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Natural Awakenings Westchester / Putnam / Dutchess New York

Natural Building Additions & Alterations on Conventional Homes

Sep 03, 2014 04:55PM ● By Lou Levy

A Lou Levy Natural Building design

As with many things in our modern age, there is a popular sentiment that the more technical and complicated a home addition is, the better. However, this is not necessarily the case. The premise of “natural building” is going back to the basics, as well as using appropriate modern techniques and products.  

The principles of natural building are to create an environment and ecosystem within the home that is comfortable, healthy, energizing, inspiring and sustainable. There are many dysfunctional and unhealthy elements present in a large majority of houses. An addition, as well as interior alterations, can be added to any conventional house, which, by incorporating some of the following concepts, can remedy the problems and turn the house into a natural haven. 

  • An architectural basic is to design a functional layout and flow of space. In natural building, this also relates to the concept of feng shui, which incorporates many aspects of siting, balance and energy flow.
  • Light is brought into the home by having windows face toward southern and easterly exposures, which also provides passive solar heating, balanced by incorporating proper overhangs with a thermal mass, which will store and release the warmth over an extended period of time.
  • The placement of windows can allow the natural surroundings of the home into the interior, which is one of the more resounding aspects of architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s work.
  • The ambient temperature of 50 degrees at 3 and a ½ feet below the exterior grade will help cool the home in the summer and maintain the heat in the winter, by partially berming an addition.
  • A vented envelope system on the exterior walls and roof of the house creates an air channel, which will minimize heat loss and heat gain within the house.
  • Open spaces throughout the house allow for circulation of the seasonal heating and cooling gains. This also complements cross ventilation, which can be accelerated with an active skylight, high transom or clerestory windows.
  • All-natural materials can be used for finishes throughout the house, which can eliminate harmful outgassing that occurs with synthetic materials.
  • Ventilation and air filtration can be achieved by using natural materials, which creates what is known as an exterior breathing wall.
  • A central exhaust system with a fresh air heat exchanger can be used to augment interior air quality. This, all combined with a proper drainage system at the foundation, will eliminate any moisture and mildew problems within the home.
  • Mitigation of harmful electromagnetic and geomagnetic radiation can be done through proper placement of the main living and sleeping zones and simple alternative wiring methods, as well as use of on-demand circuit breakers.
  • Sustainability can be achieved with a PV solar electrical system, which, along with current rebates, can have a 10-year payoff.
  • Solar hot water heating panels can be incorporated into a whole-house radiant heating system, with the use of the hot water heater as a backup. Water storage can be achieved by collecting water from a roof made of natural materials, as well as filtering and circulating a graywater system.

The cost of natural building is comparative to that of conventional building. This is achieved by an economical use of space and design. The cost differentials are outweighed by the natural beauty, comfort and well-being that is created in one’s day-to-day environment.

Lou Levy Construction is located in Carmel. For more info, call 914.804.2120 or visit LouLevyConstruction.com.