Green Term Defined: Lifetime Home

Green Term Defined: Lifetime Home

albemarle county custom home

A design approach that encompasses specific design features that ensure that a new house or apartment will meet the current and future needs of most households. The space is designed for any ability, not just specific disabilities. The space can adapt to changing needs over time and allow for life to happen. The space makes life easier if you have a baby in a stroller and a trunk full of groceries or if you are aging-in-place and start facing mobility issues. 

solar photovoltaic

A lifetime home is not an often talked about green idea. However, building a home that can adapt to your changing needs reduces the chances of you needing to move. This reduces energy and materials used in the future. It also encourages you to build a more durable, energy-efficient, home since your timeline for thinking about costs will be many more years.

The key factors to think about for a lifetime home are:

  1. A place to arrive at your home that is safe, comfortable, and accessible for all abilities. pervious concrete
  2. A way to get into your home that is level or gently sloping, has a comfortable width, and is properly lit at night.
  3. An entrance that is wide enough, weather protected, has a level landing, and is properly lit at night.
  4. An open floorplan and doors that are wide enough for a wheelchair or walker. Avoid tight corners.
  5. Turning spaces for a wheelchair or walker in all spaces – hallway, kitchen, bathroom, closets. Custom Kitchen
  6. All living functions on the same level or an elevator to access other levels of the home. This includes a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, and living room. The bathroom should be accessible for someone in a wheelchair or someone assisting the user in the space.
  7. A roll-in shower with a rear linear drain to prevent flooding.
  8. Blocking or plywood underlayment on walls in areas where you might need grab bars in the future. This includes the shower, around the water closet, and hallway. plywood walls in bathroom
  9. Hoists blocking in bedrooms and bathrooms to give the appropriate ceiling support that might be needed in the future.
  10. Easy to open windows – casement windows are a nice solution as you can crank them out from a seated position.
  11. Front mounted controls, adjusted electric outlet and light switch heights, accessible HVAC controls.
  12. Multi-height working surfaces in the kitchen with some roll under seated space. A bonus would be a sink that has a removable base cabinet should you ever need that option. Don’t forget storage, a wall cabinet mounted at traditional heights is not easy to use from a seated position, so a large pantry closet can be used for accessible storage.
  13. An energy-efficient building envelope. It has to be efficient to be affordable.
  14. A durable home that does not require daily maintenance and will last for, well, a lifetime.
  15. A heathy indoor environmental quality. This is very important to consider for a lifetime home and touches materials used (VOCs) and the ventilation strategy for the heating and cooling system. Your home should not make you sick.
  16. Affordable – probably the most important aspect of a lifetime home is to design and build something that you are comfortable paying for and can afford over a lifetime.

Green Term Defined: Weatherization

Green Term Defined: Weatherization

Weatherization is the practice of using cost-effective strategies to modify a building to decrease energy usage and increase comfort. The broad approach of weatherization includes building envelope improvements, heating and cooling system strategies, electrical systems modification, and appliance upgrades.

Indoor air quality

The benefits of weatherization start with reducing monthly energy bills. From air sealing to insulation, strategies used in weatherization will benefit energy usage and comfort in the building for many years.

Bathroom renovation

Strategies to consider:

Air Sealing


Water Conservation

Energy Efficient Lights

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Green Terms Defined: Pervious Concrete

Pervious concrete is rare in our area, but is growing in popularity. It is simply concrete that allows water to move through the material into a storage area under the pavement. The storage area is typically a gravel bed. By capturing stormwater (rain) and allowing it to seep into the ground, groundwater is recharged, pollutants are filtered, and erosion is reduced.

pervious concrete pervious concrete


This pavement approach can be used to reduce the need for retention ponds, swales, and other stormwater management devices. A pervious concrete mixture contains few fines (sand and small aggregates) allowing “holes” in the material that water flows through into the storage area. Typically the voids represent 15% – 25% of the total assembly. It does require annual cleaning to avoid the voids from being filled with debris.

pervious paver

Pervious paving can be made of concrete, pavers, or asphalt. In our area, pervious paving is more expensive than traditional types of pavement. However, if you also calculate the stormwater measures it is more competitive.

Green Terms Defined: Year end summary

cds_Page_6  The 4 C’s: You have to be able to effectively convey the information from design to construction in a Clear, Concise, Correct, and Complete method.
IR_0030 Air Infiltration: The uncontrolled inward air leakage through cracks and holes in the building envelope and around windows and doors of a building caused by the pressure effects of wind and/or the effect of differences in the indoor and outdoor air density.

Biophilic Design: premise that we can learn from nature to create better buildings and build better buildings by connecting to nature

Blower Door Test: used to determine total air leakage of a home’s thermal envelope.

StarterKit KPL 619 Building Automation System: technology that can be used to control the heating and cooling systems in a building. It can also be used to control lights on a room by room basis or a fixture by fixture basis. It can also be used to monitor security systems and even entertainment systems.

Cohousing: type of development where residents collaborate together on the design of their own neighborhood

Composting: practice of mixing organic waste that can biodegrade quickly to create a planting medium called compost

Conservation: act of preserving, guarding, or protecting the resources we have available on this planet

Construction Waste: materials at a job site that cannot be easily used on that site

Dark Sky (Light Pollution): excessive, misdirected, or glaring artificial light

Dehumidifier: piece of equipment that reduces the level of humidity in the air

IMG_6148 Detached Garage: garage not directly connected to your home

Elf: battery assisted, solar charged bike will go 1.5 hours on a charge depending on total weight on a charge and allows you to apply pedal power to extend your ride

Embodied Energy: total amount of energy required to produce a product

Encapsulated Crawl Space: sealed space that has a vapor barrier on the walls and floor

HPIM0423.JPG Geothermal Heat Pump: heating and cooling system that transfers heat to and from the ground through a loop to condition the air inside of your home or business.

product-heat-pump-water-heater High Efficiency Water Heater: High efficiency water heating can save you a considerable amount of energy each day. There are several systems used to efficiently heat water for usage inside a building. The most common is either an on-demand water heater or a heat pump water heater.

Indoor Environmental Quality: the air that you breathe, the type of light, the sounds, and the comfort you feel.

IR_0137 Infrared (thermographic) camera: allows you to see radiation or temperature differential on a surface making it visible light.

20140908_162423_1 Integrated Design: Integrated design builds a team to walk the project from concept through construction

Life Cycle Analysis: system of reviewing the entire history of a product to account for the total impact on the environment

Off-the-grid:  An off-the-grid system operates without reliance on a public utility.

Permeability: measure of the diffusion of water vapor through a material

Rainwater Harvesting: collection of water for reuse before it reaches the aquifer

IMG_5350 Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs): environmental attributes of your green power that are sold separately  from the electrons that makes up the electricity.

Recycled Content: process that takes a waste material and converts it to a new product, thus reducing the consumption of raw materials, potentially reducing energy usage, and diverts materials from a landfill

R-Value: measure of the reduction of heat transfer across a defined path

Solar Reflectance Index: measure of the constructed surface’s ability to stay cool in the sun by reflecting solar radiation and emitting thermal radiation

Stack Effect: movement of air into and out of buildings, driven by air pressure, temperature differential, and moisture

Stormwater: water that comes from precipitation (rain, snow, sleet…) and does not soak into the ground

Sustainability: Development that meets the needs of present generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Vegetated Roof: partially or completely covered roof with vegetation over a waterproof membrane

Water Conservation: takes into account activities to manage fresh water resources, protect the water environment, and to meet current and future demand for fresh water.

20141110_110119 Zero Energy Ready Home: This program, once called Challenge Home, focuses on conservation strategies to reduce energy load and prepping the home for solar PV panels.

Green Term Defined: R-Value

R-Value is a measure of the reduction of heat transfer across a defined path. An R-Value of a product will provide you with information about the thermal performance of that specific product. It does not tell you the R-Value of the system (fiberglass, wood studs, sheathing, siding making up a wall assembly).

cellulose insulation

There is a test to determine R-Value where a sample of material is placed inside a testing chamber. This chamber has a hot plate and cold plate. The test determines how much heat goes through the material. This test does not factor into it, wind, humidity, human error, or temperature outside. These factors will greatly influence performance of the product being used with a given R-Value as well as the overall assembly of parts. Before you settle on a particular product with an R-Value you find acceptable – think through the entire assembly and climate you are placing the product.