Sustainability, Green, Net Zero, are all catchphrases these days to some pretty important topics.  Springhouse Architects guides many clients through these issues at the earliest stage of a custom home project.  Sustainability should be a high priority for any architect, and should be intertwined with the homeowner’s design objectives.  The built environment in the U.S. produces nearly 60% of our global carbon footprint.

As important as the topic of sustainability is; it is often a difficult balance between budget, design and sustainable options.  Here is an example of where we start:

What is driving you?

Cost savings:
If you are looking for cost savings vs. initial dollar output, the fastest way to break even and begin recouping your savings is with government tax credits.  These are constantly changing.  The past year proved tough on tax credits.  The government discontinued the Geo-Thermal 30% tax credit and the LEED certified tax credit was reduced by almost half.  If this is your goal; I recommend researching up-to-date deadlines, extensions and reporting rules.

Unknown future in fuels:
This was not on my radar until a recent client brought it to my attention.  Even though the Geo-Thermal tax credit has ended; taking it from a 10 year to a 20+ year payoff, this client was adamant about installing Geo-Thermal HVAC.  His explanation was that he does not trust the supply of oil and predicts the U.S. will have an oil crisis within ten years.  Using his reasoning (when the suspected oil crisis hits) he will be dependent only on the consistent temperature of the earth (and electricity, which he is generating with solar power) to heat and cool his home.  

Wanting to be responsible stewards of resources:
This may be the most compelling argument for investing in sustainable construction of your custom home.  One could argue the cost savings plan is dependent on too many factors in the future to be a sure thing.  The uncertainty of the future means the expected return on investing in sustainability can be all over the map.  However, there really is no argument against being a responsible steward of resources.

Every one of these is perfectly valid and our design response is different depending on how you answer this question.  It’s an important topic and we need to talk about it early in the process.  Where do you land on this spectrum of priorities?

Lisa Saldivar