Touching the earth gently
It has become imperative for building design to incorporate environmental friendly and sustainable elements in home design to create a more sustainable community, minimise the impact on the environment and to save on the costs of running a home.
Sustainable design advantages the environment, community and homeowner by:
- reducing energy and water costs within the home
- increases the natural comfort for the occupants
- reduces greenhouse gas emissions
- uses local materials with less environmental impact
- produces less pollution and waste
- greater home efficiency
Design elements to consider when building a sustainable / eco design home:
Orientation and Layout
A properly orientated home will take advantage of the lower northern sun warming and lighting the home in winter and minimising the effects of the hot summer sun.
Living areas should be orientated to the north if possible. Areas that require lower heating, cooling or lighting ie garage, laundry, bathrooms should be oriented towards the southern side of the home. Consider an open northern aspect for the clothes drying to reduce dryer usage.
Standard or even larger eaves protect the home from the heat of the sun in summer when the sun is high, but still enable sun light and warmth to enter the home with the lower sun’s azimuth in winter. Try to avoid using no eaves or minimal eaves.
Glazing has a major impact on the energy efficiency of a home. Up to 40% of a home’s heating energy can be lost and up to 87% of its heat gain is through glazing. There are so many options now for both internal and external window coverings such as curtains, blinds, shutters, awnings or high-reflectivity films.
Double-glazing is also a consideration, which is an ideal energy efficient choice with the added benefit of minimising noise. The sealed air gap between the two panes acts as an added layer of insulation. This added thermal resistance reduces the amount of heat escaping in winter and keeps your home at a more comfortable temperature.
Placing windows or doors on opposite sides of a home gives natural cross ventilation so the home can take advantage of the cooling westerly summer breezes.
Choosing the most energy appropriate appliances for your home can significantly reduce your energy bills and improves the environmental performance of your home. Avoid appliances that are too big or powerful for your requirements. Consider energy efficient appliances, solar hot water, LED lighting or a renewable energy source such as a photovoltaic system.
The types of materials selected at the design stage of building a home will impact fundamentally on its longer-term sustainability. These choices have implications for saving energy, improving bushfire resilience and improving comfort. Consider materials that have a low environmental impact or embodied energy.
Thermal mass is the ability of a material to absorb and store heat energy. A lot of heat energy is required to change the temperature of high density materials like concrete, bricks and tiles. Choosing building materials with a high thermal mass will assist with the insulation of a home and its ability to store heat.
Designs with the hot water system and wet areas as close to each other as possible, reduces initial plumbing costs. This also has the added benefit of saving water and energy by reducing the flushing of cold water from hot water taps.
Grey water recycling systems can be installed for use in the toilets, laundry and garden.
Consider water-efficient technologies such as low-flow showerheads, dual-flush toilets, low water use dishwashers and washing machines. Water efficiency can continue outside the home with the use of drought tolerant landscaping or with the installation of a rainwater tank.