17 things to consider including in any eco-friendly home designTips and Advice
Everyone wants to go eco-friendly, if for no other reason than to save on consumption costs on things like electricity, gas and water.
But do you really know what an eco-friendly home design looks like?
Well if you didn’t before, you will after reading this article. I will explain what environmental inclusions I think are ‘must haves’, and those that are desirable depending on things like the orientation of your home and your budget.
Eco home design ‘must haves’:
1. Ceiling insulation is clearly a must-have. Particularly if you’re using an air-conditioner or heater. You don’t want that conditioned air escaping through the ceiling where you’re not getting the benefit of it.
2. Solar panels are next on the list. And I would add here that an allowance is made for future battery installation. Whilst your system may feed back into the grid, chances are you will want to store power at some point in the future as changes to feed in tariffs make self-storage a more profitable option.
3. I’m surprised at the number of homes that don’t have water tanks, particularly when you look at how frequently droughts are occurring in South East Queensland. Even in the better years’ rainfall averages seem to be dropping, so it makes sense to capture the water that falls on your property to help lower your water bills and to become more self-sufficient.
4. Solar hot water systems are highly desirable. Heating water can be expensive, even with the more energy efficient gas and electric systems on the market. Having your water heated by the sun makes financial sense in the long run.
5. Australian summers can be extremely hot and during those times the major focus is on keeping the home cool. The average home doesn’t fare very well in this department as they tend to be poorly designed in terms of climate control, relying instead on expensive artificial cooling in the form of air-conditioners. One simple design feature that can help keep a home cool, are oversized eaves with a large overhang that keeps the direct sunlight from the high summer sun off the home, whilst still allowing the lower winter sun to warm the home in the cooler months.
6. Another way to stop direct sunlight from uncomfortably heating your home is through the use of shading devices on east and west facing windows. Ideally, these devices are able to be retracted or opened on the cooler months, but in some situations, fixed shading looks great as well as being highly effective.
7. Small trees and shrubs can be employed to block heat whilst creating a beautiful outlook at the same time. Considered plant selection and placement along the eastern and western sides of a home can significantly reduce the internal temperatures on a hot day.
8. Inside the home, you should be investing in energy efficient appliances. These appliances are a great investment in the long-term in power savings and should be the first choice when building a new home, or when replacing worn out appliances in your existing home.
Desirable inclusions/design considerations:
9. Ideally, your home should have high-quality doors and windows which offer large openings to help capture prevailing breezes.
10. Speaking of doors and breezes, the inclusion of sliding internal doors, particularly in the living and dining areas, can help regulate the temperature within your home. Being able to close areas off on those extreme days when you do need to turn on the air-conditioner will help you keep power consumption to a minimum.
11. When it comes to windows most people think of double or triple glazing as being the pinnacle of energy efficiency. However, having tinted windows throughout your home can help eliminate glare and reduce temperatures significantly. If your budget will allow for it, eco-glass is the way to go. Eco-glass windows are insulated with additional heat shielding, and whilst it is an expensive initial investment it can save you dramatically in terms of running costs within your home. But if you do choose to go with eco-glass, I would recommend not using it on windows where you want to encourage natural warming from the winter sun.
12. The design of your home can benefit dramatically from taking advantage of the Venturi effect. Now I’ve previously written an article on this subject which you can check out by clicking HERE. It works by using cross ventilation to create low-pressure areas that help create airflow within the home whilst removing hot air from the home, thus cooling it naturally.
13. Integrated window control systems are a great idea, particularly the automated models that can open and close windows depending on the prevailing conditions. But if your budget does stretch that far there are plenty of other options from electronic models to more manual models which can allow you to control the flow of air through your home.
14. Earlier we mentioned insulating your ceilings, but that’s really just the basics. For serious energy efficiency and interior comfort, insulation should include both internal and external walls in addition to the ceiling and under roof sheeting. With the added benefit of lowering external noises entering the home, this level of insulation will help keep the home significantly cooler in summer.
15. Depending on the style of home, masonry cladding on eastern, southern and northern facing walls, with light-weight cladding used elsewhere on the exterior can reduce the amount of radiant heat entering the interior of the home after dark through the summer period. This form of cladding is not only effective but it’s also very stylish and will suit most homes.
16. When designing a new home, we look to create a long axis with north/south exposure to maximise cross ventilation whilst at the same time limiting the impact of the hot summer sun from the east and west.
17. Again with new home designs, but also some major renovations the aim is to locate significant rooms – such as kitchens and living areas – in such a way as to maximise natural light entry, whilst designing them in such a way that they are not adversely impacted by direct sunlight on the walls and windows themselves.
So, are passive, eco inclusions really important?
Now it needs to be said that whilst some of these eco-design options look like an additional expense, they are actually an investment.
They are an investment in terms of finances as they can dramatically lower the running cost of your home. They lower your power consumption and increase the comfort level of your home. You’ll find your home is healthier, as breezes pass through removing any odours or stale air and negating the need for artificial air-conditioning.
Natural light entering the home not only keeps costs down but it’s good for your eyes, mind and well-being.
Importantly, it’s also good for the environment. Our resources are finite. It’s important that we conserve energy where we can and begin relying less on coal-fired power stations and more on renewables. And whilst we may seem to be a long way from the time where renewables completely replace coal-fired stations, we as individuals can do our part by consuming less and generating more ourselves.
If you would like to know more about eco-friendly designs for your new home or renovation, contact us today and let us show you how to save money whilst saving the planet.
DION SEMINARA, DION SEMINARA ARCHITECTURE
Hi, I am Dion Seminara, practicing architect and licensed general builder for 20 years as well as an environmental sustainable design (ESD) expert. I graduated from Queensland University of Technology (QUT) with honours, QLD in 1989. Registered as an architect in 1991 and registered as a builder in 1992, I am also a fellow member of the Australian Institute of Architects (AIA). Having received 12 ArCHdes Residential Architecture Awards, LJ Hooker Flood Free Home Design Award and the 2016 AIA Regional Commendation for Public Architecture, my expertise with both residential renovation (to all types of houses, especially Queenslanders, 50s/60s/80s), new contemporary homes and luxury residences has earned me a reputation as one of Brisbane's architectural specialists in lifestyle design architecture, interior design and landscape design.