Greening a Home at Lake Chapala

July 13, 2012

We have discussed how passive solar heating and cooling may be applied to a home in the Lake Chapala region. Now we will talk about making the home green. We can apply “green” to the home, which will make it more self sufficient with less impact on the environment.

Each Green Program is based on a particular area or region of a country. Passive solar heating and cooling usually is the major component of any green program, to which are added a series of other components. To passive solar we add many other categories such as site protection, landscaping, home size, daylighting, hot water heating, electrical conservation, electrical generation, indoor air quality, water conservation, durability, and recycling. Normally there would be several different choices under each category, with each having a point value. The points would then be added up, and the higher the number of points the higher the level of green. For instance, there might be silver, gold, and platinum levels. Here I have simplified the system by giving one item to do under each category to achieve green.

Site Protection
Trees and natural features are protected to minimize damage by the use of protective fencing, by the avoidance of trenching and significant change in grade. Save all topsoil and reuse on-site.

Use native editable landscaping grown organically. Provide landscaping to direct the natural air flow from the south and southeast into the home. Locate trees to provide summer shading without blocking winter heat gain into the home.  

Home Size
The home square footage size per person should not exceed 1200 SF. The size of the home impacts many categories. More materials are used as the home becomes larger using more materials that could be otherwise used to build another home. It takes more land area, more landscaping, and more electrical panels.

Provide balanced natural daylighting into every room in the home. No lights need to be turned on during the day. Balanced lighting may be done with lighting from two or more sources and by using diffuse lighting.

Space Heating and Cooling
Home is 100 percent passively solar heated. Homes are 100 percent passively cooled. No backup is required. 

Hot Water Heating
Heating the hot water is 100 percent by roof collector or other method with tank storage and electric or gas backup.

Electrical conservationUse fluorescent and LED lighting throughout the home. Use solar powered outdoor lighting. Use motion detectors in bathrooms.

Electric generation

Use outdoor photoelectric lighting/battery combination. For ultra green, 100 percent of Electric is furnished by photovoltaics tied to the grid system for zero energy use or with backup battery system. System size is designed to result in no electrical charges from the utility system.

Water conservation
Collect gray water from the showers and bathroom sinks, filter and reuse to water the landscaping.

Water collection
Provide system for collecting water off the roof, storing and running through purification system for drinking.

Protect all walls with foundation drains and waterproofing to prevent water damage. Protect roof against water damage, 15 year warrantee.


Select appliances with high energy efficiency rating.

Install recycling center in the home

Buy all materials locally as much as possible.

Buy a car with high miles per gallon rating, or use public transportation most of the time.

If we were given an equal amount of money to spend on a green home in a northern climate and a home here, we do not need to spend much money to achieve 100 percent passive solar here. Further, very little money needs to be spent on other energy saving methods such as the thermal envelope, air tightness, high R windows, high R doors and indoor air quality.  The climate is very mild here. This leaves more money to be spent in other green categories. A Lake Chapala Green Program would have many more choices under each category.

Doing the items I have selected would certainly result in a green home, although there would be no formal recognition. For that we would need to develop a Lake Chapala Green Program. The Lake Chapala Green Group would like to work with individuals and home builders who want to establish a green program here. Please contact Rick Cowlishaw at 766- 2789 if you would like to help create such a program.