I’m hearing more and more from clients about wanting to create homes that perform well energy- wise. When we opened our home for Sustainable House Day this year, it was wonderful to see so many people interested in incorporating sustainable principles into their home. We compared our own home with Passive House principles, to give people an idea of what you can do, without necessarily having to go as far as creating an energy neutral home (which is what Passive House is all about). And there is lots you can do!
So, what can sustainable principles allow you to achieve?
Ultimately, it means creating a home that uses materials in construction to minimise energy consumption, whilst maintaining a healthy, comfortable living environment year-round, that enables you to save money, and the planet! Living in a sustainable home myself, I have to say, that the feeling it evokes is rather different to a standard home, as it is temperate year round and just feels nice to live in. I have clients that have moved from a sustainable home to a standard home and they can’t believe the difference in how the home feels! A difficult intangible to describe!
Contrary to some misconceptions, with a little planning it is possible to build or renovate a home with sustainability features, that look good, while also being great for the planet, and your pocket.
A Sustainability Consultant is someone that may be worth engaging early on so you get a sense of what you can do for your home to make it perform and feel better. Not everything costs more either!
They can provide greater detail on matters like the placement and parameters for windows and shading, levels of insulation, airtightness and ventilation technology, and so on. A good consultant will also work to ensure that there is an economic payback within a reasonable timeframe.
Based on your objectives, some of the areas they may look into are:
- The orientation of the house on the block and how to maximise the ‘good sun’ and minimise the ‘bad sun’.
- How to create thermal mass so you can use the sun’s heat to warm your home in winter, and to keep it cool in summer.
- Determine the most effective insulation and create airtightness in a home to minimise energy loss. Air leakage in a home accounts for 15-25% of winter heat loss in a building, and can contribute to significant loss of cool air in summer months (when the air conditioner is used). Air leakage (air getting out of, or into the home) means that you’re wasting energy and money. Draughty homes cost more to cool and heat, so an airtight building is something to consider.
- Create zones for heating and cooling. I often see floorplans where no zones have been created to allow, for example, blocking off stairs and long hallways to prevent heating or cooling a whole house. With zoning you’re only heating or cooling designated areas of the home. It’s a great way to save on energy costs.
Good design is critical to achieving a lifetime of thermal comfort, low energy bills, and low greenhouse gas emissions. Not thinking about sustainable design will cost you in the long run through increased energy bills, however, by designing right at the start, you can save money.