Sustainable living, sustainable development, energy efficiency, eco friendly homes, these are all terms we all hear more and more often and for good reason. Apart from an overall need by all of us to achieve sustainable living and to look after our environment, the case for energy efficient homes is pretty straightforward. They can provide their owners with:
- Financial savings due to reduced energy use – as the cost of living continues to rise many homeowners, and home buyers in their search to reduce costs, are becoming more aware of the benefits of energy efficient homes, which is why the demand for them has increased significantly.
- Higher home comfort levels and a better quality of life – better internal temperature control achieved by design to achieve maximising air circulation for example, as well as solar orientation, external materials and colours are a fundamental element to providing comfortable living particularly in warmer regions.
- Higher resale values – as energy ratings become more relevant due to power and water expenses rising, cost saving elements in a home have become a real consideration. A key item such as solar power is now most commonly sought after by purchasers.
When you look at all the facts, the answer to the question of why build an energy efficient home is simple really: because it’s the smart thing to do.
Building and designing affordable eco-friendly homes involves utilizing commonly available building materials and equipment along with clever building strategies. With smart planning you can build a new home to fit most budgets.
Construction design considerations for a warmer climate
Houses are to be optimally oriented to achieve maximum passive solar access for interior living spaces and to maximise the thermal efficiency of the building. Orientate the house with the long axis east-west to minimize exposure to rising and setting sunlight. Design living spaces to face cooler facades. Place patios and decks on the north side in the shade of the building. Overall, consider appropriate orientation for external areas for optimal year-round usage.
Concrete, brick, and thick plaster will absorb large quantities of heat and release it slowly. This “thermal mass effect” helps even out daily temperature swings. In hot climates, heat is absorbed during the day and released at night when outdoor temperatures are lower. Heat is absorbed by these high-mass materials during the daytime and, if nights are cool enough, opening the home at night can help vent the heat outside.
Insulation acts as a barrier to heat flow and is essential for keeping your home warm in winter and cool in summer. A well-insulated and well-designed home provides year-round comfort, cutting cooling and heating bills by up to half. This, in turn, reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
Solar Reflective Roofing
Use highly solar reflective roofing. White metal roofing or white concrete tile roofing is the most heat reflective preferable and understandably not always achievable. In general, the lighter the roof colour the less heat will be absorbed through the roof’s surface.
Select the building site for natural shade or design landscaping to create it. In warmer climates ensure the designed space is created with solar orientation in mind to achieve as much naturally shaded areas as possible whilst working with the overall functionality of your home.
Window Orientation & Efficiency
The majority of windows should face north or south where practical. Windows on the east and west should be minimized because they are more exposed to low angles of the sun prolonging exposure more than windows on the north or south. Design choice plays a part in achieving energy efficient windows. An example of controlling a highly solar impacted section of the home as an example might be to include a long shallow window that opens and sits high on the wall, therefore positioned closer to the roof line thereby limiting the amount of time that direct sunlight hits that window. Tinting will also reduce heat penetration. For natural air circulation louvres and opening windows are the best choice.
Energy Efficient Appliances
When it comes to lighting LED lights are the most energy efficient light source. Appliances and Electronics such as hot water systems, dishwashers, ovens and stoves, swimming pool pumps, air-conditioners should all be selected considering their energy source and rating in mind.
Use the Sun for Renewable Energy
Our sunburnt country is the perfect place for solar power and there are many benefits of ‘going solar’ including the fact that it is free. Solar electricity is one way to power your home that benefits the environment. There are no direct greenhouse gas emissions because the electricity is made from sunlight rather than burning fossil fuels. Sunlight is a renewable energy source, meaning we will never run out of it. Coal and gas are fossil fuels and will eventually run out. Once you install solar panels on your roof, they convert sunlight into electricity cleanly and quietly. Depending on your energy supplier, many people get paid for selling the power back to the grid giving you another reason to go solar.
We know that Australia has been enduring its longest, hottest drought since records began in 1900 and necessity is the mother of invention. Hence, rainwater harvesting is now quite advanced, with a vast array of water storage options for pretty much any type of building. Grey-water systems are evolving at a fast rate of knots and importantly, clients now commonly expect them in their homes. Planning authorities, technical product innovation, and client demand are now all in agreement – green buildings are no longer simply about energy efficiency, they’re also about being highly water wise.
Constructing environmentally responsible housing is something we practice and have adopted inclusions such as solar panels as a standard inclusion in our homes, this along with using the best materials which can be as simple as quality bricks and insulation. To create a better tomorrow for our kids or theirs it is something everyone should do.