What Is Sustainable Design? The Modern Barn Blog

November 8, 2017

What Is Sustainable Design?


Sustainability and sustainable design are not optional in today’s custom home industry. Al Giaquinto believes that sustainable design is the future of the home industry, to such a degree that within 10 years, we may start to see homes that aren’t built sustainably torn down and replaced with those that are. In The Modern Barn book, Al discussed several important facets of sustainability in design.


“Houses built in this decade that don’t seriously consider their carbon footprint will be irrelevant by next decade,” says Al. Homeowners need to seriously consider sustainable housing as it becomes more accessible and valuable.


“There’s no price point that safeguards a house on the East End,” he said. “There are properties bought for $50 million and the houses are torn down.”

Three Facets of Sustainable Design


The Modern Barn homes incorporate sustainable design in three ways:

1. Energy


Energy usage is the first component of sustainable design. Architects can reduce the carbon footprint of a home significantly by making intelligent choices in energy options.


Solar panels placed on roofs reduce long-term energy usage and bills. The cleanest source of energy comes from the sun, making solar panels an optimal choice for clean energy. Additionally, solar panels don’t take much to maintain. (Read “40 Facts About Solar Energy”)


The Modern Barn homes also use efficient heating, cooling, and water systems. Implementing these features cuts down on the amount of energy the household consumes overall. This is the first step toward sustainable design in custom homes.


Energy efficient homes are more environmentally-friendly. Additionally, as more homeowners begin to demand sustainable features, energy efficient systems and design increase resale value.

2. Envelope


“The building envelope is the physical separator between the interior and exterior of a building.” (Sustainability Workshop)


Al Giaquinto believes that the second most important element in sustainable design is the building envelope. Therefore, sustainability must include insulation, glass, and overall efficiency of the envelope.


The home’s envelope plays a major role in heating and cooling, which ultimately comes back to energy. Sustainable design ensures that homes are well-insulated and that glass is oriented appropriately to make the most of the sun’s energy and light.


“Advanced building envelope materials can reduce building energy use and costs by lowering heating and cooling loads, which account for roughly 50% of energy consumed by a typical U.S. home and 40% in commercial buildings.” (Advanced Energy Perspectives)


Without sustainable building envelope’s, builders risk wasting the money and effort put into energy efficient heating and cooling. These two elements must work together.

3. Construction


The third way The Modern Barn homes incorporate sustainability in design involves the actual construction of the home. The materials used to build the homes, as well as the distance each material has to travel to the site, matter in terms of a carbon footprint.


One material of importance in the East End of Long Island is cedar. Cedar shingles are a quintessential Hamptons style, but by the early 1800’s the local supply of cedar became depleted.


The company uses local sources for most of the wood used in The Modern Barns. Cedar is the exception; it is brought in from the Pacific Northwest.

The Value of Sustainable Design


Sustainable design adds significant value to a home. Homes designed “eco-friendly” or “green,” sell for more than others, depending on the location. An article in EnergySage suggests that the addition of solar panels can add $20,000 to a home’s value, on average. Of course, the actual value of the addition can be even more in certain neighborhoods.


A Washington, DC research study proved the value of going green:


“Homebuyers are not only increasingly interested in high-performance homes, or homes incorporating green features, but they are also willing to pay more for them.” (Institute for Market Transformation)


In some cases, green homes commanded up to 7.75% more than conventional homes. The degree to which the home incorporated sustainable design, as well as real estate marketing strategies, factored into some differences.

Sustainable Landscape Design


While much of the focus of sustainable design centers around the building and its features, changes in landscaping also contribute to the sustainable design movement.


Some architects believe that sustainable landscaping can create a net-zero or climate-positive home (Clean Technica).


A 2017 American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) survey found that more consumers prefer sustainable landscape design. 82.31% of consumers surveyed wanted native/adapted drought-tolerant plants. 81.60% of consumers preferred native plants, and 79.25% preferred low-maintenance landscapes. Those three sustainable design projects topped the list of all landscape trends in 2017.

Sustainability and The Modern Barn


Sustainability involves everything from the selection of materials to the framework – and even the design-build process itself.


For The Modern Barn, sustainability is a matter of environmental and business sense. Per Al Giaquinto: “It is not only the responsibility of the builder to consider the environment: it is also good business.”