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Green Building Practices

The following are just some of a host of green building practices that may be relevant to your project. For more information about green building practices, please refer to Build It Green's Single Family New Home Construction guidelines or Single Family Home Remodeling guidelines


Site, Location & Orientation
Protect topsoil and mimimize disruption of existing plants and trees
  • Incorporate passive solar design features such as:
    • South facing glass windows, doors to improve passive solar performance
    • Roof overhangs, trellises, awnings to selectively control heat gain through windows or doors
    • Floor and wall materials that improve thermal mass and moderate temperature swings
    • Windows oriented to catch prevailing breezes and provide cross ventilation
  • Deconstruct instead of demolishing structures to reduce the amount of material that will be disposed in a landfill.
  • Recycle construction and demolition waste. Note that the Town of Hillsborough requires execution and approval of a Waste Reduction Plan on construction and demolition projects.
  • Design a space-efficient, compact home to minimize the energy needed to heat and cool the house. Though bigger may be considered better to some, large houses with empty spaces can raise heating and cooling costs significantly.
  • Limit the impervious surface area of your site to help prevent stormwater runoff. Hillsborough places limits on impervious surface area.

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Foundation
  • Integrate structural pest controls like termite shields to reduce the need for chemical pesticides and to create a healthier environment for residents.
  • Locate new plants at least 36 inches from the foundation of the house so that roots will not disturb the foundation.

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Landscaping
  • Use native plants to significantly reduce the amount of water necessary for irrigation. Native plants are better suited to the local climate and soil types and are more adapted to the local weather system.
  • Minimize water-consuming turf area. By replacing turf with native groundcovers and perennial grasses, you can still maintain the look of a manicured garden while significantly reducing water demand.
  • Use “Smart” irrigation controllers to more efficiently irrigate your garden.
  • Group plants according to water needs in a practice called “hydro-zoning."
  • Use mulch to conserve water, moderate soil temperature and reduce weed growth; and compost to increase water retention, encourage healthy plant growth, and reduce the need for chemical fertilizers.

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Structural Frame and Building Envelope
  • Use techniques that reduce the amount of lumber used to build a home while maintaining structural integrity and meeting the building code.
  • Use Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified wood from from sustainably managed forests. This protects natural resources and encourages environmentally responsible logging practices.
  • Install energy heels on roof trusses to allow for full insulation around the perimeter, saving energy and reducing utility bills.

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Exterior Finish
  • Use environmentally sound alternatives to conventional lumber to extend the life of decks and conserve resources.
  • Specify flashing installation techniques and verify installation to protect against building failures due to leaks at the roof, siding, windows, doors and other intersections and penetrations.

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Insulation
  • Improved insulation and proper installation can dramatically cut energy costs.
  • Install insulation with 75 percent recycled content to divert waste materials from landfills.
  • Install insulation tested for low emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOC). This will improve indoor air quality and the overall health of building residents.
  • Install radiant barrier roof sheathing to reduce attic temperatures by as much as 30 degrees on hot days.
  • Install energy-efficient windows. The cost premium for energy efficient windows is minimal and typically pays for its very quickly.

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Plumbing
  • Distribute hot water efficiently by locating the hot water heater close to usage points.
  • Insulate all hot water pipes.
  • Use techniques such as engineered “parallel” piping as an alternative to “branched” piping systems to save energy used to heat water.
  • Install only high-efficiency toilets and water conserving faucets and showerheads to reduce water and sewer costs.
  • Install a tankless water heater for certain applications to reduce water heating costs compared to a conventional gas water heater.

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HVAC
  • Properly design your heating, ventilation and air conditioning sytem to ensure that the system performs efficiently and keeps the occupants comfortable.
  • Install sealed-combustion furnaces and water heaters to improve indoor air quality and reduce the danger of carbon monoxide contamination.
  • Install mechanical cooling devices such as fans to cool a building by creating a breeze rather than using energy-intensive air conditioning units.
  • Install high efficiency HVAC filters with a "MERV" rating appropriate for your system to improve indoor air quality.
  • Install Energy Star bathroom fans vented outdoors, on timer or humidistat to reduce moisture and mold issues.

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Renewable Energy
  • Install photovoltaic panels. South-facing solar energy modules produce more energy annually, but west-facing modules can take better advantage of time-of-use rates.
  • Install (or pre-plumb) for a solar water heating system. These systems use solar collectors and a water storage tank to provide hot water for domestic use and/or space heating.
  • Take advantage of tax credits and state and local incentives for renewable energy systems. See the Green Building Resources page for current information.

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Building Performance
  • Perform building envelope diagnostic evaluations to ensure that energy efficiency measures and equipment were actually installed properly and are performing optimally.
  • Consider exceeding the minimum state and local energy efficiency requirements when building your home. This may result in a more comfortable home with lower energy costs and higher quality construction.

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Finishes
  • Use "low-VOC" or "zero-VOC" paints, finishes, caulks and adhesives that do not emit harmful volatile organic compounds to reduce the concentration of toxic chemicals in the air. VOCs can also be emitted by building materials such as carpet, particleboard and insulation.
  • Use recycled-content paint to conserves resources.
  • Install shelving, cabinetry, countertops, doors, and trim made from reclaimed or salvaged material to reuse products that would otherwise go to a landfill. If using new materials, choose environmentally preferable options such as FSC-certified wood, products that are locally sourced and manufactured, and finish materials that are low in formaldehyde.

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Flooring
  • Use environmentally preferable flooring options such as FSC-certified wood, reclaimed, rapidly renewable or recycled-content materials, local materials, and materials (including carpet) that are low in VOC or formaldehyde emissions.
  • Use of flooring materials like concrete can improve thermal mass for passive cooling and heating.

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Appliances
  • Homeowners can conserve water and energy by installing Energy Star appliances and lighting. See the Green Building Resources page for current information regarding rebates and other incentives.

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