Sustainability includes the influence on environmental, social and economic factors. A sustainable build is where social needs are met and the resources used to cause no irreversible damage to the environment during its lifecycle.
Maintaining a sustainable build entails using best practices and systems that benefit the environment, lower the owners' costs, and make healthy, accessible and comfortable homes. This also includes energy efficiency, reducing carbon footprints and building a resilient home.
People are becoming more aware of their impact on the environment and the energy taken up by their houses. House designers are changing how they look at their designs and have become increasingly familiar with sustainable design and ways to limit power and water use in homes.
Here at 3C Homes, we are wary of our carbon footprint and are working towards minimising our impact on the environment. We recognise a need to work towards a more sustainable building future and create a positive environmental impact within the building industry. We also see the value in every new build as a new opportunity to provide a comfortable, sustainable home and improve past builds' sustainable efforts.
To do this, we are implementing management of our resources and the availability of these. We are also here to help you design your build most sustainably.
Below is our guide to achieving a sustainable build.
1. During the design process. Design your home in a way to take advantage of its location, think natural lighting and airflow. The position in which your house is placed on your site influences the amount of natural light that comes into the house and the airflow around and through the house.
2. Where possible in your build, use environmentally friendly materials.
Your new home will incur an initial build cost, but over its lifetime, costs will also be ongoing, such as energy and maintenance. Using sustainable materials in your build lowers these lifetime costs significantly over time.
3. If in a location with the benefit of natural light, utilise it using skylights and windows.
4. Include water efficiency in your build. This includes the use of low flow amenities and water recycling where possible. Kitchens, laundries, bathrooms and gardens all use water; homes also produce water waste that needs to be disposed of efficiently. Installing a rainwater collection tank can help minimise water waste.
5. High levels of moisture in your home are linked to health issues, such as asthma, therefore linking good ventilation in your home helps create a healthy environment.
The design of your home affects the living conditions, comfort, and health of those living inside.
6. Correct installed, good quality insulation. Insulation eases the heating process, saving you money in the colder months.
7. Insulation is the primary influencer on the sustainability of your home. Double-glazing aids the insulating of your home; pairing this with modern thermal window joinery is optimal.
8. Reuse or recycle your renovation and building waste
With construction comes large amounts of waste created; a lot of this can be recycled or reused.
9. The selection of which materials you use and design flow can influence your energy efficiency at little to no cost
10. Inside your home, choice of insulators such as curtains, carpets and paints, should be made with the environment in mind and using products with this mindset
Especially during the summer months, you want to keep your home cool. Passive cooling is a sustainable, free way to keep you cool during the hot months without the use of air conditioning.
This works by:
1. Using natural shade to keep the sun off your home, decreasing overall heat
2. Using heat-absorbing materials, like concrete, to absorb unwanted heat
3. Using airflow around and through the house to keep you cool
Passive cooling should become a topic of discussion throughout the early design stage of your build to ensure the best measures are taken. These passive cooling measures should be balanced alongside solid ventilation and passive heating options.
Plants and awnings are fantastic options for sustainable cooling and can even be added to existing housing. Proper insulation is also necessary for passive cooling, as it stops heat from entering the home. Regardless of whether your windows are double-glazed or not, sunlight will still steep in; a way to minimise this other than shade is tinting of your windows. But this comes at an expense in the winter months as less sun can get in. The tinting options are therefore less effective than external shading.
To optimise the use of shading, its best to:
1. Shade the higher angle summer sun from the north-facing direction
2. Shade lower angle summer sun from the east and west directions
3. Let low angle winter sun into your home from all directions
Passive heating should be incorporated within the early design stage of your build. It harnesses the power of the sun to heat the home when teamed with effective insulation effectively. This natural heating helps to reduce condensation and dampness within the home and cuts the costs of heating. Passive heating is the most environmentally sustainable measure of heating your home. This can be obtained by having windows face the main sunlight direction, insulated flooring, and double-glazing to keep the heat in. passive heating is best paired with passive cooling to maximise the natural elements.
Heating can sustainably be obtained through many energy-efficient ways. Heat pumps are an effective, lower long-term costing heating solution compared to a plug-in heater.
A well-insulated home will keep the heat in during winter and keep it out in summer.
Not only is insulation important in the walls but also the ceiling of your home. Ceiling insulation effectively keeps the overhead sun from heating your home; paired with a light-coloured roof that will reflect sunlight, less heat will be absorbed through the roof.
Insulation allows for a healthy, comfortable, warm home all year round. This also helps stabilise the home's internal temperature if floors, walls, and ceilings are thoroughly insulated.
It benefits from being an energy-efficient, lower cost, sustainable way to heat your home.
Like insulation, ventilation is essential for a healthy, safe, comfortable home and home durability.
To achieve the highest sustainable level through your ventilation system, your home needs to be airtight. Airtightness helps minimise heat loss within your home and prevents damage from moisture to the structure, efficiently helping increase energy efficiency. To achieve better energy efficiency through ventilation, mechanical ventilation systems have been introduced to the market.
Ventilation within the bathroom and kitchen are an essential part of household ventilation.
Ventilation aids in the movement of air around the house, helping to evaporate moisture and reduce humidity. Other than mechanical systems, you can harness the benefits of air movement by:
1. Placing the home to utilise the prevailing breeze best
2. Passive ventilation to circulate air through the home
3. Combining passive ventilation with fans to disperse cooler air easier
Passive ventilation is the process of letting fresh air into your home through such ways as doors, skylights, windows, vents, louvres and other openings. Helping to remove moisture and humidity from home and provide cooling. This is an essential step of the design process to ensure the best airflow can easily access your home.
Energy to power your home can come from many renewable, sustainable sources. Sustainable energy in your home is conserving energy, obtaining energy from renewable sources, and using it efficiently. Sustainable energy options mean lower long-term energy costs.
Energy can be sourced through the use of solar panels. This solar power collected can be used to heat hot water cylinders, power appliance and provide more sustainable energy throughout your home to keep it functioning efficiently.
Windows are the most significant heat loss location in the home, creating a greater impact on the cost of heating. Double glazing is an optimal addition to your windows, this aids in minimising the loss of heat through the home.
The best way to utilise your windows is to work towards maximising sunlight on your site. Having a design that works with natural elements provides many benefits:
1. The sun is captured to use like heating, and wind flow for cooling
2. Optimal window placement allows the retaining of natural warmth
3. Helps in the collection of solar energy to generate electricity
The materials used in the construction of your home significantly impact the environment and the created waste. It is essential to consider the lifespan and lifecycle of the materials that are used in your construction. Textiles have an impact on the environment during their manufacturing, use and disposal. For example, using insulation created from recycled materials lessens the carbon footprint of making this material.
How your house is built also has an impact. An optimal construction process can significantly minimise waste and pollution. A well-constructed home can have better thermal performance in retaining heat through the proper use of features, such as insulation.
There are several sustainable materials in which your house can be built out of that come with their benefits:
1. Rammed Earth
This is a material made from a mixture of gravel, soil and cement. It has the benefit of being fireproof, sound absorbent, a fantastic insulator and is highly durable. The downside of this material is that it is high cost, hard to find a specialist in it, and isn't particularly suited to wet environments.
Timber is classified as sustainable based on how it is grown. Recycled timber is a sustainable option that is available on the market. The use and processing of timber in homes prevent the carbon dioxide absorbed by the tree from being emitted.
3. Natural Stone
Natural stones, such as limestone, are structurally robust, sound-absorbent and fire-resistant. Stone has the bonus of being highly durable.
4. "Green" Walls
Green walls are made of a mixture of gravel, steel and geo cloth and plants. While called a wall, there isn't a structural part of your house but an interior wall. Green walls and roofs are natural, an excellent insulator (for heating and cooling), and provide soft lines on builds. Green walls are a living building material; therefore, they will need water and care.
5. Straw Bale
Straw bale is crafted from various types of straw. This material has the benefit of being 100% natural and low-cost. It has the advantage of being a good insulator and sound absorbent. However, it is only suited for dry environments and requires additional support of timber or steel.
6. Mud Brick
100% natural, made from earth, straw and water, Mudbrick is low-cost, fireproof and a good insulator for homes.
Concrete materials are made of aggregate or gravel mixed with cement. It has the benefit of being strong, low-maintenance and fire-resistant. Unlike other options, concrete can be used in all climates.
When building and designing, it's good to consider the thermal bridge-free zone and prevent it. These zones reduce the home's energy efficiency by letting heat escape in winter and allowing heat during summer. This zone can occur where the foundations meet the walls; walls meet ceilings, window and door frames, and steel.
Automation in the home allows for systems, such as those that monitor and regulate your energy usage. These systems help lower costs and owners' carbon footprint while also providing a permanent, measurable energy-efficient solution for energy monitoring in the home.
Home automation allows the owner control over the system in their home including, irrigation, electricity, lighting, climate and security. It gives the owners power over which appliances and features are turned on and using energy. Control over energy output allows for the lowering of carbon footprint and emissions.
For maximum sustainability around lighting, homes should fully utilise the natural daylight that their site achieves. However, sunlight is not always accessible, and artificial light is necessary. LED light fixtures are the optimal bulb choice for lowering costs and energy outputs in your home.
A report by EECA found that LEDs can save households $75 per lamp compared to incandescent bulbs over their lifetime.
Choosing energy-efficient appliances are a big step in obtaining a sustainable home. In New Zealand, appliances have an energy star rating, where the more stars mean the more energy-efficient the appliance. These ratings look at how efficiently they save energy, water and money.
Other vital things to look at when searching for appliances are:
1. Whether the appliance is needed
2. The correct size for your household
3. The energy and water output
When it comes to fixtures and fittings, especially plumbing, sustainability is still an option. A sustainable, efficient and low-flow showerhead reduces hot water use and the energy required for water heating. Low-flush toilets have these same benefits by cutting down the water use at each flush. Pressure reducing valves reduces the strain on your water pipes, allowing water to flow easier, preventing wasted water.
Sustainable homes overall cost less to run. By creating an airtight lock on the house through ventilation and insulation, the home is wrapped with the heat contained inside.
Less energy output doesn't just create lower costs, but it means you have more control over your home, keeping it how you find it comfortable. Sustainable ventilation and insulation help reduce dampness and condensation, creating a more comfortable home.
Sustainable building isn't as unaffordable as you might think. Energy efficiency and clever use of space is an easy way to be sustainable and affordable.
Using locally and ethically sourced materials means supporting local industries. Sustainability not only protects the environment but also boosts the economy.
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