Jon Venverloh: How Technology and Innovation Supports Sustainable Home Design

Public discourse around climate change and energy has driven demand for more carbon conscious and environmentally friendly homes. Today’s home buyers are interested in innovative and sustainable features, especially those that are good for both the environment and their bottom line.

Sustainable homes continue to gain in popularity. These designs are mindful of limited natural resources, more thoughtfully use water and energy, and employ innovative systems that help the homeowner conserve energy and have less impact on the environment. Thanks to environmentally friendly advances in technology, homeowners have now begun to appreciate how they can save significant amounts of money in energy bills, while also decreasing carbon impact.

With new construction, a property can be planned, built and wired with the necessary energy efficient systems and building practices. Implementing these same systems in a pre-existing property can be more complicated, but a number of smart technologies still exist to upgrade systems to be more eco-friendly.

Since 2012, I have run a development group, Venus Homes, which builds homes in Silicon Valley that include such “green” systems and practices. Recent projects have achieved certification under the Build It Green® rating system for sustainable, efficient and healthier homes. Here are some of the key systems and practices we employ in our homes, and which are typical in green rating systems for residential homes:

  • All of our projects begin with the purchase of an old home that does not meet the needs of modern families. To build a new home we must first remove the old one. Some practices can reduce the environmental impact of the demolition of the old home, such as dismantling and recycling any reusable timber, pipes and other old materials. On one project, we dismantled the old home and then took redwood timber that was framing in the old home and turned it into decorative elements in the new home.
  • Solar panels and wiring for future solar panel expansion reduce energy consumption and, in conjunction with battery storage systems, can provide backup power in the event of an outage.
  • Installation of LED lighting and other energy efficient light fixtures and appliances reduce energy consumption.
  • Resource efficient landscape, such as drought tolerant plants and grasses and less natural turf, reduce the amount of watering and maintenance needed.
  • Framing that uses engineered lumber or FSC-certified wood means our homes have less impact on forests.
  • Insulation that meets the highest standards, such as spray foam insulation, reduces energy consumption and may reduce sound penetration.
  • Modern pipes, instant water heaters and plumbing fixtures use less energy and help reduce the homeowner’s water consumption.
  • Vegetated roofs provide better views over the second story for homeowners, improve the insulating efficiency of the roof, absorb sunlight that would otherwise radiate more heat, while also consuming carbon dioxide.
  • Surfaces such as driveways and walking paths can be made out of permeable materials to improve drainage, which in turn can help with stormwater management and the health of nearby streams, creeks or other waterways.

For those looking for ways to implement green design into their existing homes, I recommend passive solar design, installing a drip irrigation system, investing in energy efficient appliances, using eco paints, installing high performance windows, planting trees around the property, and making careful adjustments to water usage. Such changes often are relatively easy and inexpensive yet can have a significant impact on resource usage without having to structurally modify a home or make large financial investments.

The development of sustainable technology and its use in new construction is driving change in home design and re-imagining tomorrow’s homes. By using smart, eco-friendly design, we can decrease our carbon footprint all while living comfortably and more affordably.

For more tips on building a sustainable home, check out this blog post from Build it Green: Make 2021 Your Most Sustainable Yet.