Green-Building; Homes To Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
When asked the question what is green-building? Most people automatically think ‘Grand Designs’ with houses built from packed mud and hay, homemade clay-tile roofs and using recycled beer bottles for windows. This is perhaps an option for ‘green building’ and looks impressive on TV but there is a range of different options to do your bit without going quite to those lengths.
With the increasing activity about climate change, environmental impacts, carbon footprints, excessive waste, sustainability, and many other associated labels, it is time to look at green-building. But first, let’s see where we are and how current building techniques stand up in this debate.
A Review of Traditional Building
Traditional building frankly is not sustainable, has a high carbon footprint, high emissions, and poor impacts on the environment.
One of the biggest carbon emitters is concrete, or more specifically, cement. A concrete pad or brick-built house will have quite significant carbon emissions. Efforts are out there globally to reduce its impact; however this isn’t common practice.
Wood used for framing, while it does come from a forest which is likely to be replanted, the carbon footprint to get the wood into a usable state on-site, is heavy. Cutting, trimming, transporting multiple times, it soon builds up.
House designs are not as efficient as they could be, resulting in lots of wasted energy- from roofing and wall materials, heating systems, to inefficient lighting design and fixtures allowing considerable heat escape.
In short, traditional building has been a very poor example of a sustainable industry.
What Is Green-Building?
A green home is one that uses sustainable building practices, uses less energy and water to live in, produces less waste, and is also a healthier home.
Simple things like the correct orientation of your home to naturally maximise warmth from the sun and cooling from a breeze. This can help you in reducing the energy needed to cool and heat your home.
Consider the size of the home you actually need. Do you really need four or five bedrooms when three or four might do just as well?
Green-building also looks at the materials used in the construction of a house. Modern materials are often better at retaining or reflecting heat, are more durable, and can even be made from recycled materials. Other materials will be produced in a more sustainable way too.
But it is not just new materials. Older building techniques are being used like vegetation on roofs or adobe-style muds to provide insulation.
Some people even use modern non-building materials. For example, old tyres can be filled with mud to produce stable, and very energy-efficient homes. Glass or plastic bottles can be used for walls and then covered with adobe or other protective material.
Well-known Green-Building Methods
There are plenty of obvious and long-standing green building concepts that are still not commonly used. These include solar panels on the roof, under-floor heating (heat rises), extra insulation in the walls, and double or even triple glazing to reduce heat-loss. Modern heating systems are generally better than older ones for energy efficiency both in consumption and output.
Sustainable Materials and Production Techniques
A green home is one in which the building materials are all sustainable and use less natural and other limited resources.
Increasing the use of materials that have been recycled can have a big impact. Reusing materials from homes that have been dismantled is a common tactic. This can add the retro-chic style many people want these days.
Use wood that has been sustainably harvested and where the supply chain is documented and certified. Some materials like bamboo are easily and quickly renewable.
Make sure that any materials you use are non-toxic ad non-allergenic. Of course, one of the biggest pollutants is trucks on the road, so reduce your impact by buying materials that are available locally. You also help the local economy.
Green-building can also apply to design. For example, rain run-off from a roof is usually wasted, going into the drainage system. This water can be used for non-drinking water inside the home or recirculated around the garden. Some types of vegetation on the roof, can filter the water to remove pollutants and even in some cases make the water potable.
Heating systems are not the only improvements in living. Modern household appliances are much more energy-efficient than they used to be. Make it a point to install only appliances that are energy efficient.
Use lighting fixtures that have low power requirements while still giving you the level of lighting that you require.
Install showerheads and toilets that use a low flow of water. See if you can install a system to harvest rainwater and reduce your dependence on water supplied by the local utility companies.
Also now many appliances can be controlled by apps on your phone so you can turn them on when you need them such as heating the home before you get back, or turn them off if you forgot when you left the house.
Building materials used should never contribute to the toxins or allergens in the house. Such as picking paints with low Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) and choosing floor coverings that are made of natural materials and avoiding those that are made of artificial fibres.
You can go further in the building of a green home if you install systems that are constantly monitoring your use of energy in the form of water and electricity. Change your lifestyle to make less use of hot water or heating and cooling devices. Stop using dryers and go in for natural drying of clothes. Reduce heating temperatures for hot water and heating and set your air conditioning to cool at higher temperatures. Switch off appliances like televisions and computers when they are not in use. Install timers or motion sensors to switch off lights.
A green home must be one that constantly conserves the use of water and energy and is built with materials that have had the least impact on the environment and energy use. It must also be one that produces the least waste during its use. Some people argue that the cost of these is not economic and that it can take years to recover the investment. The key here is the word “investment”.
Firstly, a home is built for a long-life, not a short-term pay-off. More often now house buyers want to buy efficient homes so if your home does not have those, then it will not be as good a property investment as one that is built with these green building concepts.
Secondly, many people will say that green building is not just an investment in the actual home, but an investment in the planet too.
At Cain Built, we are increasingly being asked to look at green-building for ideas and techniques. If you’re looking to build a new green home in Auckland or renovate to have a greener home, please give us a call on 0800 224 628 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will gladly have a chat with you about your aims and give you some guidance on your green home.