How Do You Make a Home Sustainable?

A lot of people love the idea of building their very own sustainable home but when it comes down to it – what does this really mean? Is it even practical? What difference will it even make really?

Must a sustainable house be adorned with solar panels? Do we all need to throw shoes to one side, grow beards, and get muddy to consider ourselves friends of the environment?

The answer is NO. While there are many different ways to make a home more sustainable, the easiest and most effective way is through design. Each house should be designed to suit its’ specific site constraints and opportunities, the local climate, and the unique owner requirements.

If we take a look at natural homes such as rainforests, termite mounds, or lakes; each is a self-regulating system that does not require heating or cooling to maintain comfort for its occupants:

  • Rainforests maintain a high level of humidity. The moisture required to support the rainforest is trapped below canopies, undergrowth and foliage. It is then released through evapotranspiration which maintains local rainfall patterns.
  • Termite mounds use solar orientation, breezeways, and solar chimneys to maintain constant internal temperatures of 30°C with outdoor conditions ranging from 1°C – 40°C
  • Lakes in freezing conditions form an insulative ice layer at the surface protecting aquatic life from the harshest winter weather.

A well designed home can borrow from these incredible systems and use solar radiation, thermal mass, breezeways, and shading to create a self-regulating house which stays cool in summer and warm in winter without the need for artificial temperature control.

But does building an eco-home actually help? Actually it might be one of the biggest things you can do to contribute. Buildings are responsible for over 40% of global emissions; far more than any other single sector. A sustainable house can reduce this by a factor of 5. This doesn’t just give you a feel good factor – it saves you $$$ as well!

So when you are imagining your new home – imagine it green! Build for our future.