27 Sep 12 Sustainable Design Factors for an Eco-Friendly Home
Sustainability is becoming a critical consideration in the design and planning of new homes and extensions. It’s not only Governmental regulation causing this increased focus, general opinion is shifting and for others it’s also an efficient way to save resources such as energy, water, and ultimately money.
Australia has a varied climate from the cooler areas of Tasmania, Victorian and New South Wales alpine areas and Highlands to the tropics of Queensland and Northern Territory and dryer and the arid areas in between. nowadays it’s not possible to speak about a single design for an eco-friendly home; there are as many designs as there are climatic conditions and inhabitants.
But this doesn’t have to be a problem when building or remodeling a sustainable house for yourself or your clients. As long as you take into account the fundamental premises of the sustainable building, you can successfully complete the perfect green home.
What is a sustainable home?
A sustainable home is one that has been built using construction materials and techniques that save natural resources and energy, while reducing construction and maintenance costs significantly.
Sustainable houses have a low impact on the environment, are more durable and efficient in terms of manufacturing, distribution, and installation, but also provide some additional benefits for the health of those who inhabit them.
What makes a home sustainable?
Ecological and sustainable homes must adapt their design and construction based on the possibilities and advantages that the environment offers them. This strategy is determined by some fundamental factors of eco-friendly construction, such as:
- The house location
- Use and location of plants
- Bioclimatic design
- Building materials and methods
- Heat and ventilation
- Cool roofs
- Solar energy
Of course, in each particular case, there will be some elements that predominate more than others.
On the other hand, the main strategy for building an ecological home is directly related to weather conditions, and therefore to the most convenient use of energy for each specific situation. Let’s see the complementary “rules” that you should consider to complete a design in the most convenient way.
12 Key Factors of Sustainable Building
1. The house location and orientation
As a general rule in the southern states of Australia the winter sun is low in the North. Ideally the living areas of the home are situated to take advantage of this sun coming through the windows providing passive heating and lighting. In the summer time the sun is almost overhead and shading by deciduous trees or window shades can ensure no direct sun heating the interior of the home.
2. Use and location of indoor and outdoor plants
A good number of plants, both outside and inside the house, can reduce the effects of air pollution. At the same time, it contributes to maintain the correct thermal balance and humidity level, providing shading when necessary.
In addition, a natural environment with relaxing landscapes and good views is a weighty factor in caring for and improving health.
3. Bioclimatic design
Giving the home a bioclimatic design serves to better regulate changes in internal temperature as needed – passive heating. This helps to maintain a suitable environment without increasing energy costs and at the same time, allows the air to be renewed efficiently.
It’s also important to pay attention to the possible solar barriers that could go unnoticed, including the topography itself, plants, buildings, etc.
4. Construction materials
As for building materials, the more natural, the better; for instance, we have:
- Ceramic bricks
- Vegetal fibers
- Adobe and mortars with lime
While it’s important to avoid those toxic or radioactive materials that produce gases or static, such as plastics, lacquers, and synthetic fibers.
5. High-performance windows
Did you know that windows contribute to the loss of about 50% of the energy in a home? Replacing common windows with more specialized ones will allow you to save energy and maintain a more pleasant environment.
For hot climates, the ideal is to use windows with low solar gain to conduct less heat inside. Reflective and doubled-glazed windows with good ventilation channels are good for this.
For colder climates, well-insulated frame windows with a low U-value – the rate of heat flow through a building part – are best. Triple-glazed windows with vacuum panels help in minimizing heat loss.
6. Proper insulation
Insulation is essential to have a home that is energy-efficient and comfortable at the same time. Having a good level of insulation can help keep your home warm, saving you money on a conventional heating system.
Since every home is different, there is also a variety of insulation systems for every need, taking into account factors such as location, building materials, and the age of the home.
7. Natural or non-toxic paints
It’s recommended to use silicate paints. These types of paints are the healthiest since they are 100% minerals, resist fire and pollution, can be washed and are not toxic. All of this allows the walls to “breathe.”
Regarding the most appropriate colors, light colors tend to reflect sunlight, helping to keep the home cool. While dark colors absorb the sun’s energy, generating more heat.
8. Furniture and interior decoration
The wood of the furniture and the interior decoration can be treated with ecological oils and varnishes, and then finished with wax and aromatic essences. Wood with agglomerates and formaldehyde are not recommended.
9. Proper ventilation
Proper ventilation prevents the accumulation of toxic gases and air sealing inside the home. Ventilation is a factor that must be taken into account when integrating certain elements to the construction, such as windows, doors, skylights, etc.
Skylights let in the winter sun. They also help save energy, improve lighting, heating, and ventilation. A good number of skylights in the appropriate location will help to consume less electricity during the day.
11. Cool roofs
Cool roofs are of great help to reduce the heat inside a house. These work by reflecting the sun’s heat instead of absorbing it, so the cooling effect is impressive.
12. Solar energy
Every year, solar energy becomes more and more popular among the population. Solar panels are becoming more and more economical and accessible, and allow generating the necessary electricity to illuminate and power a home. In addition, this type of technology is friendly to the environment, since its degree of carbon emission is very low.
13. Energy efficient appliances
When buying household appliances, such as refrigerators, heating, washing machines, etc., it is better to ensure that they have a high energy rating, since these appliances are more efficient in terms of water and electricity consumption.