Sustainable housing is becoming more and more popular nowadays and will become the norm in the future. However, there is still not so much clarity about what a sustainable house really is and what it entails.
So, what are the features of a sustainable house? A sustainable house includes features such as energy-efficient design, passive heating, and cooling, recycled and sustainable materials, wastewater treatment and reuse, and smart lighting. These features allow it to utilize resources efficiently, optimize water and energy use, and last longer with a minimal carbon footprint.
All these features have several positive impacts on our environment and make it better to live in. Let’s have a look at each of these features separately.
With utility costs continually going up, many homeowners are looking for ways to reduce their electricity and gas expenses. Including energy-efficient elements in your house design can help you do this while lowering your carbon footprint. You will get huge rewards in both the short and long run.
A few examples of common tactics are concrete floors with in-slab heating, double glazing on windows, and extra comprehensive insulation all around the house.
Other common examples are solar panels and Trombe walls – dark masonry structures that can retain heat and give it out slowly through the house, thereby regulating the temperature. There are many ways to boost the energy efficiency of a building. And various parts of a building can be modified to improve this value.
More efficient windows, better insulation, doors, and skylights, and high-efficiency air conditioners and furnaces can all make your home more efficient. They keep warm air outside or inside the house.
It is important to regulate the temperature of a home using the right equipment. There are various strategies to boost energy efficiency in your home. They include:
- Using decent measures of insulation in the roof and walls, be sure to reference regional standards.
- Accurately weatherizing the house with caulking and weather stripping.
- Installing high-quality windows that use gas filing and low-E coatings when choosing the window frame and glazing material that will be most useful in the environment
- Introducing high-performance appliances and systems and evaluating their performance across their life cycle
- Monitoring and establishing performance using energy audits to detect where energy is being misused and the most cost-efficient place to make amendments
Generally, the approach to attaining high-efficiency buildings involves reducing the energy needs of buildings, producing energy using renewable resources, and sharing energy by creating buildings that generate a surplus of energy fed back into an advanced grid structure.
What are the Environmental Benefits of an Energy-efficient Home?
Due to the high demand for unsustainable energy supplies, it has become essential to have energy-efficient buildings. Most households have to assess how well energy is being utilized to light and heat their home. We can’t keep depending on non-renewable fuels that involve destructive processing means to get. Energy-efficient houses can help you save money while decreasing greenhouse gas emissions.
Resident and commercial buildings use up a lot of energy. Therefore, enhancing their efficiency will make us rely less on non-renewable energy. And this environmental benefit of lowering the number of greenhouse gases is global. There are also lots of local benefits because a building’s energy demand is met by a local energy supply, which can pollute the environment and cause health issues.
For this reason, communities channel their funds to other places instead of constructing power plants. Apart from these environmental benefits of an energy-efficient building, you also stand to enjoy some personal benefits. You’ll get to pay less on electrical and heating bills once you upgrade to a more energy-efficient home. Energy-efficient technologies have a way of increasing the lifespan of your building.
Once you’ve installed these energy-efficient technologies, the value of your building will increase. So, if you decide to sell your house, you’ll be making a lot of money. However, though you may spend significantly to get these technologies installed, you’ll recover in no time because of lower energy bills. The payback time is usually short, just a few years.
If you want to build a sustainable house, you’ll have to concentrate on energy efficiency during the initial construction stage. At the early stage, you’ll have endless opportunities to apply energy efficiency measures. It is more difficult to do this in an existing building.
Passive Heating and Cooling
Another feature of sustainable building is passive heating and cooling. The Centre for Liveability Real Estate stated seven components of passive design in building a home as follows: spatial zoning, orientation, thermal mass, ventilation, shading, insulation, and glazing. When your home is well-designed, these components will work hand-in-hand to heat and cool your home naturally.
How Does Passive Heating and Cooling Work?
Passive heating and cooling involve the use of solar cooling and heating systems to cool or warm your home. It employs natural processes like convection, conduction, and radiation. And this is why it does not need any external energy to work well. Passive heating and cooling contribute immensely to the energy efficiency of a home.
On sunny days, this technology heats building with solar radiation. It transforms solar energy into heat and gets it into the building by water or hot air. And by capturing or blocking this radiation, it regulates the temperature of a home. Also, this technology can store solar heat gain for future use.
During winter, this technology captures solar radiation and uses it to warm up your home. On the other hand, it does the opposite in the summer to cool your home. Therefore, it is important to use thermal mass and insulation to avoid over-cooling in the winter. And shading technologies are very efficient when combined with glazing and windows to prevent over-heating in the summer.
Passive Solar Technologies
Sustainable buildings employ passive cooling and heating systems to prevent using a heater or air conditioning. Most advanced technologies for controlling home temperature utilize passive strategies to achieve energy efficiency. Many heating and cooling techniques allow you to regulate your home’s temperature with a minimal carbon footprint. These techniques include solar chimneys, operable windows, Trombe walls, and solar walls.
No need for an air conditioner or a heater as these systems can control indoor temperatures by harnessing or venting heat from the sun. These techniques also use shading technology to strategically to lower heating. Sustainable design creates areas where shade can be increased or reduced. When the quantity of solar radiation coming into your home is reduced, your indoors is kept cool without using an air conditioner.
Passive heating and cooling systems can be installed in your home during construction and also in existing buildings. However, the local climate will determine the way these passive solar heating and cooling systems are designed and implemented.
What are the Advantages of Passive Heating and Cooling?
The benefits of passive heating and cooling techniques include lower financial cost and energy efficiency. And this makes it an excellent design choice for regulating not only a building’s temperature but also that of electronic products. With passive cooling, you get high levels of natural heat control measure by using a heat sink or a heat spreader.
In sustainable design, natural resources like soil or wind are utilized as heat sinks to capture or vent heat. The result will be thermal comfort in the office or home and properly cooled electronic products. Passive heating and cooling systems keep your home below the highest allowed operating temperature. And this is the technique employed in many modern buildings, also known as passive houses.
The bottom line is that passive heat management is energy-efficient and cost-effective. It depends on heat spreaders, heat sinks, thermal interface materials, or heat pipes to regulate the temperature of your home.
Recycled and Sustainable Building Materials
There are numerous methods of recycling pre-used materials which can be incorporated into a home’s design. You can recycle beams and use them for sub-floor structures. You can also bring outdoor brick pavers into your home and use them as bathroom flooring materials. If you have sturdy wood like oak, you can use them as feature walls.
Feature walls can serve as a striking statement piece in your living area. There are many other sustainable materials, including locally sourced building materials for your home’s exterior, low volatile organic compounds paints and finishes, and sustainably sourced wood products.
What are Examples of Recycled and Sustainable Building Materials?
There are many sustainable building materials out there. Some of them include:
Instead of depending on new findings and technology, straw bale building goes back to days when houses were built from natural, locally sourced materials. Straw bales are mainly utilized to make a home’s walls inside a frame. It replaces other building materials, including wood, concrete, plaster, gypsum, fiberglass, or stone.
When you seal them correctly, straw bales will naturally give you high insulation levels for a cold or hot climate. They are not only affordable but sustainable as straw is a rapidly renewable resource.
As the name implies, grasscrete is a way of laying concrete flooring, sidewalks, walkways, and driveways so that there are free patterns to allow grass or any other flora to grow.
While this presents the benefit of decreasing concrete usage overall, there is also another essential perk. It improves the absorption and drainage of stormwater.
This another naturally occurring material for building. It can be used to build walls that are very similar to concrete. Rammed earth is nothing more than dirt, and when tamped down tightly in wooden molds, it forms walls.
Rammed earth is a building material that has been utilized by humans for several years and is very durable. In recent times, rammed earth buildings are made safer with bamboo or rebar, and mechanical tampers decrease the labor needed to make sturdy walls.
Using cement will increase its stability and maximize the design potential, but using it this way will reduce dramatically the sustainability of the material because cement is one of the biggest causes of pollution in construction.
HempCrete, just as the name implies, is a concrete-like substance made from the woody fibers of a hemp plant. These fibers are connected with lime to form shapes that look like concrete and are light and strong.
HempCrete blocks are light, and this can also drastically decrease the energy consumed to move the blocks. Also, hemp is a renewable resource that is growing rapidly.
Bamboo may seem trendy, but it is a locally-occurring building material in many places in the world. Bamboo is a widely used building material for contemporary buildings because it combines lightweight, tensile strength, and fast-growing renewable nature.
Bamboo can be used for framing shelters and buildings and can substitute costly and bulky imported materials. It can also be used as a substitute for rebar and concrete construction, particularly in areas that are difficult to reach. It is also used in low-income areas and post-disaster rebuilding. Mostly areas that have access to natural locally-occurring bamboo.
Instead of mining, extracting, and milling new components, researchers produce concrete that comprises ground-up recycled trash and plastics. And this decreases greenhouse gas emissions as well as weight and provides more use for landfill-clogging plastic waste.
Wood still has many benefits over more industrial building materials such as steel or concrete. Not only do trees absorb Carbon (IV) oxide as they grow, but they also need much less energy-intensive ways to process into construction products.
Forests can be properly managed, making them renewable and ensuring a biodiverse habitat. One could easily imagine creating forests where the wood is used as a construction material but managed in a way that the forest creates an ecosystem as well, doubling the impact of the measure.
Mycelium is a futuristic natural building material. It comprises the root structure of fungi and mushrooms. It can be enabled to grow round a composite of other natural substances, such as ground-up straw, forms, or molds, then dried in air to form a lightweight and strong brick or any other shapes.
Ferrock is a new building material that is being studied. It uses recycled materials, like steel dust from the steel industry, to create a concrete-like building material that is stronger than concrete.
This special material also absorbs carbon (IV) oxide as part of its hardening and drying process. This makes it less carbon (IV) oxide intensive than conventional concrete. Some people even call it a carbon-negative material because of the fact that it absorbs carbon during the hardening.
AshCrete is a concrete substitute that utilizes fly ash instead of normal cement. Remember that cement is the most contaminant part of concrete and the biggest cause of pollution from the construction industry.
The use of fly ash, a by-product of burning coal, can replace most of the conventional components in concrete with recycled material.
What are the Advantages of Using Recycled and Sustainable Building Materials?
There are many benefits associated with using recyclable building materials.
Some of these benefits may include:
- Any building constructed with such materials tends to be strong and last for a long time.
- They are easy to maintain since materials are natural as well as renewable. They are pollution-free, can be generated from any trash or degraded material.
- You can easily lower your utility bills by using recyclable materials as they do not need very much energy for heating and cooling your home.
- They are free from any toxic materials and help improve the atmosphere quality around or inside the building.
- The recycled house materials are produced using sustainable methods and, therefore, create an insignificant amount of waste that lowers the number of landfills worldwide.
- The most important benefit of using recyclable materials is that it enables us to prevent waste production.
- Since recyclable building materials are produced and made locally or are available locally, it reduces the expenses on transportation or shipping. Production bases can be set up near the place where the construction site is situated.
Other advantages of recyclable building materials may include their easy availability and resale value in the market. Since they can be reproducible, their resale value never diminishes while their production in a given region affects their availability to people.
Wastewater Treatment and Reuse
It is well-established that water is an essential commodity, and we must manage it well. A sustainable house allows you to treat and reuse water. What this means is that you get to cut down on steep water bills. And this is achievable by including technologies that allow you to manage water efficiently in your home’s design.
Sustainable houses allow you to reuse wastewater through two methods. They include the black-water system, which can be used for irrigating your gardens and lawns. And the grey-water system can be used externally for toilet flushing and laundry.
What are the Advantages of Wastewater Treatment and Reuse?
Here are a few benefits that the recycling and reuse of processed water and wastewater can bring to your communities:
It reduces demand and stress on freshwater supply
Agriculture is a well-established consumer of water. The use of treated, recycled wastewater can help alleviate the stress on freshwater supplies used for agricultural purposes like commercial and residential landscaping, irrigating crops, nurseries, and horticulture, irrigating public and private golf courses.
Treated and recycled wastewater is a cost-efficient way of lowering the demand and stress on freshwater sources like rivers, groundwater, and reservoirs. This is particularly important in areas that have been affected by drought and water scarcity.
It eliminates the need for water transportation
Instead of continuously disposing of wastewater, recycling industrial wastewater on-site is now deemed a smart business practice that enables companies to become more efficient and profitable. It is also a good way to cut down on utility bills at home. The transportation of wastewater to offsite buildings is very expensive.
When commercial buildings recycle wastewater on-site for reuse in different industrial processes, they save considerably on disposal, transportation, and energy bills. Recycling and reusing wastewater is a cost-efficient way to meet your company’s large-scale water needs because most of these industries are greatly water-intensive.
It improves sustainability
Sustainability is a word that is mostly used but not significantly well-understood. Simply put, it focuses on meeting the demands of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their demands. It is environmentally, economically, and socially beneficial.
The separation of the solid and liquid components from sludge waste is an intrinsically eco-friendly, sustainable technology. It enables both for reusing water and disposing of dry cake containing a high degree of solids that cannot be reused.
It helps you avoid expensive non-compliance fees
Apart from the environmental benefits of using technologies to help recycle and reuse wastewater, there are also personal benefits. When you implement wastewater recycle strategies, it becomes easier for you to reduce fees relating to non-compliance with wastewater discharge regulations. This is a good way for homes and companies to cut down on their utility bills.
Lighting contributes significantly to the amount of energy consumed in a home. And this means that it significantly influences your energy bills. However, you can reduce your energy consumption by switching to a more efficient lighting system. And this is where sustainability comes in.
Sustainable houses have the most energy-efficient lighting technology. You can check the wattage of light bulbs to know the energy-efficient ones. Sustainable houses use smart LED light fittings to light up the home and reduce energy consumption. And if you need a larger eco-friendly investment, you can have all lighting wired via a C-Bus smart wiring technology.
What are the Benefits of Using Smart Lighting?
Smart lighting has many different benefits, which is why it is featured as one of the key strategies in sustainable houses. Some of these benefits include:
LED bulbs can last a lot longer than traditional types of lighting and produce an insignificant amount of heat. This does not only help the environment, but it will also help save you money on energy bills.
Many LED bulbs can last for several years or even decades. Now, if everyone can incorporate this lighting system in their homes, it will benefit the environment in the long run.
Sustainable houses with smart lighting can have positive impacts on our environment like less production of new lamps, reduction of landfill waste, etc.
Non-Toxic Elements, Thereby Reducing Your Carbon Footprint
It is harmful to dispose of fluorescent bulbs containing mercury – a toxic element in landfill sites. And it is indeed very disturbing that many people have been doing it for years.
However, LED bulbs do not contain any toxic materials. You can include them in your domestic refuse. There are special regulations for disposing of fluorescent bulbs, and some recycling sites reject them.
Cost-effective, you get to spend less money
LED lighting used to be very expensive. But with time, the prices decreased, and you can afford multi-packs with little money. It does not cost much to upgrade your lighting system to more energy-efficient LED lights. Although the initial cost may be higher than traditional lights, you will save money in the long run by a significant reduction in your electricity bills.
Less wastage, eco-friendly
Smart LED bulbs can be a lot more energy-efficient than traditional bulbs and consume far less energy. For instance, incandescent bulbs, CFL bulbs, halogen bulbs, or other traditional lighting devices produce heat and consume a lot of energy.
But, with LED lights, almost all of the power sources are utilized for light emission. And this means less wastage and a lower carbon footprint.
Brighter Lighting Means Fewer Lights Used
The days when brightness used to be measured by the bulb’s wattage are over. LED bulbs also consume much less power than conventional lighting. For instance, a 36 watt LED will give you the same lighting level as an 84-watt fluorescent light.
What this means is that the new smart LED lights on the market today give out about 100 lumens per watt of power input. And filament bulbs and halogen spotlights produce about 12 lumens per watt of input power, nearly ten times brighter. This means that you can get an equal level of lighting using fewer bulbs and less electricity, which will, lower the power plants’ demand and decrease greenhouse gas emissions.
Building a home can be very challenging, but the result is always rewarding with a sustainable house. Though the initial costs for building one may be steep, you will offset it in no time with reduced energy bills. Sustainable houses have many useful features that make your living better.
If you are looking to build a new home, never forget that you have one with the most positive impacts on our environment with a sustainable house.