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Ann Architect, Renovation Design GroupAnnie Architect, Renovation Design Group

Renovation Solutions is weekly column on architectural home design by Ann Robinson and Annie Schwemmer, Principal Architects of Renovation Design Group, a Utah architectural firm focusing on home renovation design.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Green Design & Building: Remodeling offers plenty of ways to go green

By Ann Robinson and Annie Vernon

Global warming, green building, energy efficient. These buzzwords have people thinking green. And the green-building movement, which has picked up speed over the past 10 years, is at your doorstep in the form of your next remodeling project.

Actually, your first "green" decision was to remodel instead of tear down and rebuild. Remodeling is inherently green in that it preserves what is good about your home while upgrading only specific areas.

People are remodeling greener than ever, but some still have some misconceptions about going green. A lot of clients are concerned about energy-efficient products affecting the aesthetics of the home, or green products being more expensive and difficult to find.

The Utah House in Kaysville shows how a home can use green technology.

But your home doesn't need to look different than a conventional home just because it's "green." Even if you use solar-powered photovoltaics, the new panel designs are sleeker and more attractive than the clunky solar panels of 20 years ago.

It is true some green products cost more than others, but not all. Before you compare price tags, think about what the energy-efficient product will save in the future. It makes sense to go with a more-expensive, high-quality product if it will pay for itself over time in energy savings.

Overall, green products are becoming increasingly affordable as major manufacturers develop new lines to meet the green-building demand. You can find Energy Star-rated products from major manufacturers. Energy Star is a government-backed program that helps people protect the environment by using superior energy-efficient products and building techniques. Energy Star-rated products meet strict energy-efficiency guidelines set by the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Energy.

According to, results are already adding up: "Americans, with the help of Energy Star, saved enough energy in 2006 alone to avoid greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those from 25 million cars — all while saving $14 billion on their utility bills."

But green building is more than energy-efficient products. If you want your remodel to be as energy efficient as possible, you need to look at the whole room and eventually use a whole-house approach.

Here is a list of simple things you can do to make your remodeling project greener:

  • Install maximum insulation
  • Install high-efficiency windows
  • Seal all exterior penetrations in the area being remodeled
  • Purchase only Energy Star-rated appliances
  • Install low-flow water fixtures
  • Upgrade to an Energy Star-rated water heater, or better yet, a tankless water heater
  • Purchase the highest-efficiency heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) system you can afford

No matter if you choose to include just a few energy-efficient appliances or to go with the completely green renovation, every little green effort helps. Just think, you could change the world — one room at a time. As always, we welcome your home architect design questions at

© 2007 Renovation Design Group. All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of Renovation Design Group.

If you are considering a remodel project, please Request a Free Consultation with Ann or Annie.

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