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Engineering a green home - RREADesigning and building an energy-efficient home is no easy task. However, thanks to advances in engineering in the past decade, engineers know more about designing a green home than they ever did before. Here are a few common areas in home building that can be done in an energy efficient way.

1. Wood Framing – Wood uses far less energy to produce compared to steel and concrete. In addition, using 2×2 wood elements on certain sections such as beams, headers, and posts reduces the wood required for a project. With the use of special software, homes can be designed in such a way that they still meet all the requirements while using fewer materials.

2. Air Flow – When air ducts are installed, covering exterior sections with air retarding wrap can dramatically reduce air leaks. In addition, air ducts can be designed in such a way to minimize duct bends and turns to help air flow easily.

3. Electricity – Lighting plans and power distribution systems can be designed to minimize energy consumption. Occupancy censors make sure that lights are on only when someone is in a room. Effective window placement is another easy way to reduce the need for electric lighting during the daytime. And of course, energy-efficient bulbs and appliances are a necessity.

4. Water – Incorporating certain water conservation techniques into a home’s plumbing can effectively reduce the amount of water needed. Low-flow plumbing fixtures use less water, but still provide you with the amount that you need. A hot water recirculation pump can pump water from your water heater to provide hot water instantly anywhere in the house, but it also includes a timer so that it’s only on when you need it to be. Insulated hot water distribution systems keep water from losing too much heat as it pumps through your house.

5. Insulation – The most energy-efficient insulation is loose-fill insulation, which can be sprayed into spaces such as walls, attics, and hard-to-reach places. About half of an average energy bill goes toward heating and cooling, so using energy-efficient insulation can reduce utility costs.

6. Roofing – Since a roof is the part of the home that gets hit with the most sun, it’s best to use the sun’s heat and light to your advantage. A light-colored roof with solar panels will reflect sunlight and turn some of it into energy that can be used in your home. Alternatively, you could have a “green roof” covered by a layer of soil and vegetation. These types of roofs will be more beneficial to the environment and keep your home from heating up too much.

Dawn Lovett has worked in engineering for over 20 years with a focus on sustainable engineering projects. She also owns the site Online Engineering Degrees for students interested in getting an online degree in engineering.

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