While sustainable homes may cost more to build, over time your investment will likely pay for itself, while also increasing the value of your home.
As resources become more scarce and likely more expensive in years to come, the housing of the future will need to be more flexible, adaptable and resilient than ever before; so here are our top tips for creating a sustainable home that could potentially save you a pretty penny in the long run.
Heating & Cooling
Heating and cooling accounts for 40% of household energy use1 – so it makes sense to consider implementing greater energy efficiency through the use of everything from solar panels to reverse cycle air conditioning. A solar photovoltaic system helps you generate, store and even export your own electricity – while gas space heaters and reverse-cycle air conditioners (heat pumps) are cheaper to run than standard electric heaters, and also produce around one third less greenhouse gases. Fans are the lowest energy cooling option, followed by evaporative coolers, though these work best in climates that have low humidity.
A good ‘passive design’, that capitalises on placement and positioning will reduce the need for auxiliary heating and cooling, making your home more comfortable to live in, and also much cheaper to run. Make the most of your surroundings by designing your home so that’s it’s oriented to take full advantage of sun during winter, and any available shade and breezes during summer. For hotter climates, consider situating living spaces in the cooler south side of a home – while for cooler climates, you could think about locating living spaces to the north side, with north-facing windows that incorporate eaves for protection against summer heat.
Effective shading – which includes eaves, window awnings, shutters, pergolas and planting – can block up to 90% of the sun’s heat1. With unprotected glass often being the greatest source of heat gain in a house, it’s important to consider window location. Remember that high summer sun should not hit window glazing, which should be protected by eaves and other shading – while low winter sun from the north should be able to reach inside the house to warm it.
Draughts can account for a large amount of heat loss from a home during winter – so in colder climates, ensure doors and windows are well sealed, and think twice about skylights, which can often leak heat. Also ensure you insulate the whole shell of the house – including the floor, ceiling, roof and walls.
Choose flooring and internal walls made of brick, stone, tiles, polished concrete or compressed earth, to soak up heat and regulate room temperatures. You could even consider a green roof or wall, which can create healthier buildings that offer better thermal performance.
Australians are the greatest per capita consumers of water, using an average of 100,000L of freshwater per person each year. Reducing water consumption is another easy way to decrease your energy bills and reduce your household’s impact on the environment. Incorporate a rainwater collection system and tank via roofs and gutters, and use it for toilets, showers, washing, and in your garden. You could also collect and recycle grey wastewater for garden use. Finally, with a shower typically being the biggest water user (34% of indoor water use in the average Australian home), followed by the toilet (26%) and laundry (23%)1, ensure you select water-efficient taps, toilets, showerheads and appliances.
Other design features worth considering:
1. Source: www.yourhome.gov.au