Sustainable Homes

So just what is a sustainable home? It is very hard to tell with so many buzz words trying to describe the same thing. Be it green homes, environmentally friendly houses, thermal comfort homes, eco houses or passive solar houses they are all really trying to describe the same thing: a home designed on common sense. The common sense approach to building sustainable homes is based on five key themes:solar passive design, use of materials that have a low embodied energy content, are recycled/recyclable or contribute greatly to energy reduction; low ongoing energy consumption; conservation of water; and adaptability to future use.

The key to a sustainable, or common sense home, lies in the design. A design and materials  that take advantage of climatic conditions to maintain a comfortable temperature range in the home to reduce reduces or eliminate the need for auxiliary heating or cooling, which accounts for about 40% of energy use in the average Australian home. The importance of considering all of the elements together cannot be overstated. Paying attention to the principles of good design means that material choices and water and energy consumption are all optimised. This approach can result in a lower up front cost due to reduced wastage and minimised ongoing costs through lower energy requirements. Going hand in hand with this is a reduced cost to the environment.

Imagine Homes is a Housing Industry Association GreenSmart accredited builder specialising in the delivery of custom designed homes that are in harmony with your site and the local environment. When we design your home we consider aspects related to climate, your site and your requirements. Is it time to turn your dream into reality?

1.             Your Home; Australia's guide to environmentally sustainable homes, Department of Industry, Australian Government

Solar Passive Design

Solar passive design refers to the use of the sun’s energy for the heating and cooling of living spaces by managing exposure to the sun. When sunlight strikes a building, the building materials can reflect, transmit, or absorb the solar radiation. Orientation, material selection, glazing, ventilation and insulation all have a part to play in maximising the effects of passive solar design.

A passively designed home makes the most of natural heating and cooling methods to keep its occupants comfortable year-round. Orientation, spatial zoning, thermal mass, ventilation, insulation, shading and glazing are the seven core components of passive design.

Home orientation is particularly important in the cool climate zones of the Yass Valley. It is important for the building to be correctly oriented to the sun in during cold seasons and shut it out when it’s hot, the other six principles of passive design can be balanced to create homes that require minimal active heating or cooling. Good orientation from a passive design perspective generally means locating living areas on the north side of the house, with glazing having clear access to sunlight even in mid-winter. Key design considerations are outlined below:

Design for climate

Different climates need different houses and Australia has more than 80 climate zones . The design and delivery of homes that are appropriate to the climate and adapted to both your needs and the micro-climate of your site. Design is more than just the structural components of the building - but the balance of light, heat and insulation to achieve the best balance of utility and cost - both construction and running. 

Heating and cooling

Traditional Australian construction standards result in ‘leaky’ homes; the air changing up to twenty times in an hour. This leakage creates draughts and results in increased heating and cooling costs, Sealing leaks post construction is difficult and costly. The key design factors are: prevent leaks, use curtains and blinds to manage heating and cooling and insulate. Ceiling fans should be considered for both heating and cooling to increase efficiency.

Insulation

Insulation provides a barrier to heat passing in and out of the house, In many cases good design and good insulation can a provide a dwelling that requires limited, or no, heating or cooling. le temperature inside, regardless of the temperature outside. In winter, once your home has been heated to a comfortable level, it will stay that way with less energy input than an uninsulated home. Insulation and the exclusion of draughts can result in a saving of up to 30% in energy bills.

Windows

Windows and glazed doors can leak considerable heat (in and out). Good design will determine the optimum glazing requirement; consider the benefits of double glazing but there is no need to go overboard chasing energy rating stars. Balance the cost of the windows with the projected savings over time in relation to heating and cooling to find the right balance,

Size matters

We here in Australia have some of the biggest houses in the world; this is not particularly efficient. Good design maximises the utility of the home and results in higher energy efficiency standards, and lower upfront and ongoing costs.

Actively manage the inside environment

Work with the elements to maintain your home in a comfortable state at all times. This not only reduces ongoing costs but provides that liveable feeling; use curtains and blinds to manage light and heat, windows to provide (or prevent) cooling breezes through cross ventilation of convection, thermal mass and renewable energy to cool or warm the home using free energy and then maintain it during the peak hours, In short manage the inside environment to make the most of your passive solar design.