Sustainable Design

In our changing times and environments we are now needing to change our attitudes towards design and how we live. Minimum standards are being raised and changing climates are making us realise we now need to live more ‘in-tune’ with our environment.

What is sustainable design?

There are many components which make up the overall concept of sustainable design. To help answer this question we have broken this down into three guiding principals. Concepts Architectural Design are employing these principals and philosophies into our designs.

A comfortable home

A house positioned on the site correctly will collect heat through passive solar gain. Increased insulation, double glazing and thermal mass are then needed to retain this heat for as long as possible. By retaining as much of the ‘free’ heat, less additional energy is required to warm the house.

By passively ventilating the house we don’t require the energy costs associated with air-conditioning. The house is designed for indoor/outdoor flow, so we want to be able to open the large doors. For air-conditioning to work all windows and doors need to be closed, effectively sealing off the inhabitants from the outside, opening windows allow for natural flow of air circulation throughout the house.

The house should not be too hot or too cold, and take a minimal amount of energy to keep it at a comfortable level. The result will be a healthier home, thus reducing the likelihood of illness and allergies to the occupants.

An environmentally friendly home

Today it is becoming increasingly important that we are aware the impact of our home has on the environment. The use of recycled or sustainable materials should be utilised as much as possible.

By capturing rainwater and storing it for later consumption we are able to make use of our natural resources.

Solar energy can be used to heat water which saves power for the house. Waste can be reduced through reusing the stormwater and recycling grey water.

Ideally the home should be producing less waste and consuming less energy.

Quality of Lifestyle

Our home should help us to achieve a better quality of life. By choosing a home close to town or nearer to our place of work we are giving ourselves more opportunities. A healthier lifestyle can be achieved when we have the choice to walk, bike, or use public transport. We are also able to save petrol costs and this combined with an energy efficient home means a substantial saving for the household.

By keeping the design simple this makes construction more affordable. The mortgage is reduced, therefore improving lifestyle and allowing us more social interaction with friends and neighbours. Simple design can help to achieve affordable construction. This reduces mortgages, therefore improves lifestyles.

Concepts and details for sustainable homes

Passive solar gain– designing the house orientated to obtain all day sun
Storage of solar gain – thermal mass of walls and floors, to slowly release at night the heat gained during the day
Shading devices – louvers, blinds, and overhangs to shade the hot summer sun, but to allow in the winter sun
Low tech – houses that use passive means for heating and ventilation, allowing for a more personal connection with the environment, eg. Opening doors and windows
Recycled materials – although some materials are not sustainable, the next best option is to reuse products or materials, rather than assigning them to land fill.
Water tanks – collection of stormwater to be filtered and used in the house, or only for gardens and toilet. Saves the use of city stormwater drains, and therefore infrastructure use.
Septic tank – if space is available to treat all sewerage from house. If not possible due to site size, then look at black water going to council sewerage drains, and grey water to be recycled on site to be used in gardens and maybe toilets.
Insulation – Increase batts insulation from minimum requirements, look at wool insulation, as a more eco-friendly product. Add insulation to the floor (polystyrene).
Glazing – double glazing for insulation.
Solar panels – for water heating.
Passive ventilation – opening windows allow for natural ventilation. This avoids the need to use air-conditioning systems which use energy, and therefore have associated running costs.
Sustainable Materials – recycled and sustainable, and locally sourced for reduction of delivery energy. materials which are renewable, easily grown and not endangered as a resource, such as bamboo.
Timber – choose not to use unsustainable products such as kwilla and teak, or natives like Rimu and Matai. Use local sustainable timbers such as pine, macrocapa, Douglas fir, or at least sustainable products such as cedar and Tasmanian oak.
Lighting – energy efficient bulbs can be used. Fluorescent lighting would be a lot better as far as energy consumption. Any external feature lighting could be solar powered.
Photovoltaic cells – as technology improves and becomes more affordable, the house could reduce significantly the power consumption from the grid, or possibly credit power back to the grid.
Green roofs – vegetated roofs which allow much cooler houses in the summer, and warmer in the winter due to the thermal mass. Could also be used as a living space for the house on a small site.
VOC levels – materials with minimum or no off-gassing to provide cleaner, nontoxic living spaces internally, and to prevent the contamination of soil and water externally.

These are only some of the possible details and concepts that could be included in an environmentally friendly home.

For further information or ideas about what could be included in the design of your house, contact us.