The way a home is designed and framed can have a big impact on its energy efficiency. How wall lengths and heights are measured can help prevent air gaps that facilitate heat and cooling loss.

Rooms should be positioned to take advantage of natural light and views as well as deflect winter north winds. The plan should also allow for cross ventilation.

Minimal Footprint

The size of a house has an enormous impact on the environmental footprint of a building and its inhabitants. The smaller a home, the less energy is needed to heat and cool its occupants. Smaller homes are also more economical to build and maintain, especially if they utilize green materials and building practices in construction and ongoing maintenance.

The shape of the building envelope is also important. In most cases, a square or rectangular floor plan will provide the most efficiency. This is because orthogonal lines, which adhere to 90 degree angles where they meet, offer the most efficient delineation of space and are easiest to cut in construction materials. Square or rectangular forms also lend themselves to open planning methods which help reduce the amount of wall area and increase visibility.

There are ways to create more space, such as by considering eliminating spaces that serve similar functions. For example, does your home really need a dining room and living room? If so, a solution could be to combine these two rooms into one large space. This will save on floor area and create a more cohesive layout with better flow.

Additionally, it is important to maximize the use of natural light in a home. This is achieved through strategic glazing placement and shifting the floor plate to align with views, topographical features or solar orientation. For example, orienting bedrooms to face east rather than west will ensure they receive the morning sun to warm them and shade them from the hot afternoon sun that would overheat them.

Less Offsets

Obviously, the more walls that are in a floor plan, the more surface area there is for heat gain and loss. Choosing plans with fewer offsets – like eliminating foundation offsets altogether – cuts down on energy costs and makes the building envelope more efficient.

Elaborating a well-designed concept that provides order to the house plan can also make a home feel more efficient. Whether it’s a grid, linear scheme, radial scheme, or symmetry, the concept should be articulated and consistent throughout the building.

Another way to improve house efficiency is to avoid wasting space with hallways that bisect living spaces or other open areas. Keeping hallways to a minimum can save on room clearance and walkways, while making rooms feel more spacious. Similarly, economize on corner windows that would not promote cross breezes or provide good views and invest in larger center or rear-facing windows instead.

Better Ventilation

Proper natural light and ventilation is important to help keep occupants healthy. It regulates humidity and helps cool rooms, while reducing the build-up of airborne pollutants. Proper ventilation also reduces odours and keeps occupants safe from the respiratory issues associated with poor indoor air quality.

The building layout determines how well a house can be naturally ventilated. In general, the more open a space is, the better it is for natural ventilation. This means less walls, more windows, and open transitional spaces like courtyards.

A courtyard in your new home can improve both the air flow and the lighting in a room. In addition, a courtyard can act as an outdoor living area for relaxing and entertaining. When designing your new home, make sure to include a courtyard in the design.

When designing your home, try to avoid closed off rooms unless they have a specific use. This will make it easier to convert the space into something else in the future. This can save you a lot of money in the long run and will allow you to get more value from your home later on.

The location of your house in relation to the wind is another factor that will affect the natural ventilation of a room. For example, if the wind blows into your house from one direction, it will force air through the windows on the windward side and create a natural vacuum effect pulling air out of the windows on the leeward side.

In cold climates, pressure differences can drive warm indoor air into exterior wall cavities and condense into water vapor. In these situations, a balanced ventilation system is important to ensure that the indoor air doesn’t escape into the cold outside. Using an air-modeling software, such as BEopt (Building Energy Optimization), can help you find the best natural ventilation solution for your home.

Reduced Heating and Cooling Loads

If a house uses less energy to heat and cool the air in the home, it will need a smaller HVAC system, which will cost less upfront and save money over time. Also, a smaller house will require fewer light fixtures and wall outlets, which will again lower up front costs and reduce electricity usage over time.

One major component that determines how much energy a house will use is the “thermal envelope,” which includes wall and roof assemblies, insulation, finishes, windows, doors, ventilation and more. Recent technological improvements in construction components, systems and heating, ventilating and cooling (HVAC) techniques make it easier than ever to incorporate many energy-saving ideas at the design stage.

Another important consideration is the shape of the house. The more rounded the shape of a house the more surface area it has for heat gain or loss. A square has the least amount of surface area per volume so it will be more efficient in terms of energy.

The direction a house faces is another factor that influences the amount of cooling needed. By orienting the building to minimize direct sunlight and incorporating shading strategies that prevent the buildup of afternoon sun, a house can be designed for cooler interior temperatures, which will reduce the need for mechanical cooling.

Other details to consider include advanced framing construction that will reduce wood waste, the type of insulation used and how it is installed, and how electrical holes in the wall frames are sealed. These can contribute to a large portion of a home’s heating and cooling bill over time. Also consider the energy efficiency of the home’s duct work and how well it is sealed to the walls, floor and ceilings.

Better Energy Efficiency

Many builders are incorporating energy efficient options for the home’s “thermal envelope” in their designs. This includes framing construction, insulation type and quality, window selection, and heating/cooling systems. However, these are not the only things that make a house energy efficient. There are other smaller construction details, such as the sealing of ductwork, that can dramatically reduce energy use.

It is also helpful to select a home plan that maximizes the amount of natural light that can enter a space. This can reduce the need to use artificial lighting and decrease electricity consumption. It’s also important to minimize the number of wall outlets and switchplates in a home. This reduces the electrical load and lowers monthly energy costs.

Choosing a more compact house design can also help reduce energy consumption. Larger homes require more energy to heat and cool, so reducing the square footage helps reduce overall demand. In addition, selecting a home plan that uses every square foot of available space can cut up-front expenses and increase future flexibility.

A house’s location and orientation can have a significant impact on its energy efficiency as well. For example, in a northern climate it’s best to position living, dining and family rooms facing south so they can receive abundant sunlight throughout the day to lower cooling demands. Service areas such as laundry rooms and garages should face north to limit the exposure to direct sun in the summer.

The more complex a home’s design is, the more surface area it has for thermal exchange and loss. This makes it more difficult to keep a house at a constant temperature, especially in the winter. This is why it’s often easier to build simple shapes, like one-story rectangular ramblers and domes, than more complicated designs.