Photo credit: leedresource
Do you know that buildings account for 40 percent of carbon emissions and 76 percent of electricity usage on a global level? It sounds incredible, but they are the top pollutants, with industry and transportation far behind. Architects and other experts realized they have to deal with this problem and make buildings of the future more friendly towards the environment.
The homes of the 21st century need to meet several requirements if they want to be seen as both sustainable and beautiful – they must be attractive, of cutting-edge design, functional, and mindful of the well-being of their occupants. Most importantly – their impact on the environment should be at the minimum.
These green buildings are preferred by homebuyers and homebuilders equally, and why wouldn’t it be so? The whole world recognises the multiple benefits we get from green homes – benefits that include our improved health, reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and great money savings. With sustainable building – everybody wins!
Green architects have been experimenting for quite some time and came up with a huge number of amazing designs and ways to build homes to be as sustainable as possible. Passive solar design is one of them – positioning a house in such a way so it can take advantage of the natural energy from the sun, optimising solar heating in the winter months and preventing overheating in the summer.
There are lots of eco-friendly building types to choose from: straw bale, earth-sheltered, superadobe, Earthship and many more. Some of them may seem a bit unconventional and perhaps too small, but sustainable design doesn’t have to involve a lack of luxury – most of these futuristic homes are beautiful, smartly conceived and comfortable.
If you’re building a home from scratch, be sure to hire builders with sufficient experience who will know how to implement the requirements of sustainable design and construct you a perfectly eco-friendly home. It’s important to cover all 7 components of passive design (spatial zoning, orientation, thermal mass, insulation, ventilation, glazing and shading) for optimum results.
Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
Since buildings are the major pollutants and energy spenders, efforts to reduce the use of energy in homes won’t be unnoticed. Energy-efficient buildings effect a drop in greenhouse gas emissions. Installing double-glazed windows, good insulation and ventilation, using energy-efficient appliances – these are just some of the things we can do to improve the energy efficiency of our homes and reduce the utility bills.
Some people go a step further. Renewable energy, along with energy efficiency, is part of a sustainable energy policy. It’s the energy that comes from resources that are renewable and naturally replenished. Even “ordinary people” can do a lot and harness the power of the sun, wind and rain to produce their own electricity and water at home.
Residential solar panels and rainwater harvesting tanks are becoming more common and financially available. They may seem a bit pricey at first, but if you want to reduce your dependence on the mains water and electricity, join thousands of people who already did it – you’ll make a huge contribution to the environment and it will be worth your while.
Needless to say, your home can’t be considered completely eco-friendly unless you use sustainable materials in construction and interior design. For the material to be called “sustainable” it needs to fulfill several criteria: it should be non-toxic, recyclable or recycled, locally sourced and with low embodied energy.
Some people may be discouraged by such a demanding list, but trust me – the options are countless and everything depends on your taste. I simply adore a wooden interior so I try to get as much bamboo furniture as I can. Bamboo is a tree that grows and renews fast, unlike most hardwood trees, so don’t hesitate to use it. Adobe, straw bale, cork, baked and rammed earth, clay – just choose your favourite!
Here is one piece of advice for those who are having their new home built: if possible, always use salvaged materials found on the previous construction site. Not only does it reduce the amount of waste (globally speaking), but it saves money in the long run as well. Deconstruction costs may be a bit high, but they’ll pay off – don’t worry. Most countries offer loans or tax incentives for sustainable home owners.
Green Interior and Exterior
Besides sustainability, eco-houses have one more goal – an increase of a home’s functionality and improved appearance. Some green architects advocate a reasonable use of space and small houses. However, there are homes that are both green and spacious – how they are made and what features they have are more important than how big they are. Even large homes can perfectly “blend” into their surroundings, making a minimum impact on the environment.
I have already mentioned energy-efficient household appliances and devices, but sustainable design is also reflected in your choice of furniture, room layout and the way you use the space. For me, green interior design involves open and radiant spaces with an increased inflow of natural light, lots of plant life, and furniture and decorations made from natural/recyclable/recycled materials.
More importantly, do not limit your creativity to the interior only. If you own a big backyard, there are lots of exterior green features to think about: a rainwater tank, organic garden, natural swimming pool, green walls and roof, native trees and shrubs that don’t require extensive irrigation and help in optimising the passive solar design… the options are limitless!
Words by: Bob Gorman