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Sustainable Home Building: 11 Ideas for a Green Home Addition

A home addition can be the perfect opportunity to incorporate sustainable design elements into your home. Here are 11 sustainable home building ideas for your next addition project.

sustainable home building: skylight

Using sustainable practices in your home addition remodeling projects not only helps protect the environment and reduce waste, it can also be cost effective in the long run. From energy efficient appliances to energy saving insulation and HVAC systems, going green has never been easier.

1. Insulation

Proper insulation helps your home — and your new addition — stay warm in colder months and cool during hotter periods of the year. The better your insulation, the less you will need to spend on other energy costs, like heating and air conditioning.

Some green insulation options include:


This silica mineral-based material is actually more than 90 percent air. All that air within the material helps Aerogel act like a natural sponge, making it difficult for heat to travel through it. The product comes in sheets that can easily be attached to wall studs.

Recycled denim cotton

Jeans manufacturers produce a lot of spare cotton, and it so happens that all that natural material makes great insulation. It’s not only a renewal resource, it also has a similar thickness to fiberglass insulation, and can be rolled into batts for installation.


sustainable home building: cellulose insulation
cellulose insulation / photo credit

This material is made up of about 80% old newspaper which is either blown dry into walls or applied on attic floors by spraying. It can be more efficient that fiberglass insulation, and thanks to a natural treatment applied to it, is both eco-friendly and fire-resistant.

2. More efficient HVAC

Ideally, an efficient HVAC system should both save on energy costs and keep you and your more home comfortable — all the while supporting your sustainability efforts.

Quality and well-maintained HVAC equipment will use less energy, save on water usage, cut down carbon emissions, and keep your home’s temperature more consistent and predictable. After all, why settle for central air that’s only cooling part of your new addition, but using more energy to do it?

3. Quality Windows

Investing in double glazed windows in your addition may be one of the most straightforward ways to increase energy efficiency. Like insulation, they can help keep temperatures in your home more consistent throughout warmer and cooler seasons.

green home remodeling: sustainable windows
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Here are some other ways to make your windows more eco-friendly:

  • Use sustainable sourced materials like wood rather than PVC, which can release harmful toxins
  • Opt for fiberglass window frames which are made from sand and resin, and are very energy efficient and durable
  • If double glazed isn’t enough for you, give triple-paned glass a try to help insulate your home better and make it more comfortable

4. Sustainably sourced materials

Speaking of windows, using wood frames certified by the U.S. Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is another great sustainable home building idea. FSC certification assures that the materials used are sustainable, and aren’t negatively impacting the environment.

Using materials like cork or bamboo for floors is another way to incorporate renewal resources into your addition. Cork can provide a soft feel underfoot and bamboo is resistant to dents and scratches. Both materials are just a few dollars per square foot.

5. Energy efficient appliances

energy star
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If your addition includes a kitchen, living area, or laundry room, it’s the ideal opportunity to furnish it with energy saving appliances.

You have several energy-efficient and budget-friendly options to choose from these days. From refrigerators to dishwashers to HVAC equipment, the list of available energy-saving items is extensive.

With many of us spending more time at home these days and putting more strain on those energy bills, this is one area where it’s easy and cost-effective to make some eco-friendly improvements — ideal for home offices!

6. Solar panels

green home remodeling: solar panels
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Let’s be honest, solar panels are a financial investment. But they can also be a wise one for the future. Not only are they a great way to take advantage of a limitless energy supply, over time you can recoup your upfront costs. While those costs can be high — national estimates put residential solar panel installation somewhere between $20,000-$35,000 — there are incentives to help offset your expenses.

One more benefit: solar panels can increase the value of your home by as much as 4%.

7. Passive Solar Design

Using passive solar energy to increase sustainability doesn’t require the purchase of any new tools or equipment. It just takes a bit of upfront planning.

When working on the design of your new addition, consider how to maximize sunlight in the space, so you can capture the most heat or light during the day. The result: less need to use home heating systems or additional light sources, which can save you money.

Other ways to use passive solar include:

  • Applying heat reducing films to your windows
  • Installing smart blinds that open and close due to light and temperature changes
  • Adding eave overhangs that help shade your interior from harsh sun rays
  • Including skylights to let in more natural light

8. Non-toxic building materials

Some building materials, like some paints, carpets, cabinets, and drywall for example, contain and release VOCs, or volatile organic compounds. These invisible particles can cause watery eyes, a burning throat, headaches, difficulty breathing, and dizziness.

green home remodeling: sustainable kitchen cabinets
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Several alternatives with low or no VOCs now exist to help make your home safer and more environmentally friendly. When it comes to flooring, using materials like hardwood, tile, or stone instead of carpet or linoleum is a great way to go greener.

Here are some other options for VOC-free paint and cabinets:

No VOC paint: Sherwin-Williams Harmony

Sustainable cabinets: Crystal Cabinets

9. Tankless water heater

Typical water heaters with tanks are consistently using energy. The water heater turns on and off to maintain temperature and more quickly provide you hot water when you need it. All that energy use can be expensive.

A more eco-friendly approach to consider is a tankless or on-demand water heater, especially if your addition and includes something like a bathroom, kitchen, or other area with high water usage. Tankless heaters don’t heat the water until you ask for it. When you turn on the hot water tap, cold water passes through the heating unit where it’s warmed, saving energy only for when it’s necessary.

tankless water heater
Tankless water heater / photo credit

10. Low flush toilet

What if there was a way you could reduce your home’s indoor water usage by 20%, with one simple change? Low flush tiolets can do just that, and in some cases by as much as 60%. Installing one in your new addition could mean saving thousands of gallons of water.

And gone are the days of low flush toilets that don’t get the job done. These days, the technology has much improved, to the point where they’re just as powerful and trustworthy as standard toilets. For the best performance, choose a model with a 500+ gram MaP rating.

11. Energy saving bulbs

The average household spends 5% of its energy costs on light bulbs. Switching from older incandescent bulbs to newer types of bulbs with the Energy Star seal can help the environment and save you money each year.

Here are some energy saving types of bulbs to choose from:

Compact fluorescent lamps (CFL). These are smaller, curlier versions of long tube fluorescent lights common in garages and offices. They use about one-fourth the energy and lasts ten times longer than a traditional incandescent bulb.

compact fluorescent lamps
CFL bulbs / photo credit

Light emitting diodes (LED). Energy-star qualified LEDs use only about a quarter of the energy — and last up to 25 times longer — than traditional incandescent bulbs. They work well indoors and out due to their durability and performance in the cold.

Halogen incandescents. These have a capsule inside that holds gas around a filament to increase bulb efficiency. They are available in a wide range of shapes can be used with dimmers.

Are you thinking about doing and sustainable home addition and aren’t sure where to start? We’re happy to discuss your project. Simply schedule a conversation with us!