Australia continues to lead the world’s green building sector with further growth predicted over the next three years, according to a new global report.
Data has indicated support for the green building sector is growing globally, with organisations across the construction industry shifting towards more sustainable materials and practices.
This means that now more than ever you have the opportunity to build a brand new home that is both sustainable and realistically affordable.
The key to green buildings, as you may already know, is that they have a less negative impact on the environment than standard buildings. Their construction minimizes on-site grading, saves natural resources by using alternative building materials, and recycles construction waste rather than sending truck after truck to landfills.
A majority of a green building’s interior spaces have natural lighting and outdoor views, while highly efficient HVAC (heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning) systems and low-VOC (volatile organic compound) materials like paint, flooring, and furniture create a superior indoor air quality.
"What most observers don’t realize is that this is a “green,” or environmentally and economically sustainable, workplace—and that it costs 20% less per square foot to operate than its comparably sized “standard” sister building". - Charles Lockwood Harvard Business Review
Green building materials, mechanical systems, and furnishings have become more widely available, and their prices have dropped considerably—in some cases below the cost of their standard counterparts.
Now is the perfect time to invest in creating or renovating your green home.
Some of the sustainable features you can include in your eco-friendly home:
Climate Responsive Design
Throughout Australia there are eight different climate zones. Each with their own weather patterns including factors such as seasonality, intensity of the sun, wind rainfall and humidity.
Knowing these site-specific environmental conditions can help designers and architects to make informed design choices ensuring you will have a comfortable energy efficient home.
Building orientation refers to the positioning of your home on site, in relation to the sun.
This is done to maximise the use of natural climatic features, such as the sun and cooling breezes to heat and cool the home, reducing the need for auxiliary heating and cooling.
Homes aligned along a West-East axis with the main living spaces facing north will maximise solar exposure in winter and control the shading of walls and windows in summer.
Thermal mass is a term that describes how well a building material stores heat.
Used appropriately, materials with high thermal mass will moderate indoor temperatures by absorbing heat from their environment and then releasing the heat slowly when the surrounding temperature goes down.
To be effective, thermal mass needs to be integrated with other solar passive design techniques appropriate for the climate.
Materials with a high thermal mass include concrete, bricks and tiles.
Materials with a low thermal mass include lightweight materials, such as timber.
Windows and Glazing
Windows and glazing are a key element of your home’s design, providing light, ventilation, noise control and security, whilst offering views and connecting interior spaces with the outdoors.
However, windows and glazing can account for more heat gain or loss than any other element in your home.
You can enjoy the benefits of your windows and glazing without the excessive heat loss or gain by employing the following principles:
Select the correct glazing systems for your orientation and climate
Locate larger openings to the north, and small openings to the south
Locate window and door openings to allow natural cooling by cross ventilation
Provide seals to openings to minimise unwanted draughts
Effective shading of your house and outdoor spaces can reduce summer temperatures by up to 90%, which will improve comfort and save energy.
Shading devices include eaves, shutters, windows awnings, pergolas and plantings.
Active Heating and Cooling
Inactive heating and cooling, mechanical systems are used to collect and distribute energy.
These systems can run on solar or geothermal power in order to provide heating and cooling.
Some examples of active heating and cooling systems include
Hydronic in-slab heating system
Hot water supplied by evacuated tube collectors
Reversible ceiling fans in living areas and bedrooms
Insulation is essential to keep your home warm in winter and cool in summer, by acting as a barrier to heat flow.
A well-insulated home can cut cooling and heating bills by up to half, whilst providing year-round comfort, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The most appropriate type and level of insulation is determined by the climatic conditions your home will be built in.
Without proper insulation, up to two-thirds of a home's heat energy can be lost.
Examples of insulation include bulk, reflective or composite and can be installed in the roof, walls, floors and the slab edge (customised to suit design and materials requirements).
Minimal clearing of vegetation for building works (and bushfire protection, where necessary).
Where possible, all cleared vegetation mulched on-site and reused for landscaping and remedial works.
Building debris/rubbish sorted on-site and dealt with as follows:
Steel: recycled or reused
Gyprock: re-used for clay breaker on gardens or recycled by the manufacturer
Timber: off-cuts re-used or recycled
Cardboard and paper: recycled
Concrete, Brick, Tile – recycled
Excavated soil & rock reused on-site for landscaping
All timber is plantation grown or recycled