What can I do to reduce the amount of materials that goes into my home?
The first step towards reducing material use is to consider the size of the home. Smaller homes use fewer materials in construction. Another consideration is to design in increments of two feet. Building products often come in increments of two feet, and waste from lumber cuts can be reduced and/or reused if plans are based on this measurement.
For wood-framed homes, consider advanced framing techniques (also called Optimum Value Engineering) that reduce the amount of lumber needed to build a home, cut waste production, and increase wall energy efficiency. Advanced framing techniques include stacking framing members on top of one another (in-line framing) to allow the use of a single top plate, spacing studs at two-foot centers (reducing exterior wall framing lumber by one-third); using two-stud corners; and using ladder blocking at interior wall partitions, among other techniques. More information about advanced framing can be found on this Technology Fact Sheet.
Lastly, it helps to design HVAC and water heating systems to minimize plumbing and duct runs. A centrally-located heating, cooling, and water heating system will save energy and materials. In highly energy-efficient homes, it is no longer necessary to deliver air to exterior walls (to combat leaky windows and poorly insulated walls). A properly designed duct system can deliver air at the interior of rooms, thereby minimizing duct length while maintaining comfort.