Each topic below is a live link

Initial Considerations:
As you consider using a Design Charrette for your project you may be wondering how to start. Your initial considerations will need to include things such as who to include in your design team, what your budget for the project will be and how it will be financed, the type of materials you want included in your project, and where those materials should come from.
Assembling the Design Team seems obvious at first but may prove challenging as your project requirements evolve. What resources should you use to locate a suitable architect for your residential project or how do you find a competent facilitator for your design charrette sessions? What if your goal is to build a certified green or ENERGY STAR* home that qualifies for government energy tax incentives and/or utility rebates? Who should you have on your team to get the best start possible for your project?
The Green Building Decision Kit (GDBKit) provides a list of potential team members and questions for you to consider as you build your team. There are suggestions about organizational affiliations that could provide additional information as well.
[PICTURE OF A TEAM]

Developing a Budget often proves vexing for many a project because of all the variables that can be involved, including interest rates, lender requirements, latest building and energy codes, zoning rules, and more. Many of these variables are addressed in the GBDKit Guidebook and companion Workbook to help refine your budget.
[PIECE OF PAPER WITH DOLLAR SIGNS]
Designing a Building to be Durable: Media headlines are filled with stories about wildfires, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and other disasters. Designing a building to be durable also means making the building resilient to extreme events. Ways to do this are covered in the GBDKit.
Deconstruction of Buildings: Some building materials create environmental hazards or will take thousands of years to degrade. Many architects, engineers, and designers are focusing on building materials that create minimal pollution and can be either reused, recycled, or will decompose over time. Natural materials such as stone or wood can be substituted for energy-intensive products like steel or concrete.
[DISASTER PICTURE WITH DESTROYED HOME - BOTH ABOVE PARAGRAPHS COULD BE NEXT TO IT]
Local Sourcing of Building Materials and Components: Shipping materials over long distances is very energy intensive. Inlaid marble tile that comes from a foreign source can often be substituted with marble produced domestically or even replaced by wood floors or ceramic tiles. The closer a product is to your building site the less energy it takes to transport it. Very often a local cabinet maker produces a product that is similar to or even better than cabinets from a distant factory.
Financing Options and Programs: Many people have never heard of an energy mortgage and yet they have been available for decades. There are many benefits that an energy mortgage provides over a conventional or federal mortgage. In fact, secondary mortgage markets like FHA/HUD, VA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac have their own version of energy mortgages. To learn more about specific energy mortgage programs you can open your browser and type a question like: “FHA energy mortgage” and you will get details. There are other financing programs available for financing energy and green upgrades including Property Assessed Clean Energy or PACE programs. Additional details about these programs and more are included in the GBDKit Guidebook and Workbook.
[BANK OR LENDER SHAKING HANDS WITH HAPPY COUPLE]
Your project is unique to you, and the GBDKit is designed to help you with all your project considerations with a focus on your specific project. This is why it is important to work through the entire kit and develop answers to the multitude of questions and decisions that help achieve the desired outcome for your project.
*ENERGY STAR Homes Program: Some residential energy tax credits and rebates require certification in specific programs in order to receive the money or other incentives. Depending on your location there may be incentives available to build a certified green home. More information about these programs can be found inside the GBDKit.

Choosing the Building Site:
The location of a building can affect its energy bills, comfort, and even long-term durability. For example, locating a building at the top of a hill might give you pretty views but will expose the building to stronger winds than locating the building at a lower elevation. A building site among tall trees may be a tranquil location but likely will prevent you from installing a solar energy system. Building next to a stream may be relaxing but can also be flooded easily. Lot vs. Acreage vs. Infill: There are many choices available to locate a new residence and each one has pros and cons:
A lot in a subdivision can have amenities like a sidewalk or a nearby park or grocery store. But a lot comes with neighbors who live close, dogs who bark, and other potential nuisances.
An acreage can be very appealing since it offers space, the ability to grow crops and animals, and a certain feeling of independence. An acreage also be located far away from grocery stores, hospitals, schools, restaurants, entertainment, and other things that people like to do to get away from home. Homes on acreages can also be without power for long periods, have poor Internet connectivity, and other negatives. On the plus side, acreages can offer great locations for solar systems, wind machines, and other bonuses.
Infill locations can be places where other homes used to exist or where items like ponds are filled with rock and dirt and become available as a building site. An infill location is not necessarily a bad location, but the term ‘infill’ can have a negative connotation to it. Most green programs give extra points or credits for building on an infill location.
When determining a location for a new home or small commercial building the closeness or proximity to services can be important. Older people like to be near a hospital whereas younger people seek locations near bars, theaters, or similar entertainment venues. The location of the nearest bus stop can be important and being within the boundaries of a desired school can be very important to young parents. There are other site considerations as well, such as proximity to services, zoning restrictions, natural features, solar access, and site preparation. As any Real Estate agent will tell you, what is on the site can always be changed, but the location is permanent. Make sure you have taken all the considerations into account by working your way through the Green Building Decision Kit.
[PHOTOS OF VARIOUS BUILDING SITES]

.

Evaluating Plans:
A comprehensive set of plans is invaluable for contractors because the plans give them the information they need to construct what the client wants. Without documenting what you want and expect, you don’t know or control what you are going to get. Clarifying requirements about what you want focuses the entire team on your goals.
Whether you plan to use a purchased set of plans, a plan provided by your builder, or develop your own set of plans, there are some plan basics you need to consider when evaluating your specific project plans. These include items such as the building “footprint”, floorplan, exterior wall construction, materials optimization, and fit with your personal goals and likes.
[AMY REVIEWING SET OF PLANS]
As a general rule-of-thumb larger buildings will have bigger energy bills. This rule can be negated by adding sufficient insulation, installing efficient windows and doors, and specifying efficient space heating, cooling, and water heating equipment. However, small homes do tend to have lower energy bills than large ones.
The idea of making a home smaller yet fully functional is not new. The book ‘The Not so Big House’, written by Sarah Susanka, was first published in 2002 and contained detailed information plus guidelines about building a smaller home. Ms. Susanka’s basic message is that quality should always come before quantity. People tend to want homes that are larger than what they need and so they pay to condition rooms that they rarely or never use.
[PHOTO OF SARAH SUSANKA’S BOOKS – MAYBE LINKING TO AN AFFILIATE PURCHASE PAGE ON AMAZON?]
Some floorplan designs look good on paper but are impractical once the building is built and lived in. Placing the garage next to the kitchen makes bringing in groceries much easier. Buffer areas are spaces that are placed between the conditioned living area and the outside environment. Some examples of buffer areas are closets, mud rooms, and garages. Room use is making sure that the placement of rooms complements the intended use of the rooms. An example would be placing the dining room a distance from the kitchen creates unnecessary steps to serve meals.
Placing better insulation in the walls will result in lower energy bills and increased comfort. Installing more efficient windows during construction is much easier than retrofitting them. Adding extra insulation in the attic during construction is much more cost-effective than adding it later since a large portion of the cost is labor, which is already there during construction.
There are so many things to consider when reviewing or developing a set of plans! Make sure that you are taking everything needed for your project into account by using the Green Building Decision Kit.

Advanced Features Planning:
Advanced features planning involves taking the sun into account to incorporate free winter heating energy provided through passive solar features. There are many software programs available that determine the sun angles for your geographic location so that the building allows the winter sun to come deep into the structure while blocking the summer sun through proper shading. Taking advantage of all the efficiency and solar features that can be designed into a residence is called ‘Intelligent Design’. The strategic placement of windows provides a well-lit home during the day without needing lights. The level of lighting can be controlled by smart technology using home automation.
The advent of wireless technologies makes the addition of smart products easy, and a home or business can have a comfortable and inviting environment. If it is important to you, you may also want to take advantage of the principles of Feng Shui. The GBD Kit can lead you though all these advanced features planning topics.

Excavation/Foundation:
It is a common practice to prepare a building site by clearing the entire area of trees and heritage plants. With just a little advance planning trees and native plants can potentially be saved while still allowing enough space to build the desired structure. Many jurisdictions do not allow excavated soil to flow into drains, ditches, ponds, streams, or tributaries and will levy fines for violations.
The geographic location of the building site will dictate the type of foundation(s) allowable. Some regions are suitable for basements while others will prohibit them. There are alternatives to basements that include crawlspaces and slab-on-grade foundations. In fact, there are new alternative foundations available, and all of these possibilities are discussed in the GBDKit.

Structural Building Materials:
There are numerous building materials that can be used for residential and small business buildings including some proven alternatives. In earlier years homes and business buildings were built using balloon framing but in recent years platform framing has become the norm. There are advanced building materials and techniques that work as well or better than using wood (Aka: Stick built) for framing and these are covered in the kit.
Other materials that are used for rough-in construction are flashing and trim plus caulks and other compounds. Detailed lists of structural materials, techniques, and alternatives are covered in the GBDKit.

Exterior Building Components:
Included in the framing stage of construction are products that penetrate or attach to the walls. These products include windows, doors, awnings, and more. The type of windows and exterior doors that you choose can have a significant effect on ongoing energy bills, comfort, and durability.
Windows are more than just glass with framing and doors can help or detract from the homes overall energy efficiency. Gain a better understanding of the different types of windows and doors you can select by utilizing the GBDKit.

Roofing:
To most people a roof is just a roof. Something to cover their heads and keep their living spaces dry. The reality is that a roof is a composite of different materials. Here is a listing of the components involved in roofs that are covered in the GBDKit:
• Trusses and Framing
• Types of Roof Designs
• Substrates, Decking, Laminates
• Drainage, Gutters, Flashing and Water-Proofing Products
• Membranes
• Exterior Roofing products
• Roof Venting Choices
• Rainwater Catchment Systems
Determine what roof system will work the best for your design by using the Guidebook and Workbook included in the GBDKit.

Electrical:
It is important to select an electrical contractor who understands your requirements. Electric smart meters are rapidly replacing the old mechanical ones, which allows electric utilities to introduce new residential rate structures. The traditional flat or block rate plan that most homeowners have become accustomed to are becoming time-of-day or demand-and-energy rate structures. Preparing for the new residential electric rates is essential if you want to keep your ongoing electrical bills as low as possible.
How the wiring is run to the breaker box/circuit panel will determine the degree of control you will have over your primary electrical loads. Also, if you are planning on adding a solar electric system, otherwise known as a photovoltaic solar system, the planning for the addition of the power that comes from the solar system will make the installation of the system easier. Preparing for the new electric rates is covered in the GBDKit.

Plumbing:
The availability of water has become a major topic in the media lately. There are ways to conserve water plus products and technologies to increase your water supply. For instance, you can make the water you use go further by installing a gray water system that uses the water from showers, bathtubs, and sinks to irrigate your lawn and/or garden. Every product you install that uses water will have efficient versions available. Depending on your water supply it may be important to include filters and water purification systems for your drinking and cooking water.
Water is also getting more expensive for a number of reasons, which is why reducing the amount of water you require can become a money-saving opportunity. Why pay bigger bills if you don’t have to? Answers reside within the GBDKit.
(Cisterns)

Water Heating and Use:
The joy of having hot water can be tempered by the cost of heating it. Fortunately, there are options available to help keep the cost down. The energy source you use to heat your water is an important component, as well as the efficiency of the water heater. There are new products being introduced all the time that can offset the rising cost of conventional energy sources. Plus, there are rebates and energy tax incentives available that help reduce the cost of the more energy efficient models.
The GBDKit can help you determine the best type of water heating system for your needs, plus explain the reasons to move to a more efficient version. If you are interested in lowering your water heating cost and usage, we encourage you to get a GBDKit.

Heating and Cooling:
The federal government is offering incentives to encourage a rapid adoption of heat pumps for all major appliances, including clothes dryers, water heaters, and space heating and cooling systems. The GBDKit can assist you in researching the options available to you. Choosing the right contractor to perform you installation is very important because there are some contractors who have a bias toward one type of primary energy or may discourage the installation of heat pumps. You should determine what will work best for your needs and make sure that your priorities are clear to your contractors. Going through the design charrette process while using the GBDKit will help you document what products and technologies will work best for you.
There are other options you can consider such as should you add zones to your HVAC system for additional control and what are the best locations for your registers. If you are opting for electric radiant heating or a mini-split heat pump system, then running ductwork throughout your home is not a requirement. The factors involved in determining the best HVAC system for you are listed in the GBDKit.

Ventilation:
As new homes get built tighter and existing homes get energy retrofits, upgrading to mechanical ventilation becomes necessary to keep the interior environment healthy. Older homes can also benefit from mechanical ventilation if they have problems like mold, nasty crawlspaces, and other unhealthy conditions. There are two types of balanced mechanical ventilation: Heat Recovery Ventilators (HRVs) and Energy Recovery Ventilators (ERVs). Depending on the climate zone that your residence or small commercial building is located in will help determine which type of ventilation would work best.
Research has shown that stoves that use gas can emit harmful levels of CO (Carbon Monoxide), CO2 (Carbon Monoxide), and other pollutants created through the combustion process. HRVs and ERVs can dilute the effects from the gas.

Insulation:
Insulation is an important component that makes a building comfortable and energy efficient. The types of insulation available today are more than fiberglass, cellulose, rockwool, and older types like vermiculite and perlite. Newer types of insulation include cotton and denim recycled from used jeans, several versions of foam insulation, plus hemp and others. It is now possible to seal and insulate a residential or small business building to achieve a high level of comfort. Insulating and sealing a structure is one of the lower cost methods to maximize energy savings and save money. Insulation can last the lifetime of a building so it can really pay benefits to insulate correctly.

Interior Building Materials:
The materials used for the interior of a building can greatly influence the indoor air quality or IAQ and many traditional materials now have environmentally friendly versions. For example, the standard wood stud can be replaced with engineered wood and wood support beams can be replaced with laminated versions that can actually be stronger. There are specialized panels for use in humid areas, such as bathrooms and kitchens, and there are non-toxic types of paint, glues, sealants, stains, and caulk that are safer to use than oil or petroleum-based versions.

[Why do this one and the following ones have EXAMPLE stamped across them?]
Flooring:
Some types of flooring like carpet and linoleum can emit significant amounts of VOCs – Volatile Organic Compounds – and can include formaldehyde and perfluorinated compounds plus forever chemicals like PFAS. Even the underlayment product can emit hazardous vapors. Careful research into the carpet and underlayment products you are interested in is a very good idea. Regarding underlayments, there are quite a few to choose from: solid wood planking, plywood, oriented strand board (OSB), concrete impregnated wood, and poured or prestressed concrete.

If you decide to not use carpet for your floors then there are many products available: solid wood flooring, laminates, bamboo, ceramic tile, quarry tile, stone tile, colored concrete, linoleum, cork, and natural woven fibers, just to name a few. The GBDKit can help you understand and answer these flooring decisions.

Indoor Air Quality / Health:
Good indoor air quality (IAQ) helps minimize or avoid problems like asthma, emphysema, and other respiratory diseases. Under the topic of IAQ is information about water-based painting and sealing products plus details regarding best choices of building materials, countertops, whole house vacuum systems, and more.

Lighting:
This topic covers general types of lighting, lighting specifications, types of light bulbs, lighting technologies for the interior and exterior of a building, fixtures, controls, and accessories. Homing in on the types of lighting that work best for your applications is worth a little time to explore and the GBDKit leads the way.

Appliances:
Choosing the right appliance(s) that fit your needs is important since so many versions are available. There are lighting products and fixtures that work well for kitchens but are not really applicable for living rooms or offices. Some appliances use considerable amounts of energy, such as stoves, ovens, and clothes dryers. Other appliances can use more water than necessary like dishwashers, clothes washers, and lawn or garden watering systems.
Just because an appliance or product is turned off does not always mean it’s not using energy. Any item that has a remote or a charger consumes power even when it is ‘off’. Checking to see how much power is needed to have the item to start by remote or how much power is used when the charger is plugged in, even when it is not connected to its device, is worth checking into. Even a small power drain can get expensive if it is continuously using power.
Under the topic of appliances within the GBDKit are other items including entertainment and office products and outdoor maintenance equipment.

Energy Alternatives:
The energy alternative that is growing exponentially across the globe is solar electric systems, specifically Photovoltaic or PV solar systems. There are other energy alternatives besides solar now available including: wind energy systems, solar thermal systems, fuel cells, hydro power, and more. These energy alternatives are discussed in the GBDKit Guidebook and Workbook, including diagrams and comparisons.
You can use the GBDKit wall/display page to stimulate discussion about these energy alternatives plus others to consider during your design charrette.

Landscaping:
To many people landscaping means determining where to plant flowers and trees, and possibly a garden. Landscaping can entail so much more including using native drought tolerant plants and Xeriscaping® or perhaps edible landscaping. Focusing on plants that attract bees and other pollinators is also a good idea. Efficient watering systems have become important as water availability has become an issue in many areas. Evergreen trees and shrubs can provide windbreaks for cold winter winds or hot summer breezes.
Thoughtful consideration as to the placement of the types of plants most beneficial to your project can pay dividends over time.

Driveways, Walks, Pathways:
Developed countries like the United States devote an enormous amount of space to highways, parking lots, and sideroads/driveways. Covering the ground with non-permeable pavement and asphalt causes rainwater runoff issues that cities and municipalities must deal with. The use of permeable pavement helps reduce the amount of runoff, especially when used in conjunction with rain gardens, drainage swales, water retention ponds, berms, and other runoff reduction strategies.
Heated driveways installed in cold climates can require substantial amounts of conventional energy to keep from freezing. This cost can be reduced or eliminated by heating using electricity from a solar electric system or circulating warm fluids heated by a solar thermal system. You can learn about these in the GBDKit.

Outbuildings:
Garages that are located inside or connected to conditioned living space can cause air quality problems associated with the toxic fumes emitted by internal combustion vehicle engines. Separating the garage from the home eliminates these pollutant issues. Other outbuildings that can be considered during the design process are workshops, guest quarters, battery storage buildings for solar electric systems, sheds and farm buildings such as barns or housing for livestock.
Every building has a roof area that might work well for the installation of a solar system. There are many other uses and options for outbuildings that are covered in the GBDKit Guidebook and Workbook. All of these options should be considered during the course of a design charrette.

Other Decisions:
The availability of rebates and tax incentives for installing solar systems, purchasing electric vehicles, and making your residential or small commercial building energy efficient should be evaluated in the design process. The ability to get a building certified under a green or energy efficient program should not be overlooked since certifications will require independent third-party inspections that will ensure your goals are being met and can make a building more valuable.
Other programs available that are often overlooked are innovative design awards and green tags for eliminating pollution. To help ensure that all of these programs are considered it is important to enlist the help of a certified home energy rater, aka ‘HERS rater’. A HERS rater can also help you get an energy mortgage that has extra benefits, including provisions that help cover the fee of the energy rating.

DYO GBDKit 24 Topic Pages Plus Intro Page for DCcom Website

Intro:
Design charrettes can produce extremely beneficial results if they are well organized and properly facilitated. They can also become a waste of time and resources if they are disorganized and allowed to devolve into a chaotic mess. So, how do you manage a design charrette so that it produces a positive and beneficial outcome?’
If you search for the term ‘design charrette’ you will get a variety of results and definitions that range from suggesting that a large group of people is required to using a smaller ‘integrated design team’ that consists of just a few professionals with diverse backgrounds and skills. The reality is that there are many definitions of design charrettes and how to implement them.
The challenge becomes that smaller projects, such as residential homes or small commercial buildings, can benefit just as much from properly run design charrettes as do large scale projects, but there is not a lot of help or guidance available for them. To have a successful design charrette for a small project, you need to have a system that covers the multiple considerations involved in a small project.
The key for organizing smaller project design charrettes is the DYO* Green Building Decision Kit. This kit covers 24 primary topics with several subtopics or units for each primary topic. You will find an overview of each primary topic with references to the subtopics/units within the DesignCharrette.com website.
We think that you will find that the DYO Green Building Decision Kit proves to be quite helpful in organizing and producing a successful design charrette for your residential or small commercial project**.

*DYO: Do Your Own
**Small commercial project: A small commercial project that can benefit from the DYO Green Building Decision Kit should have residential heating and cooling systems plus be constructed with building materials similar to what is used to build residential structures. Residential homes or small business buildings are perfect projects to manage using the DYO Green Building Decision Kit. The DYO Green Building Decision Kit does not cover commercial heating and cooling equipment such as rooftop units, boilers, and chillers or commercial building materials such as prestressed concrete or metal girder construction.

Initial Considerations:
As you consider using a Design Charrette for your project you may be wondering how to start. Your initial considerations will need to include things such as who to include in your design team, what your budget for the project will be and how it will be financed, the type of materials you want included in your project, and where those materials should come from.
Assembling the Design Team seems obvious at first but may prove challenging as your project requirements evolve. What resources should you use to locate a suitable architect for your residential project or how do you find a competent facilitator for your design charrette sessions? What if your goal is to build a certified green or ENERGY STAR* home that qualifies for government energy tax incentives and/or utility rebates? Who should you have on your team to get the best start possible for your project?
The Green Building Decision Kit (GDBKit) provides a list of potential team members and questions for you to consider as you build your team. There are suggestions about organizational affiliations that could provide additional information as well.
[PICTURE OF A TEAM]

Developing a Budget often proves vexing for many a project because of all the variables that can be involved, including interest rates, lender requirements, latest building and energy codes, zoning rules, and more. Many of these variables are addressed in the GBDKit Guidebook and companion Workbook to help refine your budget.
[PIECE OF PAPER WITH DOLLAR SIGNS]
Designing a Building to be Durable: Media headlines are filled with stories about wildfires, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and other disasters. Designing a building to be durable also means making the building resilient to extreme events. Ways to do this are covered in the GBDKit.
Deconstruction of Buildings: Some building materials create environmental hazards or will take thousands of years to degrade. Many architects, engineers, and designers are focusing on building materials that create minimal pollution and can be either reused, recycled, or will decompose over time. Natural materials such as stone or wood can be substituted for energy-intensive products like steel or concrete.
[DISASTER PICTURE WITH DESTROYED HOME - BOTH ABOVE PARAGRAPHS COULD BE NEXT TO IT]
Local Sourcing of Building Materials and Components: Shipping materials over long distances is very energy intensive. Inlaid marble tile that comes from a foreign source can often be substituted with marble produced domestically or even replaced by wood floors or ceramic tiles. The closer a product is to your building site the less energy it takes to transport it. Very often a local cabinet maker produces a product that is similar to or even better than cabinets from a distant factory.
Financing Options and Programs: Many people have never heard of an energy mortgage and yet they have been available for decades. There are many benefits that an energy mortgage provides over a conventional or federal mortgage. In fact, secondary mortgage markets like FHA/HUD, VA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac have their own version of energy mortgages. To learn more about specific energy mortgage programs you can open your browser and type a question like: “FHA energy mortgage” and you will get details. There are other financing programs available for financing energy and green upgrades including Property Assessed Clean Energy or PACE programs. Additional details about these programs and more are included in the GBDKit Guidebook and Workbook.
[BANK OR LENDER SHAKING HANDS WITH HAPPY COUPLE]
Your project is unique to you, and the GBDKit is designed to help you with all your project considerations with a focus on your specific project. This is why it is important to work through the entire kit and develop answers to the multitude of questions and decisions that help achieve the desired outcome for your project.
*ENERGY STAR Homes Program: Some residential energy tax credits and rebates require certification in specific programs in order to receive the money or other incentives. Depending on your location there may be incentives available to build a certified green home. More information about these programs can be found inside the GBDKit.

Choosing the Building Site:
The location of a building can affect its energy bills, comfort, and even long-term durability. For example, locating a building at the top of a hill might give you pretty views but will expose the building to stronger winds than locating the building at a lower elevation. A building site among tall trees may be a tranquil location but likely will prevent you from installing a solar energy system. Building next to a stream may be relaxing but can also be flooded easily. Lot vs. Acreage vs. Infill: There are many choices available to locate a new residence and each one has pros and cons:
A lot in a subdivision can have amenities like a sidewalk or a nearby park or grocery store. But a lot comes with neighbors who live close, dogs who bark, and other potential nuisances.
An acreage can be very appealing since it offers space, the ability to grow crops and animals, and a certain feeling of independence. An acreage also be located far away from grocery stores, hospitals, schools, restaurants, entertainment, and other things that people like to do to get away from home. Homes on acreages can also be without power for long periods, have poor Internet connectivity, and other negatives. On the plus side, acreages can offer great locations for solar systems, wind machines, and other bonuses.
Infill locations can be places where other homes used to exist or where items like ponds are filled with rock and dirt and become available as a building site. An infill location is not necessarily a bad location, but the term ‘infill’ can have a negative connotation to it. Most green programs give extra points or credits for building on an infill location.
When determining a location for a new home or small commercial building the closeness or proximity to services can be important. Older people like to be near a hospital whereas younger people seek locations near bars, theaters, or similar entertainment venues. The location of the nearest bus stop can be important and being within the boundaries of a desired school can be very important to young parents. There are other site considerations as well, such as proximity to services, zoning restrictions, natural features, solar access, and site preparation. As any Real Estate agent will tell you, what is on the site can always be changed, but the location is permanent. Make sure you have taken all the considerations into account by working your way through the Green Building Decision Kit.
[PHOTOS OF VARIOUS BUILDING SITES]

.

Evaluating Plans:
A comprehensive set of plans is invaluable for contractors because the plans give them the information they need to construct what the client wants. Without documenting what you want and expect, you don’t know or control what you are going to get. Clarifying requirements about what you want focuses the entire team on your goals.
Whether you plan to use a purchased set of plans, a plan provided by your builder, or develop your own set of plans, there are some plan basics you need to consider when evaluating your specific project plans. These include items such as the building “footprint”, floorplan, exterior wall construction, materials optimization, and fit with your personal goals and likes.
[AMY REVIEWING SET OF PLANS]
As a general rule-of-thumb larger buildings will have bigger energy bills. This rule can be negated by adding sufficient insulation, installing efficient windows and doors, and specifying efficient space heating, cooling, and water heating equipment. However, small homes do tend to have lower energy bills than large ones.
The idea of making a home smaller yet fully functional is not new. The book ‘The Not so Big House’, written by Sarah Susanka, was first published in 2002 and contained detailed information plus guidelines about building a smaller home. Ms. Susanka’s basic message is that quality should always come before quantity. People tend to want homes that are larger than what they need and so they pay to condition rooms that they rarely or never use.
[PHOTO OF SARAH SUSANKA’S BOOKS – MAYBE LINKING TO AN AFFILIATE PURCHASE PAGE ON AMAZON?]
Some floorplan designs look good on paper but are impractical once the building is built and lived in. Placing the garage next to the kitchen makes bringing in groceries much easier. Buffer areas are spaces that are placed between the conditioned living area and the outside environment. Some examples of buffer areas are closets, mud rooms, and garages. Room use is making sure that the placement of rooms complements the intended use of the rooms. An example would be placing the dining room a distance from the kitchen creates unnecessary steps to serve meals.
Placing better insulation in the walls will result in lower energy bills and increased comfort. Installing more efficient windows during construction is much easier than retrofitting them. Adding extra insulation in the attic during construction is much more cost-effective than adding it later since a large portion of the cost is labor, which is already there during construction.
There are so many things to consider when reviewing or developing a set of plans! Make sure that you are taking everything needed for your project into account by using the Green Building Decision Kit.

Advanced Features Planning:
Advanced features planning involves taking the sun into account to incorporate free winter heating energy provided through passive solar features. There are many software programs available that determine the sun angles for your geographic location so that the building allows the winter sun to come deep into the structure while blocking the summer sun through proper shading. Taking advantage of all the efficiency and solar features that can be designed into a residence is called ‘Intelligent Design’. The strategic placement of windows provides a well-lit home during the day without needing lights. The level of lighting can be controlled by smart technology using home automation.
The advent of wireless technologies makes the addition of smart products easy, and a home or business can have a comfortable and inviting environment. If it is important to you, you may also want to take advantage of the principles of Feng Shui. The GBD Kit can lead you though all these advanced features planning topics.

Excavation/Foundation:
It is a common practice to prepare a building site by clearing the entire area of trees and heritage plants. With just a little advance planning trees and native plants can potentially be saved while still allowing enough space to build the desired structure. Many jurisdictions do not allow excavated soil to flow into drains, ditches, ponds, streams, or tributaries and will levy fines for violations.
The geographic location of the building site will dictate the type of foundation(s) allowable. Some regions are suitable for basements while others will prohibit them. There are alternatives to basements that include crawlspaces and slab-on-grade foundations. In fact, there are new alternative foundations available, and all of these possibilities are discussed in the GBDKit.

Structural Building Materials:
There are numerous building materials that can be used for residential and small business buildings including some proven alternatives. In earlier years homes and business buildings were built using balloon framing but in recent years platform framing has become the norm. There are advanced building materials and techniques that work as well or better than using wood (Aka: Stick built) for framing and these are covered in the kit.
Other materials that are used for rough-in construction are flashing and trim plus caulks and other compounds. Detailed lists of structural materials, techniques, and alternatives are covered in the GBDKit.

Exterior Building Components:
Included in the framing stage of construction are products that penetrate or attach to the walls. These products include windows, doors, awnings, and more. The type of windows and exterior doors that you choose can have a significant effect on ongoing energy bills, comfort, and durability.
Windows are more than just glass with framing and doors can help or detract from the homes overall energy efficiency. Gain a better understanding of the different types of windows and doors you can select by utilizing the GBDKit.

Roofing:
To most people a roof is just a roof. Something to cover their heads and keep their living spaces dry. The reality is that a roof is a composite of different materials. Here is a listing of the components involved in roofs that are covered in the GBDKit:
• Trusses and Framing
• Types of Roof Designs
• Substrates, Decking, Laminates
• Drainage, Gutters, Flashing and Water-Proofing Products
• Membranes
• Exterior Roofing products
• Roof Venting Choices
• Rainwater Catchment Systems
Determine what roof system will work the best for your design by using the Guidebook and Workbook included in the GBDKit.

Electrical:
It is important to select an electrical contractor who understands your requirements. Electric smart meters are rapidly replacing the old mechanical ones, which allows electric utilities to introduce new residential rate structures. The traditional flat or block rate plan that most homeowners have become accustomed to are becoming time-of-day or demand-and-energy rate structures. Preparing for the new residential electric rates is essential if you want to keep your ongoing electrical bills as low as possible.
How the wiring is run to the breaker box/circuit panel will determine the degree of control you will have over your primary electrical loads. Also, if you are planning on adding a solar electric system, otherwise known as a photovoltaic solar system, the planning for the addition of the power that comes from the solar system will make the installation of the system easier. Preparing for the new electric rates is covered in the GBDKit.

Plumbing:
The availability of water has become a major topic in the media lately. There are ways to conserve water plus products and technologies to increase your water supply. For instance, you can make the water you use go further by installing a gray water system that uses the water from showers, bathtubs, and sinks to irrigate your lawn and/or garden. Every product you install that uses water will have efficient versions available. Depending on your water supply it may be important to include filters and water purification systems for your drinking and cooking water.
Water is also getting more expensive for a number of reasons, which is why reducing the amount of water you require can become a money-saving opportunity. Why pay bigger bills if you don’t have to? Answers reside within the GBDKit.
(Cisterns)

Water Heating and Use:
The joy of having hot water can be tempered by the cost of heating it. Fortunately, there are options available to help keep the cost down. The energy source you use to heat your water is an important component, as well as the efficiency of the water heater. There are new products being introduced all the time that can offset the rising cost of conventional energy sources. Plus, there are rebates and energy tax incentives available that help reduce the cost of the more energy efficient models.
The GBDKit can help you determine the best type of water heating system for your needs, plus explain the reasons to move to a more efficient version. If you are interested in lowering your water heating cost and usage, we encourage you to get a GBDKit.

Heating and Cooling:
The federal government is offering incentives to encourage a rapid adoption of heat pumps for all major appliances, including clothes dryers, water heaters, and space heating and cooling systems. The GBDKit can assist you in researching the options available to you. Choosing the right contractor to perform you installation is very important because there are some contractors who have a bias toward one type of primary energy or may discourage the installation of heat pumps. You should determine what will work best for your needs and make sure that your priorities are clear to your contractors. Going through the design charrette process while using the GBDKit will help you document what products and technologies will work best for you.
There are other options you can consider such as should you add zones to your HVAC system for additional control and what are the best locations for your registers. If you are opting for electric radiant heating or a mini-split heat pump system, then running ductwork throughout your home is not a requirement. The factors involved in determining the best HVAC system for you are listed in the GBDKit.

Ventilation:
As new homes get built tighter and existing homes get energy retrofits, upgrading to mechanical ventilation becomes necessary to keep the interior environment healthy. Older homes can also benefit from mechanical ventilation if they have problems like mold, nasty crawlspaces, and other unhealthy conditions. There are two types of balanced mechanical ventilation: Heat Recovery Ventilators (HRVs) and Energy Recovery Ventilators (ERVs). Depending on the climate zone that your residence or small commercial building is located in will help determine which type of ventilation would work best.
Research has shown that stoves that use gas can emit harmful levels of CO (Carbon Monoxide), CO2 (Carbon Monoxide), and other pollutants created through the combustion process. HRVs and ERVs can dilute the effects from the gas.

Insulation:
Insulation is an important component that makes a building comfortable and energy efficient. The types of insulation available today are more than fiberglass, cellulose, rockwool, and older types like vermiculite and perlite. Newer types of insulation include cotton and denim recycled from used jeans, several versions of foam insulation, plus hemp and others. It is now possible to seal and insulate a residential or small business building to achieve a high level of comfort. Insulating and sealing a structure is one of the lower cost methods to maximize energy savings and save money. Insulation can last the lifetime of a building so it can really pay benefits to insulate correctly.

Interior Building Materials:
The materials used for the interior of a building can greatly influence the indoor air quality or IAQ and many traditional materials now have environmentally friendly versions. For example, the standard wood stud can be replaced with engineered wood and wood support beams can be replaced with laminated versions that can actually be stronger. There are specialized panels for use in humid areas, such as bathrooms and kitchens, and there are non-toxic types of paint, glues, sealants, stains, and caulk that are safer to use than oil or petroleum-based versions.

[Why do this one and the following ones have EXAMPLE stamped across them?]
Flooring:
Some types of flooring like carpet and linoleum can emit significant amounts of VOCs – Volatile Organic Compounds – and can include formaldehyde and perfluorinated compounds plus forever chemicals like PFAS. Even the underlayment product can emit hazardous vapors. Careful research into the carpet and underlayment products you are interested in is a very good idea. Regarding underlayments, there are quite a few to choose from: solid wood planking, plywood, oriented strand board (OSB), concrete impregnated wood, and poured or prestressed concrete.

If you decide to not use carpet for your floors then there are many products available: solid wood flooring, laminates, bamboo, ceramic tile, quarry tile, stone tile, colored concrete, linoleum, cork, and natural woven fibers, just to name a few. The GBDKit can help you understand and answer these flooring decisions.

Indoor Air Quality / Health:
Good indoor air quality (IAQ) helps minimize or avoid problems like asthma, emphysema, and other respiratory diseases. Under the topic of IAQ is information about water-based painting and sealing products plus details regarding best choices of building materials, countertops, whole house vacuum systems, and more.

Lighting:
This topic covers general types of lighting, lighting specifications, types of light bulbs, lighting technologies for the interior and exterior of a building, fixtures, controls, and accessories. Homing in on the types of lighting that work best for your applications is worth a little time to explore and the GBDKit leads the way.

Appliances:
Choosing the right appliance(s) that fit your needs is important since so many versions are available. There are lighting products and fixtures that work well for kitchens but are not really applicable for living rooms or offices. Some appliances use considerable amounts of energy, such as stoves, ovens, and clothes dryers. Other appliances can use more water than necessary like dishwashers, clothes washers, and lawn or garden watering systems.
Just because an appliance or product is turned off does not always mean it’s not using energy. Any item that has a remote or a charger consumes power even when it is ‘off’. Checking to see how much power is needed to have the item to start by remote or how much power is used when the charger is plugged in, even when it is not connected to its device, is worth checking into. Even a small power drain can get expensive if it is continuously using power.
Under the topic of appliances within the GBDKit are other items including entertainment and office products and outdoor maintenance equipment.

Energy Alternatives:
The energy alternative that is growing exponentially across the globe is solar electric systems, specifically Photovoltaic or PV solar systems. There are other energy alternatives besides solar now available including: wind energy systems, solar thermal systems, fuel cells, hydro power, and more. These energy alternatives are discussed in the GBDKit Guidebook and Workbook, including diagrams and comparisons.
You can use the GBDKit wall/display page to stimulate discussion about these energy alternatives plus others to consider during your design charrette.

Landscaping:
To many people landscaping means determining where to plant flowers and trees, and possibly a garden. Landscaping can entail so much more including using native drought tolerant plants and Xeriscaping® or perhaps edible landscaping. Focusing on plants that attract bees and other pollinators is also a good idea. Efficient watering systems have become important as water availability has become an issue in many areas. Evergreen trees and shrubs can provide windbreaks for cold winter winds or hot summer breezes.
Thoughtful consideration as to the placement of the types of plants most beneficial to your project can pay dividends over time.

Driveways, Walks, Pathways:
Developed countries like the United States devote an enormous amount of space to highways, parking lots, and sideroads/driveways. Covering the ground with non-permeable pavement and asphalt causes rainwater runoff issues that cities and municipalities must deal with. The use of permeable pavement helps reduce the amount of runoff, especially when used in conjunction with rain gardens, drainage swales, water retention ponds, berms, and other runoff reduction strategies.
Heated driveways installed in cold climates can require substantial amounts of conventional energy to keep from freezing. This cost can be reduced or eliminated by heating using electricity from a solar electric system or circulating warm fluids heated by a solar thermal system. You can learn about these in the GBDKit.

Outbuildings:
Garages that are located inside or connected to conditioned living space can cause air quality problems associated with the toxic fumes emitted by internal combustion vehicle engines. Separating the garage from the home eliminates these pollutant issues. Other outbuildings that can be considered during the design process are workshops, guest quarters, battery storage buildings for solar electric systems, sheds and farm buildings such as barns or housing for livestock.
Every building has a roof area that might work well for the installation of a solar system. There are many other uses and options for outbuildings that are covered in the GBDKit Guidebook and Workbook. All of these options should be considered during the course of a design charrette.

Other Decisions:
The availability of rebates and tax incentives for installing solar systems, purchasing electric vehicles, and making your residential or small commercial building energy efficient should be evaluated in the design process. The ability to get a building certified under a green or energy efficient program should not be overlooked since certifications will require independent third-party inspections that will ensure your goals are being met and can make a building more valuable.
Other programs available that are often overlooked are innovative design awards and green tags for eliminating pollution. To help ensure that all of these programs are considered it is important to enlist the help of a certified home energy rater, aka ‘HERS rater’. A HERS rater can also help you get an energy mortgage that has extra benefits, including provisions that help cover the fee of the energy rating.