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Tips for Designing a Sustainable Home

Alan Baddeley

Alan Baddeley

There are lots of ways you can make your home more energy efficient and water efficient. It all depends on your budget and the current state of your house. As far as being green goes the old adage that ‘any little helps’ is very true. The more you can incorporate green design into your home the more you will reduce your carbon footprint and the more money you will save that can be re-invested into green interior and exterior design projects.

One of the most successful models for a sustainable home is the passive house. It is an idea that was pioneered in Europe and has been successfully implemented in both hot and cold climates. The underlying principal of the passive house is that heating and cooling should be reduced to a minimum by using insulation and sunlight carefully. In cold climates a wall of glass is used to capture heat. PV panels oriented to capture solar energy are also used. In hot countries overhangs are used to reduce thermal gain and windows are placed as to avoid the intensity of the sun. Passive Houses in both hot and cold climates make extensive use of superinsulation and open plan design.

If a passive home is out of your budget a good place to start is with High Thermal Mass (HTM) walls. These are dry stack blocks, mortared concrete walls and poured concrete walls. An outer layer (with insulation gap) of brick or stucco must be added. Using nearby materials such as dead standing trees or rocks helps to reduce the carbon footprint of a house. Another option is to use recycled materials such as glass and reclaimed hardwood. Yet another option is to use a renewable resource such as bamboo for the outer layer of a wall.

Another area where green savings can be made is water. Conserving water and better use of water helps the environment and reduces bills. Such actions as rainwater harvesting, installing grey water systems and using composting toilets do a lot to lower water use in a home.

Heating bills can be reduced by using photovoltaic panels to generate electricity and by replacing old furnaces with heat pumps that are 4 or 5 times more efficient than standard electrical resistance systems.

Throughout the house major appliances should be replaced at the end of their life with Energy Star approved products that are 20% to 30% more energy efficient. Front loading washing machines are more efficient than top loading models.

Finally other green interior design ideas include installing low flow showerheads and faucet aerators. Diverting grey water from the bathroom to use in the garden makes great eco-sense as the water is used twice. Replacing incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs will also make an impact on electricity bills.

The more you look into the topic of sustainable house design and green interior design the more you realize what you can do to help yourself and the environment.

Video Sustainable Home