Building a house can be one of the most overwhelming tasks anyone can set up to. If you add the sustainability adjective to it, the task can seem not only challenging but even impossible. In this post, we will give you a few tips about how to build a sustainable house.
So, how do you build a sustainable house? Building a sustainable house involves materials and methods, smart systems, decorative choices, energy regulation, heat regulation, plumbing fixtures, etc. When including any of the points mentioned above, you must choose the most eco-friendly, energy-efficient, high-performance, and low impact options.
In the rest of this post, we will go about explaining each part so you have a better idea of what to keep in mind if you want to build a sustainable house.
How to Build a Sustainable House
If you want to build a sustainable house, you must plan and strategize properly. Energy-efficient sustainable houses can be built cost-efficiently by using the right materials. You do not necessarily need to spend a lot more on a sustainable house than you would in a traditional house. Most times, sourcing sustainable building materials may take time because such materials usually require special orders or they are not so readily accessible.
Therefore, you will need to carry out early research in an organized manner to build a sustainable house successfully. Though skill matters a lot, managing projects in an effective and timely manner is the most important quality that most successful builders have in common. These qualities will go a long way to help you achieve your dream of a sustainable home.
Before you start building your sustainable house, the first thing to do is to make a budget. And then you will have to find out a lot of costs in the area where you intend to build your home. Once you have done the things mentioned earlier, it is now time to get a rough numerical estimate of the costs of building a sustainable house.
If you need a bit of help with that, you can check our post “How Much Does It Cost to Build a Self-Sufficient House?“. While strictly speaking self-sufficient houses and sustainable houses are not the same, you will be able to extrapolate a lot of the costs from that article.
You must have all these calculations done before having any detailed discussion with the building professionals. No construction professional would want to waste their time. So, they always make sure that you have a workable budget before getting into business with you.
There are many sustainable building technologies that builders use to make your home green. With all this said, let us look at a few sustainable building techniques.
What are the Techniques used in Sustainable Building?
As I mentioned earlier, construction professionals use several technologies to make a house sustainable. These technologies are aimed at achieving eco-friendliness, high performance, energy efficiency, low carbon footprint, etc. Generally, the aim is to make the world more habitable and healthier. With that said, here are some building techniques for building a sustainable home.
1. Make use of the sun
Green buildings can be orientated in such a way that takes advantage of sunlight. This will allow you to use passive solar heating technology and natural daytime lighting. Your windows allow heat into your home, and the heat is absorbed and used for warming your indoors during cold periods. This is a cost-efficient way of heating your home.
Your energy bills will be reduced since you make use of natural lighting and heating. However, you should always seek ideas from an architect. They will guide you to the options that are most suited for your needs.
2. Choose appliances that have more energy-efficiency
A very important feature of sustainable buildings is energy efficiency. Therefore, if you want to build a sustainable house or make your home more sustainable, you must use energy-efficient appliances. If you are already using traditional electrical appliances, you will have to get rid of them. Replace them with more energy-efficient ones.
For instance, if you are using incandescent bulbs for lighting purposes, switch to energy-efficient LEDs. LEDs consume less power, which means that you get to save money on energy bills.
3. Use non-toxic carpet
Another energy-efficient way to regulate your indoor temperature is by using carpets. Carpets help to lower noise and has a comfortable feel on our toes. They keep your indoor temperature comfortable by staying cooler during the summer and warmer during the winter. If you are looking for flooring options, you should consider using non-toxic carpet.
Traditional carpets give off volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are contained in latex binding backing to the carpet fibers. The fumes can last for a few weeks before they go away, and it is not healthy to inhale them. If you want to include a carpet in your house, keep in mind that a non-toxic option has positive impacts on your health.
4. Use energy-efficient heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems
The HVAC system is a very important aspect of building a sustainable house. It helps you improve your indoor air quality and regulate temperature, thereby making your home more comfortable.
You will also get to enjoy benefits like money-saving, energy efficiency, low carbon emissions, water conservation, and a positive impact on the environment. However, you must maintain this system properly for high performance.
5. Insulation of the floor and walls and including a ceiling board
Insulation and ceiling boards can be used to keep the temperature inside your house comfortable. It is an energy-efficient way of regulating your indoor temperature. It helps you save a lot of money on energy bills. Irrespective of how hot or cold the weather is, insulation keeps your indoors cool and inhabitable.
On hot days, it prevents heat from getting inside your home. And when the weather is cold, it prevents the heat inside from getting out. You do not need any electronic heating or cooling systems, and this means a low carbon footprint.
6. Using non-toxic materials in building the house
A sustainable house is not only energy-efficient, but it also impacts the environment positively. So, if you want to build one, you must use non-toxic building materials.
These materials have a minimal carbon footprint and make our environment more habitable. The result will be an improvement in the health and well-being of people living in such environments.
7. Include local plant life in interior design and landscaping
This is one aspect of sustainable design that we at Architreecture love so much. Including plant life in your interior design and landscaping will make your home very attractive and calm. Also, plants can purify air naturally, thereby improving the quality of the air you breathe. The result is a healthier environment.
Breathing high-quality air has a way of lowering your risk of becoming sick. And this means that you get to live longer. Try planting spider plants in your bedroom and bathroom.
8. Use of locally-sourced materials
Another excellent way to build a sustainable house is by using local materials. These materials pollute much less because they don’t need to be transported from a distant location.
Fewer greenhouse gases will be emitted, leading to a more habitable environment.
9. Minimizing resource wastage by using recycled materials
While building a sustainable house, you need to avoid wastage of resources as much as you can. A good way to do this is by recycling wastes to reduce accumulation. Demolished products can be very useful when recycled. And it will cost you less than getting new building materials would cost you.
An interesting example is this tiny house that was built very cheaply and minimizing resource wastage by using recycled materials.
10. Using renewable sources of electricity
Another way to build a sustainable house is including a renewable source of electricity in the design. You can install a micro-hydro system or small-scale wind turbine. You can also go for a power company that produces renewable energy.
Solar and wind power are non-polluting and quite affordable. However, there are some important factors to consider before using solar or wind energy. So, it is advisable that you consult your energy supplier. Once you set up the system, you will have free and clean energy in your home.
11. Building compost for disposing of kitchen waste
Another way to make your house more sustainable is by building compost for disposing of kitchen waste. This will lower the volume of waste in landfills, and you will not have to spend so much on waste collection.
If you don’t like the idea of composting because of the smells or your area does not have facilities to reuse compost, you can also consider using a system called Vermicompost. This system uses worms to decompose waste and make nutrient-rich “worm manure”.
While it may sound gross to some, the final product is a great organic fertilizer and an excellent way to turn your compost into a very useful product that you can use to fertilize the plants that you installed following point 7 above.
12. Installing double-glazed windows
If you want to build a sustainable house, you should know that another good technique for regulating indoor temperature is using double-glazed windows. These windows can be used for insulation and are very effective. They make your home cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. If you cannot afford double-glazed windows, a more cost-friendly substitute will be thermal blackout curtains.
Using insulation for temperature regulation instead of electronic heating and cooling systems will save you energy costs and will protect the planet.
13. Using organic beddings
You can also make your home more sustainable by using organic beddings. Many people use cotton linen, and though this may be useful, it is not sustainable. A more efficient and sustainable option will be to use organic cotton or bamboo.
14. Build the house in a way that will be comfortable in the future to avoid renovations
Before you get to the construction stage of the building, you need to consider the future. Make sure the house is designed in a way that puts into account whatever changes you may want to make in the future.
When you do this, you will not have to spend much money on future renovations, and also the environmental impact will be reduced.
15. Use energy-efficient exterior doors and draft-proof windows and doors
If you are using jamb draft stoppers, you may notice that they are not very effective. Most times, the conditioned air in your indoors escapes through the openings in the edges of your doors. And during the winter, heat also escapes through these openings. This means that your air conditioner will be working overtime during the winter and the summer.
An effective solution for this issue would be to replace weatherstripping that is leaking. This will help save you heat and air conditioning costs. However, if you are building the house from scratch, make sure one of your priorities is to get good windows and doors that don’t let the cold out or the warm in. These designs include improved materials, multi-paned glass (such as the double-glazed we mentioned before, or even triple-glazed on some climates), fit tighter to frame, etc.
16. Create a comfortable, eco-friendly house with a passive design
A passive design house is properly orientated and ventilated. And this makes it very comfortable to live in. The indoors heat and cool up naturally by using heat from the sun in hot periods. In cold periods (like during the winter), the house retains heat absorbed from the sun and keeps your indoors warm.
Passive houses are also built to harness natural light from the sun. And this means that you do not have to spend much on artificial lighting.
17. Creating efficient cooling and heating without using air conditioners
Apart from using passive solar heating systems, you can also ensure efficient heating and cooling by sealing any leaks, using blinds and curtains, etc. If you must use an air conditioner, make sure you set the up ceiling fans to enable high performance.
18. Building water tanks for collection of rainwater
Another excellent way to enable sustainability in your home is by building water tanks to harvest rainwater. You can use the collected water in your bathrooms and in the garden. And this enables you to use water more efficiently by minimizing piped water wastage.
This is a very common strategy in off-grid constructions, but can also be applied to buildings with water connection as it can help the reduce the amount of water that need to be transported through the pipes.
19. Establish lockable taps
Make sure you install lockable taps in your house to avoid wasting water. By doing this, you will not misuse water, and in the long run, you will save a lot of money on water bills. And this is a good way to promote sustainability.
20. Use tankless water heaters
Water heaters supply hot water to your home whenever you want it. But the problem is that they constantly consume power. These water heaters continuously go on and off to keep the water at a certain temperature. So, using an electric heater can be very expensive in the long run.
Including an on-demand or tankless water heater in your house will make it more sustainable. These heaters are very efficient and only heat the water on demand. But before you go for a tankless water heater, you should consider some things. You can go through user reports to find out the most efficient water heater that is well-suited for your needs.
21. Installing programmable thermostats
You can also install programmable thermostats in your home to help you monitor the indoor temperature. It will help you keep your home warm or cool even when you are not around.
For example, with a programmable thermostat, you can make sure that all the heating is off when you are not at home or even during the night. By programming it in advance, you can time it in a way that the house becomes warm only in the moment you need.
22. Paint the walls with eco paints during construction
For sustainability, it is better to paint your house with water or plant-based eco paints. Conventional paints contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and are not eco-friendly. They are not only harmful to your health; they can cause air pollution.
23. Installing low-flush toilets
Another way to increase sustainability is by reducing water wastage. And you can do this by using low-flush toilets. Unlike conventional toilets, low-flush toilets minimize water use by using only a few liters of water per flush.
This is a very common option for off-grid constructions or tiny homes, but it can also be part of any sustainable house.
24. Reusing furniture
You can enable sustainability in your home by using recycled furniture instead of new ones. This will help you save costs and also benefit the environment by saving trees.
Furniture can be refurbished to give it a newer and better look while keeping the impact on the environment very low.
25. Installing monitor sensing lights in your house
Sensors are very useful for automatic switching on and off of lights in your home. When no one is in the room, the light will go off, and when someone comes in, the light comes on.
This way, even when you forget to turn off your light before going out, the sensor does it for you. The result is reduced energy bills since your lights only stay on when necessary.
26. Installing skylights in the house
A sustainable way to light up your home is by using skylights. They are energy-efficient and light up your indoors beautifully. Another benefit is that you get to save some money on energy bills.
27. Installing a drip irrigation system
A good way to keep your yard green and healthy is by installing a drip irrigation system. This system directs water to the root of plants, thereby keeping them irrigated and healthy. A healthy yard means your house can serve as a windbreak, makes your house cooler, and purifies the air you breathe. As a result, you get to live healthier.
Drip irrigation system also eliminates the need for electric pumps, thereby saving you money on electricity bills. It also helps to lower waste due to evaporation.
28. Installing a cool roof
Another great way to keep your house cool is by installing a cool roof. Instead of absorbing the heat from the sun into your house, a cool roof reflects it. This means that you will not have to spend much on cooling.
29. Installing a water filter to get rid of microplastics
You can use filters on your taps to prevent microplastics from finding their way into your drinking water. Also, include a filter in your washer to make sure that microplastics are not being introduced into your environment. This will help enable healthier living.
30. Talk to sustainability experts
As you can see from this very long list, building a sustainable house involve many moving parts. A good idea is to talk with sustainability experts to help you in the process. They can see what makes sense in your situation and give you tips on the most effective ways for you to build a sustainable house.
Why should we build sustainable houses?
Now that we have given you all the options to build a sustainable house, you may be wondering if it is worth the effort and why you should build one.
Sustainable houses have many important benefits, which makes them better than their traditional counterparts. Sustainable does not only benefit you personally by improving your quality of life; it also impacts the environment positively by reducing global warming. If everyone builds a sustainable house, there will be a huge reduction in the emission of greenhouse gases.
Our vision at Architreecture is to go a step further than that. Instead of building sustainable houses, we want to build houses that actually have a benefit to the environment, making them CO2 negative.
With all that said, here are a few benefits of sustainable houses and how it makes your living better.
1. Low Operating Costs
It is affordable to build a sustainable house since you have construction technologies that allow efficient use of energy and water. The house is also built with features that maximize daylight in your home, uses eco-friendly lighting systems, regulates indoor temperature, etc. These features, among others, help to lower your utility costs.
Sustainable houses are built to last long. This durability means that you will not spend much money in the long run. And this is because of the use of recycled and sustainable materials and sustainable design features.
2. Healthier and Happier Living
With a sustainable house, you get to enjoy high-quality indoor air, and this is essential for your health. Sustainable houses make use of materials with minimal or no volatile organic compounds (VOCs). They use adhesives, paints, cleaners that contain a low amount of harmful substances such as formaldehyde – a known carcinogen.
Furthermore, sustainable houses also help in stress reduction and enhance your quality of life. A harmonious design simplifies processes, reduces costs, and can positively impact a community and make everyone happier.
3. Reduced Environmental Footprint
Sustainable houses are durable, and this is why they help in lowering your environmental footprint. When you have an old material replaced, for instance, you throw it out and contribute to landfill. Also, you will have the new material processed, delivered to you, and installed. With a sustainable house, recycle materials and waste are minimized, and this enables efficiency.
Furthermore, sustainable houses help you reduce energy consumption, thereby reducing emissions that could negatively impact our environment. And this means that you get to live in a healthy environment.
4. Sustainable houses are water and energy-efficient
A sustainable house is built in a way that allows you to use energy and water efficiently. And this means a reduction in your utility bills. You will also rely less on expensive non-renewable energy sources. Using cleaner energy means a reduction in environmental pollution, thereby making our environment healthier.
Sustainable houses enhance energy efficiency with features like closed foam insulation, solar panels, sealed attic spaces, advanced framing technologies, low-emissivity windows, energy-efficient heat pumps, etc. This means that your utility bills will be lower as you no longer need much heating and cooling in your home.
Sustainable houses are water efficient. They help minimize your water usage, thereby saving water for future generations. With features like high-efficiency appliances, efficient plumbing to help reduce waste, advanced irrigation systems, etc., you will use natural resources without waste.
You can also build a Net Zero house, one that is powered using energy generated from environmentally friendly systems. Or you can go a step further and build a house the Architreecture way, having a house that is carbon negative and has a positive impact on the environment.
5. Increased Property Value
Eco-friendly sustainable houses have gained popularity in recent times, and this has turned into market value. Once you renovate your house to be sustainable, its resale value increases. The same will happen to a new built. The houses will sell for more than a comparable traditional house.
Also, most times, owners of sustainable houses enjoy state and federal tax credits because of their energy-efficient houses. Homebuyers are aware of the benefits associated with having a sustainable house.
In recent times, sustainable houses have become the go-to option when it comes to choosing a design for homes. And this is because of the numerous benefits that come with them. You can build a sustainable house by using some of the techniques mentioned earlier.
In all, always remember that sustainability in homes enables healthier living for you, your neighborhood, and, subsequently, the whole world.