Top 7 Home Improvements You Should Make for a Sustainable Home Remodel


Sustainable home remodeling is one of the leading trends in home design and construction, and for good reason. Homeowners are more interested than ever in making their homes more energy efficient, using green materials for building, and reducing their overall impact on the environment.

If you're planning a home remodel, focusing on sustainable home design with a certified green builder can help you create a more eco-friendly environment that supports your health and the environment. As the first certified green builder in Seattle, WA, we're sharing the top 7 home improvements you should make to ensure optimal home sustainability.

Eco-friendly Roofing

Starting from the top, your roof is one of the most important places to focus on when it comes to making your home improvements more sustainable. Sustainable home builders will often recommend installing white roofing or cool roofing, which is simply roofing that helps reflect heat and UV rays away from your home. This can reduce your energy consumption significantly during the summer. Metal roofing is also a great eco-friendly roofing option because it known to be exceptionally durable and it's 100% recyclable. Other options for green building materials include wood shingles from a sustainable supplier or shingle roofing from recycled materials. Synthetic Rubber EPDM roofing is also a sustainable option that can last up to 50 years with proper care and is 100% recyclable.

Energy-efficient Windows

Windows are another key area for home sustainability, as they play a big role in regulating the temperature inside your home. In the summer, energy-efficient windows can help keep your home cooler by blocking out UV rays. In the winter, they can keep heat inside, helping to reduce your energy consumption. Look for windows that are ENERGY STAR certified and have a low U-factor, low E-factor, and SHGC (solar heat gain coefficient). While these acronyms might sound like gibberish, they simply refer to how well a window blocks out heat, cold, and UV rays. Other things to consider when purchasing energy-efficient windows during home renovations include the frame material, the number of panes, and the type of glass used. Green framing materials that are endorsed by ENERGY STAR certifications include fibreglass, vinyl, aluminium, and wood. Placing your windows strategically can also help to reduce your energy consumption. For example, depending on where your home is located, south-facing windows will let in more sunlight during the winter, helping to heat your home, while north-facing windows will do the opposite in the summer.

Strategic Skylights and LED Lighting

Incorporating skylights into your home remodel is a great way to add both natural light and ventilation to your sustainable home. Skylights are available in a range of sizes and shapes, so you can find the perfect option to suit your needs and unique home aesthetic. You can even get skylights that open and close automatically to regulate the temperature in your home and reduce your reliance on air conditioning or heating. Strategic skylights can also help to minimize your energy consumption by reducing the need for lights during the daytime. The residential sector used approximately 59 billion kWh of electricity for lighting in 2021, contributing 4% to the total U.S. electricity consumption. Replacing your old lightbulbs with eco-friendly LED bulbs is also one of the easiest ways to reduce your home's energy consumption. LEDs use up to 90% less power than incandescent lighting and premium quality LEDs can last up to 100,000 hours, so making the switch can definitely help you save money and energy in the long run.

Use Low Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) Paint

Sustainable design and healthy home remodeling goes beyond the big changes like roofing and windows to the smaller details like the type of paint you use. Most standard paints contain Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), which are chemicals that can affect the indoor air quality in your home and cause health problems like headaches, nausea, and respiratory issues. When you're painting during a home remodel, using a low or no VOC paint is one of the best things you can do to ensure a healthy living space for you and your family. The air quality in your home is often overlooked but certified green builders will always take this into consideration during home renovations. As Seattle's first BIAW Certified Builder™,  we always put our clients' health and safety first, which is why we use HVAC filters during healthy home restorations and sustainable home remodeling projects to ensure the indoor air quality in your home is safe while we transform your space.

Refresh & Reuse

One of the simplest things you can do during a home remodel to reduce your environmental impact is to repurpose or reuse as many existing materials as possible. This can be anything from simply repainting existing cabinets instead of replacing them to salvaging building materials like lumber, bricks, or metal. These materials can often be found for free or at a significantly reduced cost, and they require much less energy to process than new materials. Appliances can also be reused or donated, and many salvage stores will even pick them up for you if you're not going to be keeping them in your home. Pathway works with Habitat for Humanity to source second-hand appliances that are still in excellent condition so your healthy home remodel can include energy-efficient appliances without breaking the bank.

Air-sealing & Insulation

Ensuring that your sustainable home is air-sealed and properly insulated is crucial for maintaining a comfortable temperature year-round while also reducing your energy consumption. Start by checking for drafts around doors and windows and sealing them with weather-stripping or caulking. You can also add insulation to your attic, walls, and crawl spaces to further improve your home's energy efficiency. There are a range of cutting-edge insulation materials on the market that are made from sustainable materials like recycled denim, cellulose, and natural fibers. Denim insulation is an innovative and sustainable product made from recycled blue jeans that provides excellent thermal protection. While denim insulation can be slightly harder to source, it does support enhanced air quality within your home and it can be recycled. Even if you're not ready to make the move to pioneering new insulation materials, re-caulking and weather-stripping with foam or rubber or using drywall, which is typically airtight, are excellent air-sealing strategies for a sustainable home remodel.

Build with Solar in Mind

When you're planning a home remodel, it's the perfect time to think about adding solar panels to your roof. Solar energy is a sustainable, renewable resource that can help you offset your energy costs and reduce your reliance on the grid. Even if you're not ready to make the switch to solar power, you can still build with solar in mind by orienting your home to maximize solar gain. This means positioning your home so that it maximises sunlight and incorporating windows in the best places. Solar power nation-wide offsets 141 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually. The good news is that solar power is no longer reserved for the elite or wealthy. The price of solar power has dropped by 70% over the past decade so that it's now within reach for many homeowners. There are a number of solar rebates and incentives available that can further offset the cost of solar panels, making them an increasingly attractive option for sustainable home remodels.

Sustainable Home Remodeling with Pathway

Healthy home remodeling and sustainable design are about more than using green materials. They're also about taking a holistic approach to your home that includes everything from the air you breathe to the way you gear your home for the future. At Pathway Design and Construction, we take a comprehensive approach to sustainable home remodeling that ensures your home is as beautiful as it is functional.

As experts in healthy remodeling and green building, we're committed to helping our clients create healthy, sustainable homes that minimize their environmental impact and maximize their comfort. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help turn your home remodeling ideas into a sustainable reality.


About Paul Kocharhook

Paul Kocharhook, Certified Aging in Place Specialist, (CAPS), MCGP and Owner of Pathway Design & Construction, based in SODO Seattle. Download your Remodel Reality Check quick sheet and walk through the main points in a remodel project.