Have you done your best to use your home more efficiently, but you still need more space? Congratulate yourself; now that you’ve explored better ways to use your existing space, you may not need as big an addition as you’d thought. Whether or not you’ll be adding on, it’s always best to look at redesigning your existing floor plan first. This gives you the opportunity to improve the way the whole house functions and feels.

For example, let’s say you need another bedroom. When you reevaluate your current floor plan, you might realize that your existing family room is in the best place for the new bedroom. Then you might notice that adding a new family room to the south side of the kitchen gives you a passive-solar-heated family room closer to the kitchen—and solves the problem of kitchen overheating.

As much as possible, locate your addition so that it will get appropriate sunshine and breezes—and shape your yard to create enjoyable outdoor spaces. Also think about how your addition will change the patterns of sun, shade, and wind in your yard and on the rest of the house. Avoid blocking sun and breezes from existing rooms that need them.

Don’t overlook the possibility of increasing your conditioned living space without building an addition at all. Converting an attic, basement, garage, or porch into living space gets you more room without increasing your home’s size or shape.

New Construction Brings New Opportunities

Building an addition means building part of your home from the ground up, which allows you to select from a wide range of healthy, resource-efficient options. If your addition will be wood framed, consider specifying optimum-value engineered (OVE) framing, which uses considerably less wood than standard framing techniques. Or maybe you’ll find that structural insulated panels (SIPs) work well with your existing house—and give you a tight, well-insulated structure using very little lumber. There are many other options to choose among. Explore the Resources section and get advice from design and construction professionals who are familiar with green building.

It will also be relatively straightforward to insulate and air seal your addition to higher levels than in the existing house. You might even consider designing your addition as a cocoon that can be heated or cooled during seasonal peaks without paying to condition the whole house.

Design your addition to make the most of every square foot of space. Consider how you might use each room in more than one way. If you’re adding a bathroom, you can compartmentalize it for use by several people without loss of privacy—for example, by having a toilet room, a separate bathing room, and a central sink area. This might eliminate the need for another bathroom.

Even a new stairway can have more than one use. If your stair will have a landing, you could make the landing a bit bigger to include a window seat or bookshelf.

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