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Back to Basics

Posted by Matt Power, Editor-In-Chief

Dec 13, 2017 12:36:04 PM

Don’t let fear make you hasty. Address the fundamentals, and your home will feel like the safe haven it should be.

There’s a crackling tension in the air? Can you feel it? Part of it, of course, is the the chaotic state the world’s climate: from superstorms to uncontrollable wildfires. On top of these shudders from the planet is the often racist, childish and violent rhetoric from our political leaders. It’s no wonder that more people are circling the wagons, “fortressing” their homes with security systems, surveillance cameras and generators.

We don’t have to make choices about our homes from a place of fear. If we slow down a little, take a deep breath, and look at how we live from the ground up, creating a safe, low-energy, durable home seems far less daunting. We can’t prevent the Yellowstone volcano from exploding and wiping out life on Earth, but we can create a home that you can practically heat with a candle, that will stand up to the next hurricane, provide most of its own power, and not look like an alien spaceship.

What I’m talking about is good building science. The aspects of our homes that most affect our future selves happen in the planning and construction phase. That’s why I created a diagram called “The Green Building Pyramid” about 8 years ago. Since then, the pyramid has been copied and changed slightly and republished by many different publications (usually without credit to the original author).

The premise of the Pyramid is simple. Focus on the lowest cost/big impact aspects of construction first. These include WHERE you build your home, SITING it in relation to the sun, and SIZE of the floorplan. Next, move up the pyramid, building a durable, super-efficient shell, one step at a time. Use the best wall system for your region, the right windows, the most durable siding, and so on.

When I first created the Pyramid, wifi smart home systems were still a luxury amenity. That’s something that has changed rapidly. So I’ve added suggestions of when and where to introduce these bells and whistles into the building process. The premise is still the same.

Electronics and other sensitive technology such as solar panels and inverters become vastly more effective if they rest on the sturdy base of other choices along the building path. Build it right, with performance and self-sufficiency in mind, then add smart thermostats, smart locks, and every security system you want. Build as small as you can manage, and spend less time managing, more time living, resilient in the face of anything the world throws at you over the coming years. 

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