”

Read more about the Proud Green Home at Serenbe.

Topics: Building Green, Indoor Air Quality, Paint | Low VOC and No VOC, Proud Green Home at Serenbe, Sustainability Trends & Statistics, Ventilation

Companies:, Southface Energy Institute, Serenbe Sustainable Community, LG Squared, Inc.

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