by Missy Janes

If you are planning to construct a new house or building, or renovate or add on to an existing one, study the environmental and economic benefits of Green Building. Think high performance as well as design. Look to LEED certification guidelines to save on maintenance costs.

“Trees properly placed around buildings can reduce air conditioning needs by 30 percent and can save 20 – 50 percent in energy used for heating.”—USDA Forest Service

  • Site your buildings with care. Nestle at the edge of a wooded area, the side of a hill or low area where natural air convection warms in winter and cools in summer.
  • Avoid building on hilltops or where the house will stand out and energy consumption will be greater.
  • Recycle old buildings and building materials.
  • Plant plenty of trees and shrubs to provide shade and carbon reduction to balance air and water quality and prevent erosion.
  • Plan your plantings. Deciduous trees planted at a southern exposure will provide summer shade and winter interest. Trees planted at a western exposure will create a wind break. Large trees or land forms help ground a house and keep it in scale with the surrounding landscape.
  • Choose indigenous building materials and styles to reflect the history and traditions of the region.
  • Keep the scale of buildings and the “built environment” in proportion with the property, trees, landscape and farm buildings.
  • Engage the services of a professional who is well versed in the local architectural vernacular, the English style of siting a house or barn, and familiar with green building practices. It will save you in many ways.

Energy Efficiency

  • Bid geothermal, solar and solar hot water from local contractors. Site for efficiency and conserve with timers. Conserve energy use to reduce the need for coal fired power plants and improve air quality. This can save our landscape from mega-power towers and assure safer air quality.
  • Use the best and greenest insulation.
  • Choose reflective and high quality windows to save on HVAC (Heat Vent Air Conditioning).
  • Keep square footage to a comfortable minimum.

Reduce, Reuse and Recycle

  • Reduce or eliminate the use of toxic cleaning supplies.
  • Recycle water from the roof into rain barrels or cisterns for watering plants and washing cars; recycle yard debris and coffee grounds to build a rich source of garden soil from compost.
  • Recreate habitat by making brush piles with tree trimmings.
  • Recycle. Give everything you use a second life or third.

Minimize Outdoor Lighting

The night sky is a special attraction in the country. Lights confuse plants and animals that live by a nocturnal schedule or navigate in the dark.

  • Direct light toward ground, shielding unnecessary “up” lighting.
  • Turn off when not needed. Use timers and motion detectors.
  • Refrain from over lighting, especially at entrances to driveways, houses and barns.

Plan Driveways and Entrances: Blend with the neighboring landscape and rural character

  • Resist imposing security gates seen at gated communities and apply your country vision.
  • Connect to an existing access road where possible to minimize roads and save more habitat.
  • If you must put in a new driveway, tuck it into the contours of the land avoiding the division of large open fields or destruction of natural woodlands. Steep and straight will present
  • maintenance problems.
  • An attractive and beneficial practice along driveways is to mow one neat swath next to the edge, leaving the rest longer or wilder. This provides a graceful variety of texture and visual interest.

Country Courtesies: Saving Our Dirt Roads

Support our gravel and two-lane roads. Protect the hedgerows that grow beside them as they provide shade, maintain habitat for wildlife and slow down run-off. Traffic on dirt roads is slower, cooler and the ride more scenic. Many people use dirt roads for riding, driving horses, biking, walking and jogging.

  • Whoa, go slow!
  • Reduce car traffic by combining trips. Eliminate unnecessary outings. An average family generates 11 car trips daily.
  • Keep roadside trash picked up. Volunteer for spring clean up.

This is an excerpt from Missy Janes’ book, “Life in the Country.” A long-time Middleburg resident, she’s a writer and photographer. Her book is available at The Fun Shop.