3 simple ways to build sustainability into your home project

LEED Certified House

Winter is coming and instinctively, our bodies are getting ready to hibernate.

Many Australians are staring into another winter of substandard insulation and air tightness in their homes with energy costs to heat them ever rising. They can heat their bodies with blankets like the homeless, but without temperate conditions inside, many homes will breed mould and mildew to epic proportions, inducing respiratory illnesses.

Green and passive design principles are creating new ways to combat these issues – and these options are becoming much more affordable.

Whilst many more Australians now have the chance to work in a green building, with 20% of Australia’s CBD office space certified green, few live in a green home – or can imagine affording one. People will pay up to 30% more for a healthy home, says a report by the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC). Yet, Green Building Council Australia (GBCA) report consumers here are not seeing the value of Green Star rated homes.

The good news is some architects, builders, designers and homeowners are leading the way with successfully building sustainable and green homes, for single family and mulit-residential dwellings, that don’t cost too much more than your typical Aussie house.

Here’s three simple things you can do right now yourself, to benefit from more green principles for added warmth in a new build, renovation or existing home residence:

  1. Install or use ceiling fans for more energy efficient heating. Architectural and sustainable ceiling fans are more readily available now. With a sculptural aesthetic they are functional both in winter and summer. Used on a low speed in winter mode, or in a clockwise direction, they circulate the higher heated temperature air downward from the ceiling to the floor, where we’re closer and the cooler air pools. Without this circulation we can feel colder than we expect to be, and turn up the thermostat or add more heating. Using a ceiling fan in this way can reduce an energy bill and reduces condensation on windows, creating better air quality inside.
  2. Ensure simple landscaping is considered as part of a new build or renovation project. Planting shrubs, bushes and vines next to the house creates dead air spaces that insulate a home – in winter and summer. Native plants are best for this use as they need less water; also good for the environment. Dense, low lying trees and shubbery on the south and south west sides of the house can help protect the home against wind chill.
  3. Specify eco-friendly, flue-less fires which can be creatively integrated into living areas, kitchen islands and master suites. They can be used as room dividers, in standalone units or built into wall spaces. Bioethanol fireplaces bring the added advantage of not requiring pipes or a utility connection, eliminating an installation cost. This is exciting for tenants and residents of high-rise apartments who are often prohibited from using an existing fireplace and benefiting from that primal sense of warmth, just by looking at flickering flames.

Research shows the built environment has an impact on human beings’ body and mind.

For UKGBC a healthy home is green, yet also encompasses mindful, stress free, and engaging interior design through thoughtful colour and space planning, to positively impact the pschyological and emotional well-being of residents.

As consumers ourselves, there’s an opportunity to explore how to create greener and healthier homes, truly better for humans -and the planet, at the same time.

We just need to be motivated, and aware how to.

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