We specialize in building large custom estate homes throughout the Peninsula and Silicon Valley areas.
Without a doubt, the houses that we inhabit have an enormous impact on the environment, both in terms of the resources they use for construction, and the energy they require to keep us comfortable. According to one recent report, the construction of a new, two-bedroom house in the United States produces an average of 80 tons of carbon dioxide emissions. For perspective, that is about equal to the emissions of about five new vehicles. After considering the embodied energy footprint of the home, the energy use of the structure is another source of environmental impact. In the United States, buildings (both residential and commercial) account for an estimated 41 percent of the total amount of energy used in the United States. That means that we collectively use more energy to light, heat, cool, and power our homes, schools, and offices than the total amount of energy used by both the industrial and transportation sectors. The houses we live in also use about 14 percent of all drinkable water while also being responsible for around 40 percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.
These statistics go to show that moving towards green and sustainable building methods is an important part of a transition towards a more environmentally friendly society. But what exactly defines a sustainable home?
What Is a Green Home?
When most people think about “green” homes, we might think about those incredibly compact tiny homes that are all the rage on YouTube channels and HGTV programs. Maybe we think about a completely off-grid cabin built in a hidden paradise that blends into the local landscape, or a modernist “recycled” home made from used shipping containers, old tires, and discarded wine bottles. Though tiny homes, off-grid cabins, and homes made from recycled materials can certainly be inspiring examples of sustainable structures, might there be other ways to reduce our home´s environmental footprint without trying to squeeze into 400 square feet, move to a remote mountain lake, or search ports for discarded shipping containers?
Here at Conrado Home Builders, we believe that green building principles, materials, techniques, and technologies can and should be used in every type of home, from a 200 square foot ADU extension, to a new, 8,000 square foot estate. Our construction and design teams have over 30 years of experience building the most sustainable and energy efficient homes on the market.
Conrado´s Philosophy on Green Home Construction
The transition towards more sustainable building methods goes far beyond simply changing out old incandescent bulbs for LED lights. Here at Conrado Home Builders, we believe wholeheartedly that green building starts with an understanding that being aware of the resources we use is an essential part of reducing the environmental impact of our lives and livelihoods. Simply put, we need to be aware of our environmental footprint and take the necessary steps to tread lightly on this planet that sustains us.
That being said, Conrado Home builders specializes in building really large, beautiful homes. The solid economic standing of our clients does not mean that they are exempted from living a sustainable life. A lot of our clients, despite their ability to drive any car on the market, choose to drive electric vehicles like the Prius, and we think that this choice reflects a desire to live more sustainably. The homes they live in should reflect that value commitment. Our building teams have an enormous wealth of experience in the greenest and most energy efficient building techniques, and we offer that expertise to help our clients create beautiful, luxurious homes that are also some of the most energy efficient and environmentally friendly on the market. We are experts on the best building materials, the most energy efficient building assembly techniques and technologies, and the best home systems that can operate efficiently while making the best quality homes with less use of resources. We believe wholeheartedly that we can build homes with the highest level of comfort without amassing a large environmental footprint. In short, Conrado´s green building philosophy rests on the following affirmation: luxury and sustainability do NOT have to be mutually exclusive when built correctly.
Essential Elements of Green Building
For Conrado Home Builders, the sustainable building techniques, technologies, and materials that we use are unique to each home. We believe that a customized estate requires its own personalized sustainability features. In some homes, a geothermal heat pump system may allow a home to be completely cooled and heated with the geothermal activity deep underneath a home’s foundation. In other cases, proper home orientation may allow for a complete net-zero energy usage through passive solar design and a roof-mounted solar PV system. Some home sites may allow for a gravity-fed rainwater catchment system that can provide a substantial percentage of a home´s water usage. Other custom builds may allow for biophilic construction techniques that allow homeowners to enjoy a sense of connection to the surrounding natural world.
Every building site is different, and our commitment to customized sustainability starts with a profound analysis of the home site, the way in which the location interacts with the elements, and the specific desires and preferences of our client. We are confident that every customized sustainability strategy will allow our clients to drastically reduce their carbon and environmental footprints, while also drastically reducing the operational costs of the home. During the pre-construction phase, our building experts will walk homeowners through every sustainability option that is on the table. Our obligation is to advise homeowners on the best building practices, materials, and technologies on the market. The end goal is to help each client not only drastically reduce their monthly energy bills, but also to ensure that the home is as sustainable as possible.
We Do Our Best to Make Each Home As Sustainable as Possible
Despite this commitment to customized sustainability for every home, there are certain sustainable features, techniques, and technologies that we attempt to incorporate into every home. Here are many of the ideals that we try and incorporate into each home whenever possible.
A Super-Tight Building Envelope
Energy efficiency begins with ensuring a super-tight building envelope. Some of the leading team members at Conrado Home Builders are passive house consultants, thus ensuring that clients will be advised by people with the highest knowledge of the importance of an airtight building envelope. By ensuring an airtight building envelope and super-insulated walls, ceilings, attics, and foundations, we can almost eliminate unwanted heat loss throughout the house. Instead of running HVAC systems to heat or cool the outside environment, a tight building envelope ensures that the conditioned air stays inside the home.
Best Indoor Air Quality
A tight building envelope also impacts the quality of the air inside the home. In most of our custom home builds, we focus on mechanical ventilation systems so that the home can continuously be refreshed with pure air without compromising the energy efficiency of the home.
Highest Efficiency Windows and Doors
Most modern homes today use a large amount of glass to allow for natural lighting and a sense of connectedness to the natural world. Traditional windows, however, led to an enormous amount of heat loss in homes. Our energy efficiency experts can advise homeowners on the best window and door technologies that allow for drastically less unwanted energy transfer. Triple pane windows, argon gas fillers, and low- E coatings are just a few of the leading window technologies that we use to reduce unwanted solar heat gain properties of windows.
Energy Efficient Heating and Cooling Systems
The relatively cheap cost of energy in the United States has meant that many builders have not been forced to innovate and implement more sustainable and energy efficient heating and cooling technologies. As of 2015, 55 percent of all residential energy was used for heating and cooling the home. At Conrado, we think we can do better. Our energy efficiency specialists can help most clients devise a net zero heating and cooling system for even the largest of homes. The combination of the most efficient heat pump technologies, geothermal systems, and solar PV arrays often allow us to create a heating and cooling system that is completely powered by the sun falling on your roof or the energy boiling beneath your home.
Phasing Out Natural Gas
In most of the municipalities on the peninsula, natural gas is being phased out as all-electric homes become the norm. Our building teams understand the connection between all-electric home systems and improved indoor air quality and health. We understand the importance of mechanical systems and the most efficient electric heating and cooling technologies to help homeowners reduce reliance on natural gas in the home.
Reducing Hot Water Energy Expenditures
Water heating accounts for about 20 percent of your home’s energy use. To reduce this energy use, we also focus on the best ways to recirculate hot water in the home. When designing water distribution throughout the home, we are committed to having all our hot water distribution engineered by leading third-party contractors. This way we can ensure that hot water is routed throughout the home in the most efficient way possible, rather than simply letting a generic plumber go in and do what’s easiest for him.
Automated Lighting Systems
For almost every home we work on, we also help homeowners find ways to incorporate the best automated LED lighting systems. This not only allows for personalized lighting schemes that drastically improve the comfort and “livability” of all indoor spaces, but also drastically reduces energy consumption.
Reducing Embodied Energy Footprint of the Materials We Use
We also make every attempt to reduce the embodied energy footprint of the homes we build. For most of the custom homes we work on, we attempt to reduce the amount of large structural steel used in the frame, and instead focus on engineered wood products. We also make every effort to source materials as locally as possible. If a homeowner is looking for a natural stone façade, we will recommend quality stone from local quarries before endorsing heavy stone products shipped from the other side of the world. FSC-certified lumber and natural insulation materials, such as cellulose and wool, are a few other building materials we use to reduce the embodied energy footprint of the home.
Infrastructure for Electric Vehicles
At this point in time, almost every custom home that we build comes with a solar PV system and a minimum of two electric vehicle (EV) charger systems. As battery storage systems are improving, we are helping homeowners build renewable energy systems that not only power their homes, but also power the electric cars they drive.
Reduce Building Waste
Lastly, we also focus on essentially eliminating construction and demolition (C&D) debris during our new builds and renovations. We make a sincere effort to educate our clients on the options that are available to them to deconstruct and donate the materials of an older home. Generally, almost all the framing lumber, interior materials, windows, doors, etc. can be dismantled and donated instead of sent to the local landfill. Not only does this reduce the overall environmental footprint of the new build or renovation, but it also can help save money through local tax credits for the donation of used building materials.
The Underappreciated Issue of Quality and Durability
When you hire Conrado Home Builders for a new home build or for a large renovation, you will be guaranteed to receive the most legendary quality. We care about the homes we build, and want to make sure that every home we build looks and functions brand new even after decades of occupancy. Our attention to quality obviously shows up in the aesthetics of our beautiful custom homes. However, quality and durability are also underappreciated aspects of sustainability.
In essence, if you build something really well and it lasts twice as long, you will essentially have half the environmental footprint. A shoddily built home might use less resources or raw materials at the outset. However, if you must replace half the framing 15 years down the road, or raise the house to redo the foundation or do a massive retrofit to your home’s interior design because materials are failing after less than ten years of use, then the embodied energy footprint of that home will obviously be higher in the long run.
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Depend on the Quality, Experience, and Knowledge of Conrado Home Builders
Here at Conrado Home Builders we firmly believe that superior quality really ties into sustainability. Comfort, beauty, durability, and superior quality are the foundation of our commitment to building you the most sustainable home possible.