20 Steps to a Sustainable Home

Did you know there are over a dozen ways to make your home more energy efficient? In fact, there are at least 20 major things you can do to improve your home’s performance. Unfortunately, many of us only do things, such as buy energy efficient appliances or change faucets, which only have a minimal effect on your overall energy usage. A drafty home, for example, wastes more energy (and money) than top-rated appliances will ever save. If you are looking for a way to make a REAL difference environmentally and monetarily, consider the Green Building Pyramid.


The Green Building Pyramid is a combination of 20  practices homeowners can utilize to make a home more energy efficient. There are four levels of engagement within the pyramid that move you toward energy efficiency. These levels range from behavior changes toward the ultimate goal of creating a net-zero energy home.


(Credit to BPC Green builders with permission of Matt Power and Green Builder Magazine)

At the lowest level of engagement there are four practices homeowners can start with: siting, location, education, and house size. These steps involve being intentional when choosing why, where, and how big for your home. It is easy to engage with these four principles during the design process because they require only small lifestyle changes.

The second level moves from intentionality toward action. This level includes: foundation insulation, upgrading the home’s shell insulation, caulking openings, taping house-wrap, upgrading windows, upgrading the HVAC, using renewable roofing and siding materials, and replacing a lawn with native plants. While some of the items are definitely easier to do during construction, most can be done on an existing home. All are simple yet effective ways to improve your home’s energy efficiency by making it more air-tight and sustainable.

Similarly, the third level involves taking action. Examples include: programmable and zoned HVAC systems, selecting energy efficient appliances, lowering water usage, opting for low or no-VOC paints, and reducing job-site waste and transportation. All these steps decrease your environmental impact while opting for sustainable materials.

The final level of the Green Pyramid strives for excellence in energy efficiency. The three items in this section-applying for green certification, using structural insulated panels (SIPs) and insulated concrete forms (ICFs), and creating net-zero energy levels-epitomize the best you can do when building your home or office building.


So, why is the green pyramid important? According to a study done by Green Builder for Readers’ Choice 2019, some of the top categories that are most influenced by green building and sustainability considerations include insulation, HVAC systems, appliances, roofing, and structure. These are all integral parts of your home that are either saving or costing you money.sustainability-graph-withsips

(Photo Credit to Green Builder for Reader’s Choice 2019)


Structural Insulated Panels, or SIPs, positively affect at least 8 of the 20 categories on the Green Building Pyramid. SIP is short for Structural Insulated Panel. It is a “sandwich” with two pieces of performance-rated oriented strand board (OSB). These boards are then structurally laminated to a continuous core of expanded polystyrene (EPS) insulation.

SIPs help homeowners create energy efficient homes in a number of ways. For starters, SIPs provide superior building insulation and structure throughout the walls and roof of the home. In addition, when you build with SIPs, house-wrap, tape, and caulk you make airtight seals that create a tight building envelope for your home.

What does superior insulation and airtight construction mean to you?

An increased R-Value over traditional stick framing with little to no costly air-leakage that would normally lead to increased heating and cooling costs. Traditional stick framing uses two major insulating methods, batting and spray foam. The long-term thermal resistance (LTTR) of both these methods decline over time. In other words, batt insulation and spray foam insulation lose R-value over time. This happens because the batting will fall over time due to gravity while spray foams use a thermal resistant material as its blowing agent that off-gases over time, losing much of the added insulating value, within five years.

SIPs are different. Insulspan SIPs use EPS insulation which does not fall due to gravity or off-gas. Therefore, it effectively delivers a consistent R-value over time. A higher R-value and more airtight building envelope supports the use of a smaller HVAC system. All of these things combine to create a more efficient, energy and money saving home.

Additionally, the structural lamination of the EPS to the OSB creates a strong, solid panel. This means they perform better in extreme weather conditions such as winter storms, hurricanes, and tornadoes. SIPs also offer unique design flexibility. For example, they help support thoughtful window placement to naturally heat or cool a house. Because Insulspan Ready-To-Assemble SIPs are manufactured to your home’s exact specifications, they reduce job-site waste. They also come to the site in just a few truck loads cutting down on transportation costs.

Which energy programs can I qualify for?

After implementing many of the aforementioned energy efficient practices, your home may be eligible for EnerGuide®, EnergyStar®, or LEED® certification. These energy programs are recognized worldwide and may raise your home’s equity and resale value. Ultimately, SIPs can help you achieve a net-zero, energy efficient home.

In summary, while small home improvements can make your home more energy efficient, the Green Building Pyramid guides you to improvements that will maximize your home’s efficiency. And while you are making these improvement choices, consider using SIPs to help you reach your energy savings goals.

Want to learn how you can reduce energy costs and gain the structural
strength of the Insulspan SIP system for your residential or commercial project?

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