Key Factors to Designing an Eco-home

Planning and designing an eco-home is much more than just adding solar panels onto a home. A sustainable and eco-friendly home means the structure’s carbon footprint is reduced through architectural design, smart devices, efficient building materials, solar panels, and more. 

An eco-home is an environmentally low-impact home designed with the latest technology and sustainable building materials. Eco-homes support modern lifestyles and, if designed by us at Urban Design Associates, they blend harmoniously into the natural surroundings. We do not compromise anything to accomplish this; we design sustainable homes because sustainable architecture is a philosophy to incorporate smart, functional, healthy, site-friendly designs, not an aesthetic.

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Urban Design Associates Knows Sustainable Living

At Urban Design Associates, no one knows sustainability and eco-homes like we do. UDA is a member of the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) and architect partner Jessica Hutchison-Rough is a LEED Professional (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) with a specialty in Residential Architecture. 

Additionally, our executive administration, Caitlin Jackson, graduated from Arizona State University with a Bachelor of Science in sustainability with a sustainable energy, materials, and technology focus, along with a minor in landscape architecture. 

What Goes into Planning an Eco-home Design?

We know how important the location of your home is, so we maximize the space to emphasize the land you love or the view while working around sustainable living. It has to do with the orientation of the site, how you build into the site in relation to the sun and wind orientation, and building materials. 

When it comes to window placement, windows facing the east and west receive light and heat from the sun, but they’re hard to shade during the warmer months. In the summer, especially in Arizona, east windows welcome the morning sun without bringing in too much of the dreaded desert heat, while windows on the west side of the home are more of a problem. They overload the house with heat during the afternoon.

We also look at insulation, smart thermostats, the latest technologies, material impacts, and construction transportation, along with incorporating high-quality craftsmanship details that are designed to last. 

Let’s look at a few of the factors we consider when planning and designing an eco-friendly home. 

Solar Panels

While solar panels don’t make a home sustainable, they are certainly a staple of them. Solar panels comprise many, smaller units called photovoltaic cells, meaning they convert sunlight into electricity. They work by allowing particles of light (photons) to knock electrons off of atoms, which creates a flow of electricity. 

Solar panels will reduce your home’s carbon footprint by replacing some of your home’s electricity usage with power produced naturally by the sun. Residential solar systems can result in producing 80% lower carbon emissions than power generated by fossil fuels. 

Solar Panel and Energy Savings

How much it affects your home’s power usage and energy bill depends on the size of your panels. Most residential solar panel systems are anywhere from 5 to 10 kilowatts (kW), meaning the average home’s 5kW solar panels produce about 8,000 kilowatt-hours per year. To compare, the national average for electricity consumption of a household in 2018 was 10,972 kilowatt-hours

Do Solar Panels Increase Home Values?

Yes! On average, solar panels raise a home’s value by 4.1% across the U.S., according to a recent Zillow analysis of homes across the country.

Using Energy Efficient Building Material

What you build your house out of has a tremendous impact on how much energy you use to heat and cool it. One material that is extremely energy efficient, stylish, and timeless, is adobe. Abode is a low-impact material that is essentially a dried mud brick. All of its ingredients are natural and the material is very eco-friendly to make.

Adobe is an ancient building material that has evolved into a popular choice for southwest-style homes, mountain homes, and our partner architect Lee Hutchinson’s signature style: Organic Pueblo. 

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Organic Pueblo forms are inspired by the surrounding landscape, with curved walls, and flowing floor plans. The material palette uses colors and textures from the southwest like rustic wood elements, adobe, tile roofs, and intricate ceiling details. This makes it perfect for the exterior of a desert home or a home that wants to blend in with nature. 

Adobe and Energy Savings

Adobe’s thermal mass makes it a very energy-efficient material. During the winter, the material absorbs energy from the sun and helps radiate heat throughout the home. In the summer, its unique properties allow it to heat up slowly, meaning it holds the night’s chill for longer. It also acts as a natural insulator and easily maintains whatever heat or chill is inside the home. 

Why Design an Eco-home?

An eco-friendly home has a dramatic impact on the environment, can positively impact your finances by reducing your energy bill, and, when designed by professionals, has a timeless and stylish aesthetic. It’s everything you could want in a home, and then some!

If you want to get started on designing an eco-home for yourself, contact us at Urban Design Associates. We’ll help make your dream home a reality.