5 Trends in Sustainable (and Practical) Home Building and Design for 2020

Passive House in Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Cape Cod Passive House courtesy of Passive House Massachusetts

What does “going green” mean for 2020 and beyond?

The home design and building industry continues to evolve and adapt to environmental, energy, consumer, and regulatory demands. Here is a quick overview of what is trending in homes designed with sustainability in mind.

1. Smart Homes and Automation

Smart home with woman holding iPad to control her home

As we move toward digital integration in so many areas of our lives, there has been an influx of automation technologies targeting the home. So-called “smart homes” incorporate security devices, thermostats, lighting, and appliances that can be controlled remotely from a mobile device or by voice command. And, while we want to be good stewards of the planet, convenience (control your home heat and lights from a beach cabana in the Caribbean, anyone?) has propelled the popularity of this technology.

Energy costs and environmental concerns have made smart thermostats a responsible choice for regulating home heating and cooling systems. Products such as the Nest Thermostat memorize your schedule to reduce energy use while you are out and adjust the temperature to your preferred setting when you arrive home. With smart home lighting, you can save energy and money, along with keeping your home more secure by controlling when your lights turn on and off.

Though not a “green” technology, the explosive popularity of smart security systems is noteworthy. Products such as the Ring Video Doorbell allow homeowners to see and speak with whomever is at the door from anywhere. They also let them lock and unlock doors remotely, all while recording video for later review.

2. Sustainability

LEED Home in Easton, Mass
LEED home in Easton, Massachusetts courtesy of Kyla Bennett

From as early as the 1970s energy crisis, environmental consciousness has grown. Sustainable design and development have become more mainstream and building rating systems such as LEED (Leadership in Energy Efficiency and Environmental Design), LBC (Living Building Challenge), NAHB (National Association of Home Builders) National Green Building Standard, and Passive House (highlighted below) are stimulating energy efficiency, resource conservation, and indoor air quality and health concerns. The proliferation of green building materials such as wood from well-managed forests, low VOC (volatile organic compounds) emitting paints and finishes, natural stone and recycled content surfaces, and domestically made furniture, has made it easier to source products aimed at both protecting the planet and guarding human health.

3. Passive House

The Passive House will be a green building trend for 2020
Cape Cod Passive House courtesy of Passive House Massachusetts

A Passive House meets a set of standards certifying a building’s ability to maintain comfortable temperatures year-round, requiring minimal energy and expenditure for heating and air-conditioning, according to the International Passive House Association.  Superior airtight construction, advanced window engineering, thermal insulation, and adequate ventilation are the principles of the Passive House strategy, which is to realize significant energy savings while promoting human comfort and optimal indoor air quality.  “Passive House buildings dramatically reduce carbon emissions while providing a healthier and more comfortable place to live and work,” says Aaron Gunderson, Executive Director of Passive House of Massachusetts. “New England is now leading the way, with homes, retrofits, multifamily buildings, affordable housing developments, offices, and schools all going Passive across the region.” Utility funded incentives are now available to spur the movement further.

 “Passive House buildings dramatically reduce carbon emissions while providing a healthier and more comfortable place to live and work,” says Aaron Gunderson, Executive Director of Passive House of Massachusetts.

4. Minimalism

Tiny house kitchen and living room overlooking water
Photo: Caryn B. Davis

Interested in small living and reducing your carbon footprint? The tiny house is here.  Architect and author, Sara Suzanka began the conversation with her 1998 book on minimizing house size and increasing functionality. “The Not So Big House: A Blueprint for the Way We Really Live,” inspired the movement on downsizing. With a call to build better, not bigger, she emphasized using multi-functional spaces, innovative design, and attention to detail versus creating rooms with magnificent cathedral ceilings that simply waste energy and space.

5. Industrial style and recycled content furniture

Ship-Wood Glass top table with timbers from Boston Seaport Shipwreck.
Ship-Wood Glass top table featuring timbers salvaged from the Boston Seaport Shipwreck. Photo courtesy of Timberguy.

Whether in timeless traditional interiors or in easy, breezy, beachy rooms, industrial elements and furnishings are showing up as part of the decor. Inspired by the growing number of repurposed mill buildings and factories converted into loft style living spaces that leave original structural beams and raw material elements (think concrete floors and brick walls) exposed, the look extends to furniture and accessories made from salvaged wood and structural metal.

Add the continued advancements in energy efficiency in home appliances, heating and cooling systems, and lighting, and we just may be on track for a more environmentally considerate decade.

© 2020 Coastal Design.