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Design Your Own Energy-Efficient Home: Seven Classes That Will Help

Sep 25, 2009 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 0 Comments

Building your own home gives you control—over how it’s built, the energy it uses, the layout, location and design. If you’re in the market for an environmentally conscious home, designing your own may be your best bet—although green building is becoming more and more common, it’s still tough to find truly sustainable homes in every neighborhood.

Unless you have a background in construction or architecture, you’ll be hiring people to design and build your home. But as the homeowner, it helps to know a few things about environmental design as well—so you can be sure you’re getting what you want. Here are a few classes that will give you the basic knowledge you need.

Choosing a renewable energy installer

If you want a truly energy-efficient and ecologically conscious green home, you can’t leave out consideration of your energy source.  But it can be tough to find a contractor who can install a renewable energy system—it’s still specialized knowledge and not common everywhere.  This class will help you find installers, what to look for in a quality installer, and how to reduce the costs of your energy installation project.  This course is designed for homeowners with little or no construction knowledge, but you’ll need to have at least some familiarity with different types of renewable energy, their costs and which one will work for you.

Fundamentals of Solar Hot Water Heating

Green Building

Not all building professionals have specialized knowledge of green building and design, and some may not advertise their ability to build a green home.




Heating hot water can take a lot of energy.  This class will teach you how to reduce your energy costs and lessen your carbon footprint through installation of a solar hot water heating system.  Designed for people who plan to work in the solar hot water heating industry, it can also be useful for homeowners with basic construction experience who want to install their own solar heating systems.  The class covers practical design, solar panel installation training and techniques, maintenance, and safety.

An Introductory Guide to Solar Energy

This class will teach you how solar energy works, the difference between thermal and photovoltaic systems, and how the technologies are applied. It’s ideal for homeowners interested in building a solar energy-reliant home; it also covers how your climate, build site, geography and zoning requirements affect your solar energy, how to hire an installation contractor, and how solar energy capability will affect the value of your home.

Green Building for Contractors

This class assumes a basic level of understanding of construction science and techniques, but there’s information here that can be used by homeowners as well as professionals. This class is designed for those planning to build new green homes, and it also gives some basic knowledge useful for those who want to renovate existing ones. It covers the basics of energy consumption in a home and how to boost energy efficiency; managing moisture; assuring indoor air quality; choosing green building materials; and boosting your home’s water efficiency.

Problems And Risks Associated With Green Construction

This teleconference goes beyond the basics of eco-design and green construction to talk about some of the problems you’re likely to face during the construction phase.  You’ll learn about the risks unique to green building, how to pinpoint and avoid problems that could lead to failure; how to stop problems where they start during the design process; and more. Valuable for construction professionals involved in green building projects, it could also provide insight to homeowners with some basic construction knowledge on how to pinpoint and avoid possible problems in their home design and build process.

Green Building

Unless you have a background in construction or architecture, you'll be hiring people to design and build your home. 




Eco Building Design

This class covers the basics of bio-house design and ecological building—that is, building a home that relies on renewable natural resources and ensures the health of those who live there. You’ll learn about how different factors of the build process could affect occupant health along the line; how to buy eco-friendly building materials; proper ventilation and air quality control; environmentally friendly temperature control; and the basics of ergonomics. With this online eco building course, you’ll learn how to design a home that doesn’t strain the health of its occupants—or the resources of the local or broader environment.

Home Energy Fundamentals

This class gives students a basic understanding of how homes use energy; traditional energy sources and renewable alternatives available to you.  You’ll also learn the steps you can take to reduce your home’s energy usage regardless of the fuel source you use, as well as how to do an energy audit on your own home or choose the right professional to do it for you.  With this class, you should have a basic understanding of the issues involved in designing your own energy-efficient and sustainable home—or participating in the design process with a professional.

A lot of knowledge is necessary to design and build an ecologically conscious home.  As a homeowner, it helps to understand the basics of green building, your options regarding renewable energy and green building materials, their approximate costs and how their use will affect your home’s carbon footprint.  It’s also crucial to know how to hire the right contractors. Not all building professionals have specialized knowledge of green building and design, and some may not advertise their ability to build a green home. With this knowledge, you should be able to explain what you want, monitor the project, and hire a builder who can get the job done the way you want it.

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