Modern house design is becoming increasingly green, with eco-friendly ideas beginning to appear in even the most conventional of designs. This is because sustainable design makes sense. It saves money, reduces waste and has less impact on the environment. This article takes a look at some popular trends in new home design with decidedly green credentials.
Passive design seeks to minimise energy loss from a home and to maximise passive energy gains. A truly passive house requires only 10% of the heating and cooling needed in a conventional home and it is achieved by super-insulating, making the house virtually airtight and strategically positioning blinds and awnings to optimise passive heating and cooling gains.
Sustainable building materials
Concrete and steel use a lot of energy in their production, making them environmentally unsustainable. Materials such as wood (from a sustainable source), stone (when taken from the local area), mud brick and compacted earth are all starting to be used more in house construction because of their environmentally sound credentials.
Many people have converted to solar energy hot water systems or are now requesting them in new home builds. The Federal Government’s financial incentives to soften the initial expense and the fact that you can now sell electricity back to the grid have encouraged a lot of people to invest in the benefits of solar energy in the home.
Skylights and light tubes are now used extensively in new home designs to make the most of natural light and to save on energy bills. Smart glass is also now a reality, with the ability to adjust the amount of light and heat entering through the glass.
Another steadily growing green building trend is recycling. Everything these days can be recycled including, glass, tyres, stone, concrete, metal and tiles and a number of recycled products are now being used, including recycled newspapers, cotton and hemp for insulation in ceilings and walls. Wood is now also being recycled into super strong panels made from plywood sheets and compressed sawdust.
Water is destined to become our most precious resource and all kinds of water conservation and recycling methods are emerging in forward-thinking house designs. Systems that harvest rainwater from rooves and gutters, re-use grey water for toilets and reticulation and prevent wasted water through run-off are being designed and incorporated into new homes every day.
The grounds around new homes are also beginning to be used in more productive ways, doing away with environmentally unfriendly lawned areas, designing edible landscapes and using native plants to create low maintenance, virtually water-free gardens.
Admittedly, the majority of new homes are still being made from brick and tile or cement and steel, but the number of eco-friendly design features being incorporated into even these unsustainable dwellings is on the increase. The Federal Government has set a target of introducing a 20% share of renewable energy into Australian homes and businesses by the year 2020 and if the current trends in green house design continue, this goal just might be achievable by then.