The Ultimate Guide to a Sustainable House

The Ultimate Guide to a Sustainable House

The Ultimate Guide to a Sustainable House explores the latest trends and techniques for sustainable homes that are energy-efficient, minimise its impact on the environment, reduce energy consumption, and improve the health and well-being of its occupants.

Covering passive solar design, green building materials, Passive House, carbon emissions, that’s non-toxic with smart home technology.

Here are some key features of a sustainable house:

  1. Size matters: build what you and your family need, because the larger the home, the more heating and cooling is required. If it’s a versatile layout, then occupants can have their sleeping areas, and come together at common areas such as kitchen, laundry and lounge areas. Or if your zoning allows, you can have dual occupancy and smaller homes.
  2. Energy efficiency, solar power & being self sufficient: A sustainable house is designed to reduce energy consumption through efficient heating, cooling, LED lighting, hot water (solar or heat pumps) and appliances. This can be achieved through proper insulation, high-efficiency windows and doors, and the use of renewable energy sources such as solar or wind power. Installing gauges and devices to monitor where you use the most power can also be helpful, or installing auto switch-off appliances when no motion is detected. Having an air gap around fridges and out of the sunlight will help their efficiency. If you can sustain yourself without mains connection then you’re fully sustainable (unless you’re feeding power back into the grid which is even better as you’re helping power your community). Depending on your land and surroundings, you may even be able to process your grey and black water on-site naturally (Wisconsin mounds, reed beds, worm farms).
  3. Water efficiency: Sustainable houses are designed to minimise water consumption through the use of low-flow fixtures and appliances, rainwater harvesting systems, and efficient irrigation systems for landscaping. Of course, harvesting your own rainwater and storing it for showers, the kitchen, laundry, toilets and gardens is ideal.
  4. Materials: Sustainable houses are built using materials that are environmentally friendly, renewable, reuse-able and non-toxic. Examples include sustainably harvested wood, recycled materials, and low-impact insulation. This includes managing termites with visual inspections or barriers as per the NCC/BCA with regular baiting and inspections, rather than using poisons and chemicals to kill them. Minimising waste, ensuring it has a long life-span, is durable and has low carbon emissions (while building and to the end of its life) is important. For instance, cement content can be replaced with planet-friendlier additives like fly ash and blast furnace slag
  5. Indoor air quality, low toxins: A sustainable house is designed to promote good indoor air quality through proper ventilation, the use of non-toxic materials or VOCs (volatile organic compounds), and the control of indoor pollutants such as mould, radon, and carbon monoxide. New houses can be a source of toxins, as can homes that do not ventilate well and have too much moisture and humidity.
  6. Location: The location of a sustainable house is also important. Ideally, it should be located in a walkable community with access to public transportation and amenities such as parks, grocery stores, and restaurants. This can reduce the need for driving and promote a more sustainable lifestyle.
  7. Maintenance: Sustainable houses require regular maintenance to ensure that they continue to operate efficiently and effectively. This includes regular inspections of heating and cooling systems, roof maintenance, and weathering in the extreme Australian climate, especially the cold Blue Mountains winters.
  8. Solar passive house design maximises the use of natural sunlight and heat, to reduce energy consumption for heating, cooling and lighting. Whether you can locate the house so the long-side faces north, is protected from cold westerly winds and shaded with correct eave length to shade the windows in summer and allow sun in winter to enter the house. Ideally your home isn’t shaded in winter by trees or buildings. Large windows facing north helps with getting winter sun inside the home if you get sunny winter days. Thermal mass inside the home helps regulate the temperature throughout the year.
  9. Passive House principles using an airtight envelope, which prevents heat loss through leaks and drafts, it’s a well insulated house, uses double glazed windows, mechanical ventilation systems with heat recovery to maintain a comfortable indoor environment while minimising energy use. Using energy efficient appliances which you monitor are also an important feature of passive homes.
  10. Low carbon emissions while building, living in it (keeping warm and cool) and for its entire lifespan. Low carbon footprint uses materials and construction methods that produce low greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption over the lifetime of the house. eg. materials that use high energy to produce include glass, lime, concrete, bricks and metal require high levels of energy to source, heat, refine, transport to produce.

A sustainable house is designed to be environmentally friendly, energy-efficient / low cost, and healthy for its occupants.

It takes into account the entire life cycle of the building, from construction to operation and maintenance, and strives to minimise its impact on the environment while providing a comfortable and healthy living space for its occupants.