Global warming, climate-change and sustainability are words that we hear regularly these days, but what do they all mean for homeowners or homebuyers?
A sustainable home is one that is more livable, healthier, saves you money on water and energy bills, is constructed using environmentally efficient materials and thereby reduces its environmental impact.
Sustainable homes are resource efficient. They incorporate passive solar design features such as house orientation, good ventilation, insulation and shading; integrate water, waste and energy efficiencies, as well as providing cost effective use of building materials to maximum comfort and minimise the energy costs in running the home.
Sustainable homes start with good design features and the use of low-maintenance materials in order to make the home more livable and cost-efficient over time.
Areas of design to consider are the form of the home, the layout, the construction and the landscaping. Architects are experts at sustainable design and can assist you in achieving the optimum outcome for your new home or renovation project.
The National Construction Code (NCC) determines that all new homes incorporate a minimum level rather than a desirable level of sustainable design features. The specifics may vary from state to state however one thing is consistent throughout Australia in that you can no longer build a house or undertake a renovation without first demonstrating that it will meet the minimum state energy-efficiency requirements. These are usually measured in terms of a star rating system – then needing to be backed up by the constructed building.
Energy efficient sustainable new homes require clever design, accurate specifications and meticulous construction, all of which lead to the creation of a comfortable building that’s also cost effective to run and will increase in value over time. It can be a challenging task as there are many variables to consider such as the home orientation, zoning, ventilation, shading, construction materials, glazing, insulation and heating and cooling.
Home designs and allotment orientations have to be considered together in the initial design phase to deliver the most energy-efficient buildings. The energy rating of a standard design may vary significantly form one site to another purely due to orientation and the surrounding landscape and topography.
Simply upgrading the window specifications, for example, is unlikely to be the most cost-effective solution. Similarly, a “water-wise” home is more easily created during the design process than by adding tanks or grey water re-use systems later.
Most established homes were neither designed nor built with consideration for energy efficiency or water conservation. Ironically, many of our earliest homes came complete with verandahs and water tanks, but in the mid-late 20th. Century these features were abandoned as homes have become bigger, more energy hungry and more water thirsty than ever before. Our challenge is to try to improve the performance of our existing homes reducing the home’s demand for energy and water, but at the same time maintaining or improving our quality of life.
The good news is that many Australian home-owners want to make their homes more sustainable.
- 80% of our architects’ clients were keen to install a solar-boosted hot water service
- 75% were interested in energy-efficient lighting
- Over 90% wanted a water tank.
Many people are concerned enough about the environment and/or informed enough about the ongoing cost savings, to want to spend money on energy or water-saving home improvements, but what to do? Where to start? How much will it cost?
First of all, find out where and how energy and water is wasted in your home. For further helpful information he federal government website, www.yourhome.gov.au is a great place to find information.
Homes Energy Efficiency Tips
- Turn lights off when you leave the room
- Don’t leave computers or appliances on standby
- Re-set the thermostats on your heating and cooling (180 in winter and 240 in summer)
- Install low-energy light globes
- Fit weather-seals to your windows and doors
- Install external blinds
- Install ceiling fans
- Insulate the ceiling
- Buy high star-rated appliances