Building a Home for Peace of Mind & Security

by / Monday, 07 October 2013 / Published in Green Building Consulting
building a healthy home

When most people build or remodel their homes, they pay close attention to indoor air quality, comfort and aesthetics. The task of building to survive natural disasters like earthquakes (as the San Francisco Bay region is prone to) is left to building codes and local code enforcement. And the task of ensuring the home maintains livable conditions in the aftermath of an extreme weather event is never even thought of. Because we are blessed with benign weather and low energy prices, such thoughts never come to mind.  Building a healthy home for peace and security is achievable if you consider a few best practices.

However scientists say that extreme weather events such as storms and heat waves are very much to be expected and will only increase with the effects of Global Warming and Climate Change. With these events, the likelihood of power outages dramatically increases as well. Reduced spending on infrastructure by utilities will only compound the problem. So when you are spending tens of thousands even millions of dollars on a home that you will live in for the foreseeable future, doesn’t it make sense to make it much more resilient in the face of such calamities?

What is needed is a well-designed and well-built “shell”

What is required is not a bunker or safe room, although those have their place too. Neither is an emergency generator the silver bullet. These are unreliable, expensive and hazardous to operate, and don’t work at all if fuel becomes unavailable. What is needed instead is a well-designed and well-built “shell” – the 6 sides of the home including the exterior walls, roof and floor. Walls and roofs with insulation well above building code mandated levels, energy efficient windows that are also positioned to allow cross-ventilation, awnings above windows to keep out the summer sun, reasonably airtight construction, etc.

Achieving high levels of insulation and a reasonably airtight home is not easy and cannot be achieved without following the best practices laid down by programs such as DOE’s Building America or EPA’s Indoor Airplus and Thermal Bypass Checklist. Conventional design and construction practices that build to the Code minimum levels is a long way from building a home that will truly give you the peace of mind and security to survive long blackouts in your home.

Similarly choosing the right windows and designing awnings to block summer heat, require a good understanding of building science and solar geometry principles which most architects do not employ in their designs.

These best practices are just some of the many solutions available when building a healthy home to help adapt homes for natural disasters and the effects of climate change.

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