Think sustainable home design is just a fad? Think again. Green is growing and growing and growing. In 2017, more than one-third of homebuilders said green building was a significant share of their overall activity. By 2022, this number is expected to increase to one-half, proving that green home building is here to stay (and hopefully bound to become the status quo!).
Every year new products and technologies emerge – raising the bar on the possibilities. And after watching trends in sustainability for nearly two decades, I’m excited to report that the coming year looks better than ever! Hop on board with these 18 trends for sustainable homes in 2018!
SUSTAINABLE HOME DESIGN TRENDS FOR 2018#1 – RESILIENCYAfter a record-breaking year of catastrophic destruction due to weather and climate change, and with similar natural disasters expected to increase in intensity and frequency in the coming years, “resiliency” is becoming the new “sustainability.”
Not only are durable materials and designs becoming a part of the conversation, non-toxic materials are becoming more important as well as the mass destruction of buildings made from toxic materials essentially creates Superfund sites out of communities – leaving extremely high levels of pollution in the water, soil, and air.
Thankfully, many of the materials and technologies already exist, like prefab homes that can withstand hurricane-force winds, cladding materials that are naturally fire resistant, and battery systems that reserve electricity for unanticipated power outages.
#2 – EXTREME ENERGY EFFICIENCYFar beyond buying Energy Star appliances (which is still great!), an increasing amount of people are building or renovating their homes using a more holistic energy efficiency approach. Buildings account for 70% of energy use and nearly 40% of CO2 emissions in the U.S., so it’s no wonder builders and homeowners are increasing efficiency in as many ways as possible such as using super-insulating materials and passive solar design. At the farthest end of the spectrum are net zero energy homes that generate as much electricity as they use – and California’s accelerating the adoption by mandating that all new home be net zero energy by 2020 (that’s right around the corner!) Interested in having a net zero energy home? We want you to have one! Check out our net zero hub to learn steps to take, find rebates and pros, and much more!
#3 – RENEWABLES EVERYWHEREInstalling renewable energy systems in your home isn’t an anomaly anymore, as more people opt for solar and wind driven systems over fossil fuels. Falling prices have given people greater access to these types of alternative energies, plus numerous PR campaigns have educated us on all of the benefits. “The cost of renewable energy keeps going down, comparing favorably with coal,” writes Erica Gies for Insideclimate News. “Battery technology also continues to improve and get cheaper. And digital technology is making electric markets cleaner and more efficient, as well.” It’s the perfect trifecta for progress across the board – not only is it easier for an individual homeowner to use a renewable energy system on their home or land, it’s also empowering utility companies and local governments to start transitioning to 100% renewables. According to the Sierra Club, across the U.S. over 50 cities, more than five counties and one state, have already adopted ambitious 100% clean energy goals.
#4 – ALL ELECTRIC HOMESTransitioning to renewables means phasing out gas as an energy source; thus, the rise of the all-electric home. One out of every four homes in the U.S. is all-electric already, according to the most recent survey from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Taking the place of the gas stove is the induction range. Standing in for the gas water heater is the heat pump water heater. And, kicking the gas furnace to the curb are heat pumps and radiant heating AND cooling. “Right now people understand the benefit of having an electric vehicle, and soon I think they will also understand the benefits of having all-electric homes,” said Rachel Golden, a senior campaign representative at the Sierra Club.
#5 HOME AUTOMATIONHave you heard of the Internet of Things? It’s the internetworking of physical devices that allows them to send and receive data. The applications range from health care and transportation to environmental monitoring and, yes – homes. “Smart homes” are quickly becoming the norm in sustainable building. The pros at Pearl Remodeling write, “It seems like these days people expect to be able to turn on their coffee and pre-heat their ovens on the way home. With today’s technology, there is almost nothing you CAN’T control remotely. We don’t see any reason for a decline in that home design trend, in fact, quite the opposite.” Expect to see even more smart devices on the market in 2018, in all price ranges, that will do things like control and automate heating, lighting, and HVAC systems, and even appliances such as refrigerators, ovens, washers, and dryers that can use Wi-Fi for remote control and monitoring.
#6 – WATER EFFICIENCYA staggering 40 out of 50 states anticipate water shortages in the coming years, according to a Government Accountability Office survey of state water managers. As such, using water wisely is becoming more important than ever. “Water efficiency efforts have long seen ebbs and flows based on drought conditions,” says Ryan Meres, programs director for RESNET Washington, D.C. “However, with water prices increasing as much as eight percent each year since 2010 consumer demand for more water efficient homes may reach a tipping point in 2018. Builders already getting their homes HERS Rated will soon be able to add a water rating with the launch of the new HERSH2O Index in 2018. With more than 200,000 homes getting a HERS Rating each year, HERSH2O has the potential to transform the water efficiency market.” The Federal Energy Management Program is even encouraging net zero water buildings!
#7 HEALTHY HOMESConsidering how much time we spend in our homes, a home that supports good health should be our first priority. As it turns out, going green has plenty of benefits for more than just the planet. Research shows that green buildings have a hugely positive impact on the health (mental and physical) of the lucky people who live and work there. Going green means improving indoor air quality, making use of natural lighting, and using eco-friendly materials — all of which contribute to your happiness, health, and productivity.
The main reason why green homes are healthier: They have excellent indoor air quality. Going green means using low- or zero-VOC paints and materials, eliminating respiratory and immune system distress commonly associated with traditional buildings. Plus, green homes typically sport excellent ventilation systems — a steady flow of fresh air into the home means no build-up of stale and polluted air. Tightened building envelopes are another feature that makes green buildings healthier. A tighter seal means less airborne irritants, like allergens and dust.
#8 WATER FILTRATIONAdding a water filtration system to your home is a 2017 trend that will carry over into 2018. Rising health concerns and water crises in the news have sparked people’s desire to check out how their water quality measures up and to take precautions to protect and improve it. Healthy living is gaining in prominence, too, and clean water is a key ingredient.
Also, despite costing up to 2,000 times as much as tap water (and not necessarily being any purer than tap water), last year bottled water became the most popular beverage sold in the U.S. And the amount of waste it’s generating is staggering. Hugo Tagholm, of the marine conservation group Surfers Against Sewage, told EU media network EURACTIV that the figures were devastating. “The plastic pollution crisis rivals the threat of climate change as it pollutes every natural system and an increasing number of organisms on planet Earth.”
#9 – MATERIAL TRANSPARENCYWith increasing concern over toxic chemicals in products, consumers are pushing for ingredient labels on everything. Without government regulation, others are filling the gap with databases like the 10 trustworthy green product databases we featured here. As transparency becomes a competitive advantage, more and more manufacturers are jumping on board. “2018 will be the year when transparency finally becomes practical,” writes Ken Edelstein, green building expert. “Understanding the ingredients of a building the way a chef understands what goes into a recipe is becoming less of novelty and more of a standard way of doing business.”
#10 – BIOPHILIC DESIGNHumans evolved in nature, so it should come as no surprise that nature is biologically and psychologically beneficial to us. Still, over the last century buildings have been designed to separate us from nature – biophilic design aims to reverse that by incorporating nature and natural elements into homes. “When buildings capture the movement of the sun through the sky using windows, patterns, and architectural details, these dynamic shadows and pools of light connect us to the time of day, the season, and our inner biorhythms,” writes Amanda Sturgeon, FAIA, and CEO of the International Living Future Institute. “There is a lasting and healing power in these spaces. I started working in architecture over 20 years ago, on a mission to dissolve the walls that existed between the inside and outside. Needless to say, biophilic design has always made inherent sense to me, and I’m so excited to see it begin to emerge as a design trend.”
#11 – INNOVATIVE MATERIALSYear after year, innovations in green building materials continue to expand and 2018 will be no different. Recycled and reclaimed products have become widely accessible and mainstream, but manufacturers are expanding into new realms with things like smart-tinting glass, materials made from food waste, and much more.
#12 EFFICIENT SPACESAs homeowners increasingly realize that less can be more with a smaller home, the need for multifunctional design is becoming more appealing than ever. Get the most out of your space by turning little nooks and crannies into a mini hideaway or use convertible furniture to transform a room’s purpose completely. And, if you’re considering putting an addition on your home, instead of adding to the footprint, remodel with space-efficiency in mind to be more sustainable.
#13 PREFABS AND PREFAB TECHNIQUES“Prefabs” or prefabricated homes were originally popular in the early 1900s when modern building was first becoming mainstream (Sears sold them in their catalog!), and now they’re back with a bang. “Factory-made prefabricated homes have come a long way from flimsy trailer park dwellings,” writes Jackie Craven for ThoughtCo. “Trend-setting architects and builders are using modular building materials to create bold new designs with lots of glass, steel, and real wood. Prefabricated, manufactured and modular housing comes in all shapes and styles, from streamlined Bauhaus to undulating organic forms. (Here are 18 options almost anyone can afford!)
#14 – LIVING IN PLACEHomeowners and their families are increasingly staying put, opting for renovations like design elements intended to aid aging-in-place (which continue to top the American Institute of Architects’ quarterly reports). “Not surprisingly, demand for greater accessibility features continues to be strong,” said AIA chief economist, Kermit Baker. “Whether it’s a result of generally lower mobility or the aging baby-boomer population, homeowners are preparing for the future.” And families are sticking together. “It looks like multigenerational living is here to stay,” writes Mary Cook, founder of interior design firm Mary Cook Associates Chicago for Builder Online. “Not since the 1950s have so many families chosen to live with multiple adult generations under one roof, according to Pew Research, challenging designers and builders to maximize efficiency without compromising style. Home builders are learning quickly that privacy and accessibility are two must-haves for multigenerational living.”
#15 SUSTAINABLE LANDSCAPINGExtend sustainability outside your home this year by making your yard environmentally friendly. While a perfectly manicured grass lawn was once the ideal, 2018 is bringing native, drought-tolerant, low-maintenance plants to replace some of that turf. By creating a less rigid landscape with these types of trees, shrubs, and plants, you can help conserve water, fertilizer, and pesticides – plus help support local wildlife. Another popular option is growing your own food. Utah-based landscape designer Laurie van Zandt tells Builder Online that 75% of her clients now request vegetable and herb gardens.
#16 – AFFORDABLE SUSTAINABILITYAs prices drop across the board – from renewable energy options to prefab building techniques to eco-friendly building materials – having a sustainable home is more affordable than ever before. Plus, homeowners are increasingly getting wise to the long-term savings associated with going green: lower energy bills, lower water bills, and fewer upkeep costs. Learn tips and tricks to make your home more sustainable on a budget in this article about the Top 10 Myths About Green Home Remodeling.
#17 – STANDARDS, CODES & RATING SYSTEMSDon’t get lost in the acronyms, but at the November 2017 Greenbuild conference in Boston we saw representation from a flurry of certifying organizations including LEED, WELL, SITES, Fitwel, ILFI, GRI, JUST, ISSP, IWBI, BREAAM US, GBCI, and more. “2018 will be a watershed year in the course of green building standards, codes and rating systems,” writes Stuart Kaplow for Green Building Law Update. “There has been no other single calendar year that has seen the breadth of substantive change that is before us…it is clear that the real estate industry is developing out of its green building adolescence. Earlier versions of these green building standards, codes and rating systems were largely written in silos by partisans. What appears to be on the horizon in 2018 is the democratization of green building, in the U.S. and abroad.”
#18 – GREEN GOES MAINSTREAMIn the best news of all, green seems to finally have gone mainstream. Yay! “The accelerating adoption of green building practices may transform sustainable construction from movement to norm,” writes Jeff Gavin, LEED Green Associate. “Globally, the green building market is doubling every three years, as revealed in ‘The World Green Building Trends 2016 Smart Market Report’ by Dodge Data and Analytics, New York. While mandates make sustainable building a bigger force abroad, its rapid adoption in the United States is even more remarkable given its voluntary and value-driven approach. Green is now mainstream, which is reflected in ever more stringent codes, communities and states that institutionalize green practices, and owners and the real estate market are endorsing its value.”
As you can see there’s a lot to look forward to in regards to sustainable home design as we move into 2018. We can’t wait to reveal even more good news from the green building scene as the year progresses.
Happily, green building is moving much more into the mainstream and once things reach a positive tipping point, the wasteful ways of the past will seem as primitive as a steam locomotive.
*Sorenson, Janelle. (n.d.) 18 Trends for Sustainable Homes In 2018. Retrieved from, https://elemental.green/17-trends-for-sustainable-homes-in-2017/.