Sunday, February 1, 2009

Define Your Shade – Site Layout

The way a house sits on the lot with landscaping and concrete work can greatly impact the way it utilizes resources, energy and water. Proper placement can decrease the HVAC load, reduce impact on the surrounding environment and change the usage of onsite resources.

Placement depends on your specific location, but some general rules will help. Ensuring window locations minimize exposure to the sun during summer months will greatly reduce the cooling loads in the home. In communities, this can be very difficult as lot location is based on the overall plat map. Beginning in the planning stages allows the development design to match green requirements as much as possible. Within some communities, it is nearly impossible to ensure all lots meet this criteria, however, most neighborhoods can be designed so that 80-90% of the homes minimize solar heat gain through window placement.

Vegetation, trees and landscaping can also affect the eco-friendly traits of the property. Trees can shade windows, giving the same affect as placing the house on the lot to minimize solar heat gain from the windows. Planting shrubs and bushes that require little watering and suited for your particular climate help reduce the amount of water, beyond rain, that is needed to maintain landscaping.

Other features that assist with site impact are rain collectors, permeable surfaces and low water turf. Rain collection can be difficult, however several products were featured at the International Builder Show in Las Vegas that will assist in collecting and utilizing run-off water onsite. Minimizing concrete and hard surfaces assists with rain absorption and reduces heat gain from the suns rays on concrete. Low water turf, indigenous to your region, keeps water needs low, matching regional climates.

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