Green Building Basics

Earth Sheltered Design

Earth-sheltered design employs the earth as a major component of a building’s thermal control system. A house that is surrounded (completely or partially) by earth that stays at a steady 55-60° temperature year round requires less heating in the winter and less cooling in the summer. For comparison, a… Continue reading »


Landscaping designed to reduce the heating and cooling load of a building can greatly reduce its energy needs. Vegetation can greatly reduce unwanted heat gain by keeping the sun from directly striking a building and preventing reflected light from entering. Trees, shrubs, and grass additionally provide cooling through evapotranspiration. Vegetation also affects wind velocity, and depending on plant locations, can protect a building from cold winter winds, slow air leakage, and funnel cool summer breezes into the building. Continue reading »


Light shelves on a south facing wall reflect daylight further in to the interior of the space. Image courtesy of NREL Artificial lighting can account for up to 15% of a building’s annual electricity use. Use of current lighting technology and designing to minimize the need for artificial lighting… Continue reading »


The materials used to construct a building have a significant environmental impact, from extraction, processing, transportation, use, and disposal. Selection of more sustainable materials can reduce those impacts. The fireplace in the Paresky Center is constructed of slate quarried nearby in Vermont. Recycled Content Using items that are… Continue reading »

Passive Solar Design

Passive solar design refers to the use of the sun’s energy for the heating and cooling of living spaces by exposure to the sun. When sunlight strikes a building, the building materials can reflect, transmit, or absorb the solar radiation. In addition, the heat produced by the sun causes air… Continue reading »


Ceiling fans only affect the room in which they are installed. They work best when installed with their blades 7-9 feet above the floor and 10 - 12 inches below the ceiling. Larger blades move more air than smaller blades, but blade material has no effect on the amount of air moved. Larger blades provide more cooling in the summer and heat distribution in the winter at a lower velocity, which can be important in a space where a strong breeze would be unwelcome. Continue reading »

Water Conservation

While New England is an area traditionally rich in water, it is still important to conserve water. Even an area that normally has plenty of water can experience a drought, and conservation practices can help prepare for such an event. Conserving water also conserves energy – according to the… Continue reading »