Clearly, significant reductions in carbon footprint can be achieved by replacing high-carbon materials like foam and mineral wool with sequestering materials like hemp and straw. These materials also reward the use of more insulation; adding more thermal performance using sequestering materials further reduces the embodied carbon footprint of the building while reducing the operational carbon footprint.
For most homeowners and builders, this category is a central component of a greener home, and for good reasons. The environmental impacts of inefficient homes burning vast quantities of fossil fuels have been a key driver in global climate change, while rising fuel prices make efficiency an important aspect of an economically sustainable home. This aspect of green building has received plenty of study and practical implementation, and in recent years the advent of accurate energy-modeling software has made it relatively easy to achieve a desired energy efficiency outcome.
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With all of the fanfare attached to energy efficiency, it can be easy for a homeowner to get lost in all the programs, acronyms, and competing claims. Almost all energy efficiency programs are based on achieving certain annual energy usage targets, and for a homeowner the key is to define targets that align most accurately with your goals.
Building codes in North America enforce minimum energy efficiency targets, and these targets are the “baseline” by which other programs rate their own efficiency measures (for example “25% better than code”). In the next home design, a range of different energy efficiency rating systems are explored, each with a distinct place on the performance spectrum.
Important questions to ask include:
What is the overall efficiency target?
What is the minimum efficiency standard required by the local building code?
Do you have a specific target for surpassing the minimum requirements?
Is there a rating system that aligns with this specific target that will help to ensure the goal is achieved?