The term “sustainability” has been gaining some much-needed attention within the building design industry, but what does it actually mean?
What is a “Sustainable Home”?
Let’s break it down.
Sustain: “to keep up or keep going, as an action or process.”
Able: “having the power, skill, means, or opportunity to do something.”
Sustainable: “able to be maintained at a certain rate or level in a way that causes, little or no damage to its environment.”
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.
Designing a Sustainable Home: Key Considerations
When it comes to creating a sustainable home, common sense is key. Whether you’re starting from scratch or renovating, it’s important to get it right from the outset. Here are some essential elements to keep in mind:
Energy efficiency: A sustainable home should be designed to maximize energy efficiency, which can help reduce costs and environmental impact.
Functionality: A sustainable home should be functional, with careful consideration given to the layout and design to ensure it meets the needs of its occupants.
Durability: The materials used in a sustainable home should be durable and long-lasting, without posing a risk to residents or the environment.
Adaptability: It’s important to consider how a family’s needs might change over time and design the home accordingly, to ensure it remains functional and relevant for many years to come.
Minimising waste: During the construction process, waste should be carefully managed to minimize both cost and environmental impact.
The Sustainable Casa Mar Azul
Designed by Luciano Kruk/BAK Arquitectos, this home is located in Mar Azul, Argentina.
Situated in the forest, the architects took advantage of the pine trees, using the material as a platform to preserve the environment.
The beautiful, large front windows allow for sunlight, while a water tank collects rainwater and concrete provides sound insulation.
The interior uses recycled Canadian pinewood to further ensure long -term sustainability.
Designing and Building a Sustainable Home: Key Considerations
Orientation – Effective orientation is crucial to maximize the sun’s heat in winter and minimise it during summer. This simple strategy can significantly reduce the need for heating and cooling, leading to greater energy efficiency and cost savings.
Heating and Cooling -Did you know that up to 25% of a home’s heating and cooling costs can be attributed to draughts?
Draughts enter a home through gaps and cracks around doors, windows, exhaust fans, fireplaces, and vents. By sealing these areas, warm air can be retained in winter and hot air blocked in summer, leading to greater comfort and reduced energy costs.
Insulation – Insulation acts as a barrier that prevents heat from escaping or entering a home, ensuring cooler temperatures during summer and maintaining warmth during winter.
Insulating walls, floors, and roofs can maximize energy efficiency, while spatial zoning can help maintain a consistent temperature throughout the home.
Designing for Climate and Site – Different sites present different challenges, but the goal should always be to minimise summer sun and maximize winter sun exposure.
Air movement and ventilation are important considerations, allowing for effective crossflow of air throughout the building.
The choice of materials can significantly impact a home’s embodied energy, which includes energy used during processing, manufacturing, and delivery.
Durable and sustainable materials like sustainably sourced timber, recycled or locally sourced materials, and low volatile organic compounds (VOC) finishes can be used to minimize the environmental impact and reduce the cost of replacement.
Windows and glazed doors can be a significant source of heat loss or gain.
The amount and location of glass should be carefully considered, with double glazing recommended for designs featuring lots of glass.
Designing for the Long Haul
A sustainable home should be designed to last, with durable and reusable/recyclable materials. Future needs should also be considered to avoid incurring excessive costs.
Staying engaged with the design advantages of a sustainable home can help reduce environmental impact and ensure optimal performance. Simple actions like pulling down blinds to block hot sun or opening doors and windows to capture cool breezes can make a significant difference.
Renewable Energy Sources
And, finally, choose renewable energy sources for your home electricity and heating. It is a great way to reduce your overall carbon footprint, whilst making your home more sustainable.
What is Renewable Energy?
Renewable energy is generated from natural sources, such as the sun, wind, biomass and water, of which are all naturally replenished.
It’s also often referred to as “green energy” and “clean energy” as the process of generating energy from these renewable sources emits no or very minimal greenhouse gases – unlike fossil fuels such as coal and oil.
Moving away from these traditional sources of energy is a key step in our efforts to take action for climate and combat climate change.