A Good Design Can Have High Utility and Low Environmental Impact
Use Durable Materials
Improving outdoor living spaces can bring many rewards to homeowners, not least of which is a closer connection to natural surroundings. Landscaping and gardening don’t have to be expensive, but remember that durable and green materials are key when building for the outdoors.
Outdoor rooms increase a home's livability
Appealing outdoor spaces can relieve pressure on a home's interior. For example, a covered porch may reduce the need for enlarging indoor entertainment areas. An outdoor kitchen can help lower cooling bills in warmer weather. Outdoor designs can include conversion plans for year-round use later.
Take a whole-yard approach
New outdoor surfaces can reflect their intended use--a paved area for extra parking or a basketball court; grass or other soft surfaces for a family's children. Attention is often focused on creating a private retreat in the backyard, but making the most of the front yard and a wraparound porch can enhance a sense of community.
Assessing existing conditions can help guide the project.
How can older trees, vegetation and natural habitats be protected? Will new features block sunlight in the house? Will new outdoor features affect water management on the site or contribute to drainage problems? Could an existing carport or breezeway be incorporated into the project?
Consider the lay of the land
Generally, strategies should be aimed at maintaining adequate slope away from the house for drainage, minimizing the heat-island effect, minimizing outdoor water use and encouraging outdoor activities.
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Disturb the site as little as possible. Modify landscaping to improve solar access. Choose porous surfaces to improve water infiltration and reduce runoff. Reduce the size of the lawn and choose plantings that don’t need extra water, weed killers or insecticides. Consider a rainwater collection system (even a simple one) for garden and yard use. Where possible, make room for a vegetable garden.
Try to reuse existing materials. Consider a ground-level patio rather than a wood deck (it lasts longer with less maintenance). Use environmentally friendly materials. When building a deck, detail the connection between the house and deck properly. If using pressure-treated wood, clean up and dispose of sawdust and shavings properly and take basic safety precautions while handling it.
Lighting and electrical
Install energy-efficient lighting.
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