What Makes a Home Sustainable?

published Feb 16, 2018
2 min read

Once upon a time, every home built was sustainable. That’s because people didn’t have tractor-trailers or electricity or human-made materials. Instead, they built their homes from the resources around them, into the land they had. They constructed huts out of clay, or dug into hillsides, or chopped down local trees.

Nowadays, homes are constructed with pieces delivered from around the country – or even from around the world. Obviously, this process isn’t as sustainable as the builds of decades past, but we are doing things to change that now and for generations to come. In the modern era, here’s what it means for a home to be sustainable:

1. It’s Tech Savvy

Thanks to modern advances in technology, you can get your home to do a lot of the work for you when it comes to sustainability. Much of this will come from programmable thermostats, designed to ensure you’re only using the heating and cooling that you need in the rooms you’re using.

You can tell your thermostat to take a break while you’re out of the house for the day or have it pump out less air while you sleep. All of these routine stoppages add up to a sizeable reduction in your home’s energy use, thus making it much more sustainable.

Tech-savvy updates don’t start and end with your thermostat, though. You can also outfit your home with Energy-star appliances, solar panels and even newly engineered windows designed to keep outside temperatures, outside.  

2. It’s Built to Last

A sustainable home isn’t one that’s going to fall into disrepair in the next couple of decades; instead, it’s one that’s built to last — and these types of high-quality materials often come with added energy-efficient benefits.

Take, for example, a home built with a bonded insulation. This means that the insulation is adhered directly to the home’s concrete foundation, thus keeping notoriously cool spaces like the basement warmer than before. It also reduces the number of resources needed to build your home, which is a much more sustainable outcome, too.  

3. It’s Efficient

With the above two stipulations, it’s clear that a sustainable home must be an efficient one. This means more than just energy-efficient, though: your house should be built according to the local climate so that it’s equipped to withstand whatever weather and temperatures come your way. That way, you won’t need to use as many resources in the future to repair or reconstruct parts of your home that weren’t up to the challenge of your local forecasts.

So, be sure that any home on your radar has new, thicker windows, weather stripping and thick insulation to keep drafts outside. And make sure the materials used are up to the challenge: a stucco house, for example, would be best placed in a drier climate, as the material has a hard time withstanding moisture.

4. It’s Well-Located

Sustainable living is about more than just the materials used to build your home; it has to do with how you’ll use the space. That’s where a home’s location comes into play.

Think about it: where do you work? Where do you hang out? Where do your kids go to school? If your home is far away from all of the action, you’ll be spending lots of time on the road — and wasting lots of fuel in the process. This type of expenditure proves that, while you may love your home, it’s not a sustainable element of your life because it requires you to waste resources in other areas.

You can rectify the situation, of course, by selecting a property closer to all of your family’s activities, or by grabbing public transit as often as possible instead of driving. Or, you could continue investing in green technologies by choosing a green car that’ll reduce your need for gas, thus making your home a little more sustainable — and making your life much less fuel-dependent.  

5. It’s the Right Size

Another common theme amongst today’s homebuyers is the desire for more space. But a home that’s extra-large doesn’t suit the model of sustainability because it’s likely more square footage — and, therefore, higher energy costs and more construction resources — than you would ever need.

So, scrutinize the blueprint of what you think could be the sustainable home of your dreams. If every inch of square footage has a purpose — and a really useful purpose, at that — then you’re on the way to building a home that’s sustainable for your family. Avoid any excess rooms or extra-large spaces in your design.

6. Give It Your Greenest Shot

Not every property on the market will be a sustainable option for you, whether it’s an old build or brand-new construction. It’s up to you to decipher if it’s a salvageable project, or if there’s a better, more efficient home out there. In the end, your efforts will pay off: future generations will undoubtedly benefit from your effort in making the best use of the world’s finite amount of resources.