Good house design takes climate into account
You’ve made the decision to build a new home – CONGRATULATIONS! Now comes the fun part – House Design! Building a home that will allow you to be comfortable in either cold or heat takes a little planning. When discussing the design elements of energy efficiency, keep a few things in mind to ensure maximum comfort and minimum bills (or at least as close to minimum as you can get).
Start by knowing the ins and outs of the weather in your area.
We all know Michigan has a variable climate. It also varies dramatically from region to region. Someone building a home on the East side of the state will be experiencing different weather patterns than someone on the West side. You’ll see even broader swings if you’re building close to one of the “Great Lakes.” Prepare for harsh winters and hot summers by getting a general picture of the average rainfall, snowfall and temperature ranges for the region in which you intend to build.
Dig into the design from the ground up:
Your foundation can also experience damage from swings in weather patterns. If you intend to have a basement you’ll want to make sure it is properly poured. Winter is not the ideal time to get concrete work done. This can result in foundation weakness later if the temperature isn’t up to par when the foundation is poured. Your basement should also be well insulated. Consider “ICF” or insulated concrete forms when designing the basement. This will allow for a quality air and moisture barrier as well as reducing heat loss.
Landscaping should be properly graded. This means ensuring a slope extending out from a house foundation of about 6 inches for the first 10 feet (that’s about a 5% slope). The right landscape/grading slope means that water in all it’s forms will run AWAY from the foundation. This is not a lesson you want to learn from experience. Trust me when I tell you AWAY is IMPORTANT. Pay attention to the grade throughout the course of your home ownership. Should you find animals have burrowed down in the area close to your home, address the issue. Quickly.
And from the roof down
If snow is a major concern, consider a steeply pitched roof. The roof of your home is one of the most important factors in energy efficiency. It’s also one of the major contributors to the longevity of your home. If you develop roof leaks or other damage, the interior of your home will suffer – a lot. Snow can cause all kinds of trouble with a roof. It’s best just to ensure heavy snow loads never occur. A steeply pitched roof allows snow to slide off quickly. It also helps in preventing ice dams as there isn’t likely to be pooling and quick freezing of rain or snow melt.
If the region is prone to heavy rainfall, keep your roof line simple. It will help prevent water from backing up into your attic.
To get the most of out of your home, pay attention to window placement! Typically South facing windows are an excellent source for heat generation. In the winter months, you’ll appreciate the comfort of extra heat. In the summer, keeping the shades drawn during the day will combat a lot of the heat. Invest in thermally appropriate windows for your area. For the few North and East facing windows a home in Michigan should have, look for a window with a low U factor rating. The U factor is the rate at which a window is prone to heat loss.
Stand the test of time
The true test of a well built home is its durability. Make sure your home is designed and built by craftsmen, who understand your particular needs. Be sure to design you home to get the most benefit from the natural environment.