If you have plans to build a new house soon, this is the time to start things off right.

An environmentally-thoughtful, high-performance home is one that incorporates a green combination of technology, construction, design and maintenance elements — all of which will provide a healthier indoor life for its residents, and will significantly lower its impact on the planet’s environment.

Indeed, a well-planned green home costs less to operate immediately and its value increases steadily over time. A green home is constructed with concrete, not wood, has energy-efficient lighting, heating, cooling and water-heating systems.

Here’s a handy checklist as you begin:

The site: Build where you can beautify or replace unsightly properties like a factory, a parking lot, rail yard or shopping mall. Don’t build on environmentally-sensitive sites like wetlands, forests or farmland.

Location: Build with walking or cycling in mind, near public transportation, schools, and shops.

Materials: Start with concrete. An award-winning system by the all-Canadian company, Nudura, builds walls with pre-assembled, Lego-like blocks of concrete. This cuts construction time significantly, creates less waste material, and virtually eliminates mould, mildew and other emissions produced by buildings structured with wood. Homeowners save money with durability and energy efficiency — and the resulting structure (www.nudura.com) is reported to be up to nine times stronger, with far more fire protection, far more sound insulation and with a potential to reduce energy costs of up to 70 per cent. Other green materials should include low- and zero-VOC (volatile organic compound) paints and sealants. Any wood-based features should come from rapidly renewable sources, like bamboo. The best green homes use salvaged materials like kitchen tiles with significant recycled content. Ask for a roof that is light-coloured and heat-reflecting.

Think about the site’s natural attributes and shape your new home accordingly. Reduce lighting and energy requirements by taking advantage of natural breezes and daylight, perhaps with skylights or with larger windows on certain walls. Aim for natural daylight to reach at least 75 per cent of the home’s interior. Outside, design your landscape with lots of large canopy trees and flowering plants to attract the reproduction activity of birds and bees.

Windows and doors:
Dual-glaze windows reduce heat gain in summer and heat loss during the winter. The best quality is government rated.

Renewable energy: Ask for the latest technology to generate some of your own household energy.

Water efficiency: Design with a water-conserving irrigation system. Collect and store rainwater. Add the latest in water-efficient fixtures.

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