3 Sustainable Building Strategies For Your Home

Holistic Sustainability

You probably know that sustainable building is focused on the environmental impact of a constructed project. But what you might not know is that there are two other components: the economic and social impacts. We strive to address all three elements in each of our Porch Light plans so that every home purchased leaves a positive impact where it’s built. Today we want to dig a little into the environmentally conscious aspects of the Long House.

First, though, let’s talk about the social and economic components of sustainability. If a home isn’t first beautiful and functional, it won’t be worth keeping around. And if it’s not worth keeping around, who cares how environmentally conscious it was built? We deeply believe that beauty and function are the essential social components of sustainability.

Additionally, a project has to be economically viable to be sustainable. That’s why we strive to make every Porch Light plan affordable, and we put a lot of thought into keeping utility costs down when it comes to living in the home.


Passive Design

With that said, let’s focus in on the environmental component of sustainability now.

The easiest way to guarantee a super-efficient home is to use what architects call passive design strategies. There are tons of different strategies that have been developed based on different climates, but there are also two universal rules of thumb that should be applied to all buildings.


Opening low windows on the North side and high windows on the South side of the Long House channels a breeze to naturally ventilate the living space, making it comfortable for the majority of the year without air conditioning. Deep roof overhangs are designed to keep the hot summer sunlight out while allowing low winter sunlight in to passively warm the living space.


3 Passive Design Strategies

1. Site Orientation

How a building is placed on its site is the single most important factor to consider when constructing a new project. The biggest failure of the suburban home model is that lots are often divided to maximize the number of homes in a neighborhood rather than providing the best orientation for passive heating, cooling, and daylighting.

When selecting a site, be careful to choose one with a long East-West axis. You’ll want the shorter sides of your house facing East and West while the longer sides face North and South. Orienting your home this way will maximize your passive heating, cooling, and daylighting potential.


2. Passive Heating/Cooling

What if you only needed to turn on your A/C or furnace for the 2-3 most extreme months of the year? It’s possible with the Long House! There are a couple of strategies we’ve used to make sure the Long House requires as little mechanical intervention as possible to keep the inside comfortable.

First, a tight building assembly is key. We suggest using 2x8 exterior wall framing. Those extra deep studs will allow room for more insulation, which helps keep the inside temperature more consistent, no matter what it’s doing outside.

Second, the Long House suggests placing operable windows toward the floor and the ceiling on both sides of the home, especially in the main kitchen, living, and dining space. Opening low windows on the windy side and high windows on the opposite side will us natural suction to enable cross ventilation. That just means cooler air will come in low windows and hotter air will exit the high windows in the warm months.

Third, the deep roof overhangs keep out unwanted summer sun and let the low winter sun shine through to passively warm the interior.


3. Passive Daylighting

Just like how passive heating and cooling drastically lessen your need for mechanical systems, it’s possible to only turn your lights on after the sun sets. With the Long House, we made sure every room that will be regularly occupied has access to natural daylight. The interior kids’ bathroom and laundry room borrow light from the hallway through clerestory windows. Skylights could also easily be added for those who want more direct light in any space.

With each of these social, economic, and environmental strategies in place, the Long House embodies modern, sustainable living at its best.


Knowledge is power.


Caleb Amundson is an interior architect with experience in residential remodeling and building custom furniture. He currently lives and works between Kansas City, Lawrence, and Manhattan, KS.

Interested in working with us to customize your Long House? Give Katie a call at (206) 384-3168 or send her an email at katie@porchlightplans.com.