Top Sustainable Home Design Trends for 2021

Updated December 23, 2020

Sustainable 9

It’s not just a vision for tomorrow: Sustainable 9 Design + Build creates homes for tomorrow today, reflected in its enduring commitment to green, high performance, energy-efficient homes that are stunningly designed and custom-built.

There’s a lot that goes into making a home sustainable and creating a sustainable home design. Beyond just the infrastructure of a home being built sustainably, several sustainable design trends are heating up and taking shape to be top trends for 2021.

Sustainable 9 is a home design and builder that’s invested in creating and building homes that are efficient and effective in their use of energy. We build and design green homes that offer energy efficiency above most builders’ standards in the United States.

Over the years, we’ve been fortunate to build some incredible homes that also meet passive house standards and have won awards for their design and build. We’re excited to be breaking down some of the top sustainable home design trends for 2021 in today’s post. Let’s dive in!


Allow your creativity to flow and work alongside our team of talented and experienced designers who are determined to create the best modern and sustainable home for your budget.

How to Create a Sustainable Home Design

sustainable home design

Sustainable home design trends throughout a house will only take you so far. Some of the most foundational parts of sustainable homes come long before we can begin designing the home. Two of the main things that should be considered before we even think about designing a home is the size and the location of the home.

Choosing the Right Location for Sustainability

the right location for sustainable design

There is such a thing as a sustainable location for a home. An eco-friendly home will be located in an area that will have a low impact on the environment, and that won’t be at high risk for hazardous materials. This means we’re trying to avoid places with bad storms, flooding, and trees that could fall on the house. We don’t want to be building a house twice.

Consider the surrounding infrastructure. If there are already water and sewer hookups available, you won’t need to impact the environment by digging new lines.

Transportation is the last item to consider. If you can build a home in a place that allows you to take public transportation, walk to places you need to go or ride your bike, this will help reduce your carbon footprint, thus making your home more sustainable.

Smaller Houses are More Efficient

One of the greatest energy costs and energy uses that homeowners face is heating and cooling. Large houses, no matter how well they’re insulated, will have larger heating and cooling bills. Building a smaller house will also reduce the number of materials needed to finish the project. Your custom home builder will be able to complete the project faster with less energy used for the construction. If you’re going to build a sustainable home, then be sure to consider every variable and not just the design trends that you choose to use throughout.

Orientation of Your Home Effects Natural Light and Heat

The passive housing trend has been slowly growing in popularity as a way to reduce energy use and create an eco-friendly home with sustainable design. One of the biggest things that are considered when building a passive house is the home’s orientation. The home’s direction will determine how much sunlight is allowed to enter through windows and come in contact with the home to heat it. In Minnesota, where we build homes, winter can take its toll on our energy bills. But, by facing the home’s orientation in a way that allows the sun to hit it and the sun to come through windows, we can heat the home with sunlight.

By planting trees that grow leaves on the south side of the house, we can ensure that our green building is shaded to some degree during the warmer summer months so that we don’t have to worry about the sun heating the home too much and causing our cooling bill to rise.

Materials for Sustainable Home Design

sustainable materials

Another huge factor in creating a sustainable home design is the materials you choose to use throughout the construction and finishing process. A green building needs to consider the difference that every material can make in the overall eco-friendly goal of the structure.

Local Materials Make a Difference

The cost and energy associated with transporting products make them costly and have a huge impact on the environment. If we want to create a truly green building, then we need to source materials locally. Additionally, when you choose to work with local businesses and use local materials, you’ll be helping your local community and economy.

Recycled Materials Offer Sustainable Home Construction

Another eco-friendly practice is recycling. One of the things that has the biggest negative impact on new construction is all of the new materials that are harvested for the project. Choosing recycled building materials instead of new materials is an easy way to create a sustainable home design. Here’s an example of many recycled building materials you can choose from.

  • Countertops are made from recycled glass or other stone.
  • Recycled steel instead of freshly mined material.
  • Reclaimed wood – this is one of our favorites because it’s one of the most beautiful and best ways .to incorporate sustainable materials in your home.
  • Reclaimed bricks, stones, pavers, and other masonry can all be reclaimed and reused.
  • Reuse soils for landscaping instead of transporting them to other locations.
  • Roof shingles and roof metals can be made from recycled materials.
  • Plastic products can all be made from recycled materials.
  • Drywall can also be made from recycled materials.

Almost all the products we use within our homes can be made from recycled materials instead of new materials. It often costs more for recycled material, but we think the positive impact on the environment is worth the cost.

Energy Efficient Appliances

Getting your home up to a truly sustainable function is tricky and takes time. But, one quick improvement that you can make to your home is investing in energy-efficient appliances. While it’s not always wise to just throw out old appliances that you aren’t fond of, replacing older and outdated appliances can save you hundreds of dollars on your electricity bills.

The goal with more appliances is to save money on your energy bill and use less energy, thus making your home more sustainable. You’ll be surprised at how much money you can save when you update your appliances.

Energy Efficient Lighting

Light bulbs consume high amounts of electricity, especially when left on for extended amounts of time. Using less electricity is part of making your home more sustainable, so you should start looking into different lighting options that can provide you with not only a better lighting experience but also a lower electric bill. Look to LED lights as an efficient and more viable option.

woman considering an energy efficient lightbulb choice

HVAC Systems

Your heating, venting, and air conditioning machine or machines take a huge amount of energy. Some of the older AC units don’t even turn off on their own and constantly draw power from your home until you turn them off.

You can eliminate your need for constant climate control in your home by #1 ensuring that your home is properly insulated and #2 purchasing an efficient and effective HVAC system that will heat and cool your home with ease. A sustainable home design doesn’t have to be complicated, even implementing high-quality insulation can make a big difference.

Smart Home Features

Smart home features include the ability to turn your HVAC system off remotely, turn lights off with the use of motion detectors, and even smart power strips that can eliminate static electricity pulls. Whether you’re completely new to smart home appliances or you’re looking for the latest and greatest, we encourage all homeowners to find a way to incorporate smart features that will save you money.

smart home control system app concept on tablet display in man hands

Non-toxic Materials

One of the key features of sustainable home design is the use of non-toxic and sustainable building materials. We’re obviously a fan of all things sustainable and non-toxic, not just because it’s in our name but also because it’s the only way to truly be a green builder. We appreciate our environment and want to do our very best to leave it better than we found it.

You’ll find all kinds of benefits to nontoxic materials, but one of the greatest is the improved health and better living that someone can have in a non-toxic environment.

Green Roofs

Wooden house with extensive green roof covered with vegetation

Green roofs are very similar to having a garden right on top of your roof. They’re a great way to insulate your home, control water flows off of your roof, and contribute to making your carbon footprint more neutral.

Insulation is Essential

Insulation is one of our key focuses when it comes to building a sustainable home. Good or bad insulation will determine your energy needs when it comes to heating and cooling. When we insulate a home, we’re focusing on key areas around doors and windows where a lot of energy is already being lost of these spaces. R-value is a term that’s used by home builders to determine how well a structure is insulated. A sustainable home design will have a high R-value or resistance value. Depending on the climate that you live in, the R-value required for your home will be different.

Sustainable 9 almost always insulates homes to ensure the R-value is higher than required by the building code in the area. This helps us to ensure that your home offers efficient energy consumption.

We hope you’ve found these seven sustainable home design trends valuable in your search for an energy-efficient home. Be sure to check out the rest of our blog for more sustainable home-building tips! And check back on this post as we’ll be adding more tips throughout the coming months. From all of us at Sustainable 9, thanks for choosing to build sustainable homes!


A custom-built home means you don’t have to sacrifice the details that make your home one-of-a-kind. View our award-winning work and get inspired.

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Sustainable 9

It’s not just a vision for tomorrow: Sustainable 9 Design + Build creates homes for tomorrow today, reflected in its enduring commitment to green, high performance, energy-efficient homes that are stunningly designed and custom-built.

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More energy efficient than a standard new construction home* *based on HERS ratings


0% Stinky. Committed to - reducing or eliminating VOCs and toxins in the homes we build* *Receiving the EPA's Indoor AirPlus certification on every home we build


Tighter and less leaky than a standard new construction home* *based on blower door test/air leakage results

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