The cost of construction includes what it will cost you to occupy the finished space, so take efficiency into account. If you can save money each month on energy and water bills, you can see a return on the up-front investment for things like double pane glass windows or beefed up insulation.
Efficiency goes beyond structural features. If you're redoing your kitchen, consider replacing your appliances with Energy Star and WaterSense models. In Georgia, for example, if you replace your old fridge and freezer from the early 90's with an Energy Star model, you can save more than $100 per year in energy costs [source: Energy Star]. Even simple eco-friendly choices like water-efficient fixtures in the kitchen and bathroom can help you reduce your utility bills and make that construction project work for you.
If you're really serious about cutting your energy bills, you can also look into alternative energy options for your renovation, like a solar hot water heater, solar panels, or a home wind turbine. You don't have to power your entire home with alternative energy to see savings. Many homes combine solar or wind power with power from the grid as backup. If your alternative energy system does produce more power than your home uses, though, your utility company may buy that power back from you [source: Gangemi]. Imagine getting a check in the mail from your electric company instead of a bill!