By their nature, buildings aren’t champions of environmental friendliness. Lots of energy, material, and fuel miles go into creating and transporting products to the site, but at the end of the day, we need to call the place a home. The best approach to sustainable designs that save water, and building technologies that lower energy use.
Site orientation and design
The first step should be choosing the site and determining the orientation of your house to maximize the natural cooling and heating cycles. Analyze what position gets you the most of winter sun, and what gives you the most shade in summer, whichever your priority. Can you use existing or new vegetation for shade and temperature control? Then, there are design elements that help you passively achieve all-year comfort, such as a concrete floor for heat retention and overhangs for shade in summer. Specify if the home is to use water-efficient appliances and lighting. Even if you can’t afford everything now, make your home future proof by installing necessary pipes so you can install a solar water heater or dual plumbing system.
Plan for water-efficiency
Water efficiency includes measures like collecting rainwater and reusing greywaters such as dishwasher, laundry and sink run-off. Figure in the purchase of low-flow bathroom fixtures such as showerheads, faucets, and toilets. Make room for a cistern that collects rainwater and reconsider water-hungry landscaping options in favor of more sustainable xeriscaping techniques. A tankless water heater is an appliance that is both water- and energy-efficient. Since it heats the water directly at the source it avoids having to run the tap to bring water from a remote water heater, while no water is heated unless it’s used immediately.
Reduce energy requirements
A home’s energy-efficiency relies on installing smart-appliances, maximizing the insulation, and natural light. Just as with water fixtures, plan your budget with EnergyStar appliances on the mind and install a smart thermostat. Unlike models with timers, a smart device can learn your daily habits and adjust the temperature automatically when you leave home or arrive after work. If you’re going to use salvaged windows, make sure the windows haven’t lost their insulating gas, and that their weather-stripping is intact. When planning for the outside lights, see which arrangement would give you the most illumination with the fewest light sources and make sure they turn on only on the motion.
Research your insurance options
Although they are healthier and more environmentally-friendly, many naturally sourced materials are more vulnerable to fire and water damage than their synthetic counterparts that rely heavily on industrial engineering and chemical processes. Apart from structural damage, flooding or even escaping water can lead to the growth of black mold that can damage your finishes and pose a health threat. It’s only natural to consider a home insurance package that allows you to repair and rebuild your home after a natural disaster or man-caused accident. Among the most popular options is the building insurance which, apart from making up to the damage caused to your home, provides temporary accommodations until the house is made habitable again, and the building and content insurance that also covers for your possession inside and outside the house.
Use sustainable materials
Sustainable is an umbrella term that covers different types of materials, which will be discussed here. The first group is recycled or reused materials, which have been reprocessed, such as rubber tires turned into flooring tiles. Reused materials are typically used whole, or with upgrades and repairs, such as windows, doors, or their hardware. Sustainably harvested materials include wood that comes from well-managed forests and which come with certification and documented supply chain. A perfect example of a quickly renewable material is bamboo. A grass and not a wood, it’s mainly used for flooring. Non-toxic and non-allergenic materials are those like linoleum and cork, which don’t contain formaldehyde, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) nor harbor black mold. Finally, there are locally-sourced materials that are manufactured within a 100-km radius.
Improve the air quality
Before the green building movement gained momentum, not many designers, architects, and builders gave much thought to the quality of the air within the home. However, with more man-made materials used in construction as well as the increased use of chemical treating and coating, the question of air quality is at the very top. While most acrylic paints on the market today are low-VOC or no-VOC, oil-based paints are still available and should be avoided. If you’re considering carpets as floor covering, choose natural materials such as wool and hemp, which also don’t gas off VOCs. Installing bathroom and laundry room fans you reduce the moisture levels which can lead to mold growth. Before building, test your site for radon. This colorless radioactive gas is the second most common cause of lung cancer in the US.
This short guide contains many improvements and strategies to make your building more sustainable. While most of them relate to new construction, others can be applied in the renovation as well.