Living in Harmony

Creating a healthy, sustainable and resilient home 

Kipnis Airquality 2021 Aj Brown Imaging 1

Health and wellness at home took on a completely different meaning in 2020. As we spent more time than ever in our homes, the urgency of living in harmony with our environment, both inside and outside of the house, was brought to the forefront.  

Living in harmony means being comfortable and healthy in your home, building and managing your environment in ways that are respectful of the planet, and having peace of mind that your home can withstand natural and manmade disruptions.

Whether you are building a home from the ground up, renovating, or just want to make smart moves without spending a lot, these three considerations—health and wellness, sustainability and resiliency—are the keys to living in harmony. Here are a few tips to help you get started. 

Go Electric

Lake Zurich Kipnis Abi 014 Edited Grass Tree

It’s obvious (although not yet mainstream) that we need to move away from fossil fuels. When you begin to make responsible changes in your home, you are inevitably going to hit a fork in the road with every conversation. With each decision you make, you want to ask yourself: How is this moving us off fossil fuels?

So where to begin? Basically, there are four things in a house that typically use natural gas: the mechanical system, water heater, clothes dryer and cooktop. The good news is there are simple solutions for replacing each of these with an electric option: employ an air- or ground-source heat pump for your mechanical system, utilize heat pump technology for your water heater and dryer and replace the gas cooktop with an induction cooktop. 

Create a Tight Shell

Highland Park Family Room To Kitchen Kipnis Architecture Planning

Photo by Kipnis Architecture Planning

When you begin to convert your home to electric, you want to do it in conjunction with a tight shell. In other words, you want to make sure that any changes you make are supported by way of a sturdy roof, proper insulation and high-quality, energy efficient windows. To top it off, a high-efficiency mechanical ventilation system will ensure you don’t turn your house into a terrarium. 

Work in Harmony with the Natural Environment

Lake Zurich Dusk Less Blue Aj Brown Imaging

Photo by AJ Brown Imaging

In the past, homes were designed to consider the local climate, materials and culture. There’s a reason homes in New England look different from homes in Miami Beach. They should naturally look different from one another because homes should be built to respond to their respective environment. You want your home to be in tune with its surroundings. 

Make your Home Resilient

Arlington Heights Office Wayne Cable Photography

We all want peace of mind that our house can withstand whatever the elements throw at it—power outages, high winds, heavy rains, forest fires, etc.. Should they occur, you want to be confident that your home is designed to handle these events. 

Install a dedicated electric panel to a battery backup system separate panel that controls essential elements to everyday living like the refrigerator, sump pump, garage door, key lights and outlets. Tying all of this together would be an on-site renewable energy system, most likely solar panels if your site warrants them. They can be connected to the battery backup system to make your home run smoother. 

Wellness can also be integrated into every aspect of your home. As you build or renovate, keep these themes of sustainability, healthy living and resiliency in mind. Tackling one or more of these changes can go a long way toward living in harmony. 

Nathan Kipnis is a fellow of the American Institute of Architects (FAIA) and principal of Kipnis Architecture + Planning, based in Boulder, Colorado and Evanston, Illinois. For more information, visit Kipnis Architecture + Design on Houzz, LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook, and at

Content for this article provided by Kipnis Architecture + Planning.

Categories: Interiors, Native Content