• Site orientation. Ok, you want the front door to face the street, but that’s not the point. What side of the house is most exposed to the sun, and are there features on that side to maximize incoming solar warmth and light in the winter, and shade the interior of the house in summer?

  • Foundation walls. Does your builder favor new techniques like insulated-form concrete? Will he/she apply rigid foam board to the foundation wall before backfilling, assuring a warmer basement you can use for living space?

  • Can you afford to upgrade the framing from 2 by 4 to 2 by 6? Increase framing bays to 24 inches from 16, saving cold framing gaps in your R factor? Is there a spray foam contractor within driving distance, and can you afford to spray foam insulation into your walls and rafter bays? Does the foam contractor favor open or closed cell foam, and how will cure times affect the construction schedule?

  • Will your builder consider incorporating an unvented “warm attic” into your plans, heading off attic moisture problems? Will your HVAC contractor alter your ducting to accommodate an air-to-air heat exchanger for better indoor air quality? Will he/she install radiant floor heat in at least a portion of the house? Can you afford to upgrade your heating system to the highest efficiency available?

  • Is your builder experienced in working to “Energy Star” standards? Or is it your task to do the research and bring energy options to his attention? The important thing is that someone on your team considers energy efficiency a priority and researches your options for energy saving features. If your builder is an expert in energy issues, perhaps you can relax and choose paint colors. But I think you’re much better off cruising sites like this one, following the links and asking questions at job meetings early on.

  • Is there the potential for an extra layer of foam board insulation over the sheathing? How much extra does it cost to upgrade from house wrap to a Rain-Screen barrier which allows moisture to escape from behind the siding? Will the roof shingles be a light color that reflects heat and maintains a lower attic temperature in summer? Will roof overhangs and awnings provide shade for windows and doors from solar heat loading?

  • Are there tile floors in south facing rooms to provide mass for heat storage? Are there extra windows and glass features on the south side, and fewer on the north side? Are the windows and doors the highest quality you can possibly afford, with rated R factors and Low Emissivity glass, inert gas between panes and insulated sashes?
  • What color will the roofing material be? Will it collect and transfer heat into the house through the attic? Do the eaves and gable overhangs afford summer sun-shading without violating local wind codes (extreme overhangs are more susceptible to storm damage)? Should you consider metallic roofing material to combat snow loading and ice damming?

  • Everyone who lives in an older house, like me, wishes for the choices that are available to those of you building new homes. All things are possible, but of course not all things fit in the budget. Please bear in mind that energy efficiency features provide the lasting elegance of greater comfort and lower operating costs. By all means, enjoy choosing those paint colors. And remember to build in some smart energy features that will pay you back many times over for as long as you own your house.
 

links to more info...

helios at home (blog)

finehomebuilding.com

jlc online

ecohomemagazine.com

energystar.gov

myenergystar.com

homebuilders association of CT

northeast sustainable energy association