Building Energy-Efficient Homes for the Environmentally Conscious Buyer

Sustainable and green home design to meet millennial home buyer demands will shape the industry in 2020

By Rod Terry

There’s no denying that environmental consciousness was a high-profile topic in 2019 across many industries and generations. But, perhaps the most notable generations raising their voices are millennials and Gen Z, with Greta Thunberg becoming an international symbol of climate change after arriving to the UN on a carbon-free yacht. With more individuals moving towards greener, more sustainable practices in many aspects of their lives, the homes they choose to live in are no exception. Researchers have found that home buyers prioritize sustainable green options that will save energy and many would rather invest in more expensive features that last longer in their home.

Creating healthy, sustainable buildings not only reduces energy consumption and protects the environment but can save homeowners money through areas such as lower electricity costs. Another benefit of sustainable buildings is improving occupant comfort, health and wellbeing. These factors are often a priority consideration for many millennial home buyers, especially as they relate to indoor air quality which research shows is a concern for 66% of millennials.

With an abundance of energy-efficient options, it can be challenging to navigate the sustainable waters of home building and design. Implementing simple yet effective options to achieve energy-efficiency, such as proper insulation and low-flow faucets, can be a great alternative and first step towards a greener home. So, with increasing social consciousness and responsibility set to continue to drive building trends as we enter 2020, here are some key design considerations for builders and developers constructing energy-efficient homes:

Passive Cooling

Comfort and wellbeing should be a top priority for all builders and developers, and air quality is a factor that can have a hugely damaging impact on this. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency ranks poor air quality as one of the top five environmental health risks because it can have several negative consequences on the human body, productivity and cognitive function. Home buyers are recognizing this and are listing improved air quality as one of the most attractive green features, along with saving money on energy costs in a survey by the NAHB.

Many of us often forget the impact fresh air can have on the home. Poor ventilation in a building can have the effect of causing a buildup of pollutants that are harmful to humans, including carbon monoxide. It can also create high levels of humidity, leading to moisture or dampness and deeper issues within the home. Passive cooling is a method to protect against this. It entails implementing strategically placed air sources, such as doors, windows and opening glass walls, that harness and direct the flow of naturally occurring breezes of the home’s microclimate to keep rooms cool and fresh.

Passive cooling can reduce energy usage in the ventilation process while increasing comfort for occupants leading to a healthier, more sustainable home. Screens can be a great solution to aid with passive cooling, by enabling homeowners to restrict insects and pests from entering the home but still allowing fresh air and ventilation to filter through.

Exterior Shading

Most of us love the sunshine, but when it comes to controlling the temperature of a home it isn’t always our friend. Exterior shading solutions, such as retractable screens, awnings and louvers, offer an ideal solution by reducing the amount of solar heat that enters the building. It makes a lot more sense to prevent the heat from entering the building rather than pump it out with a mechanical system.

Exterior shading systems have been found to be seven times more effective at reducing heat gain compared to interior mounted shades. Further research by the Professional Awning Manufacturers Association found that shading a building’s exterior from sun rays can lessen heat buildup between 65% – 77%. Consequently, this can reduce a home’s energy costs through cutting down or eliminating the need for air conditioning and provide a much greener and often a more affordable option.

Exterior shading can also contribute to passive warming during the cold times of the year by allowing the warmth of the sun’s rays to enter the building windows during the daytime. Options such as dynamic solar shades are a good all-season energy-saving solution. Using sensors and triggers, the shades automatically react to the changing conditions of the natural environment in order to maximize passive cooling or warming benefits.

As we enter 2020, consumer demands for greener, more environmentally friendly living spaces will continue to increase and drive home development trends. Through my work in the outdoor living industry, I have come to appreciate the innovation and practicality of energy-efficient home solutions that are sustainable and create comfortable, attractive and healthy living environments for homeowners.

Rod Terry is the Chief Revenue Officer of Phantom Screens. Learn more at