Tuesday 15 January 2019

Eco-Friendly Considerations When Building or Retrofitting Your Home

#### This is a collaborative post ####

I found this interesting as a house with this type of design was built just down the road from us. In fact it's our nearest neighbour on the one side of the road (but still a mile away. 

In today's green conscious housing market, the need for sustainable homes has become more and more apparent. To combat climate change it is essential that we use new design models, improve existing housing, and retrofit existing homes.
With the technology that we have available today we are able to make our homes much more energy efficient and eco-friendly. This is a boon even if you aren’t concerned with green living. You are able to get the same aesthetics, health, safety and comforts that traditional homes offer, all while saving on energy costs. This energy efficiency is fundamental in designing an eco-friendly home.
If you are interested in building or retrofitting your home for green living, then continue reading to find our top 9 considerations that you should keep in mind.

What is Passivhaus Design?

Passivhaus Design is the design standard for construction is used in order to make a home that maintains comfortable temperatures via the use of minimal energy input. This is done by utilising human, sunlight, and appliance heat. These drastically reduce the previous need for traditional space heating.
This kind of design takes the shape, size, and orientation of the home into account. Materials are used that provide for better heat prevention, as well as natural heat recovery and ventilation systems that help to drastically reduce the carbon footprint of the building. In order to meet the standard of Passivhaus Design, the energy required to heat a space must be less than 15 kwh.

Design with Passive Solar in Mind

You are able to implement passive sources of energy without having to adhere to the Passivhaus Design standard. Active solar energy generation is something that many people are familiar with. These are things like your solar panels that help reduce your dependence on fossil fuels. Passive solar design, however, is something that far fewer people understand.
Passive design is done in order to help harness heat and light from the sun in order to reduce the energy needs of your home. The most important design aspect for passive solar consideration is the orientation of the home. For example, in the northern hemisphere, it is important to orient the home so that the majority of the windows face the south. This maximizes solar gain.

Insulation and Thermal Efficiency

One of the biggest considerations when designing your new home is the materials that are used. The carbon cost of the materials should always be a consideration, as well as their ability to retain heat, resulting in less energy loss.
Such materials include wood, cob, and even straw. These are all cost-effective alternatives to the materials that are more carbon costly. You should also consider the U value of the roof, walls, and floor. This determines the rate at which heat is able to escape from the home. The lower the value, the better.
If you are retrofitting rather than building a new home, then external insulation could be best, since this adds thermal mass to your walls, resulting in less energy loss.


Make it Air Tight

The material isn’t the only consideration when attempting to prevent heat loss. You also have to consider the airtightness level. A good airtight design will help to reduce the energy demand of the home by using a system of membranes and barriers.
The airtightness of the home can be determined via an n50 test. This is an air pressurization test. In order to pass the test, as far as the Passivhaus standard is concerned, a 50 Pascal air pressure should have a change of less than 0.6 pascals per hour. A good design is important to be able to achieve this.

Natural Heat Recovery and Ventilation

Now, when implementing a design that is airtight, there are other considerations to consider, such as ventilation. It is important to allow for natural ventilation. This is going to be important to cool off excess temperature and a comfortable flow of air via cross ventilation. In order to properly achieve this, then it is important to understand how air moves through a building.
Another standard with Passivhaus design is that the home should not experience temperatures exceeding 25 degrees Celsius for more than 10% of the year. Natural ventilation helps to keep energy costs low in the winter, preventing undesired heat loss.

Efficient Use of Energy

Using good insulation and incorporating solar orientation are the first steps to helping with your heat-energy demand. For places with mild climates, this might be enough. There will be homeowners, however, that need additional resources and options for reducing the heat-energy demand further. You want to make sure that you choose appliances with an A+++ rating. This includes your lighting appliances.
It could be a good idea to look into photovoltaics as well as other means of local energy generation. Using active solar sources help reduce energy loads of systems like your water heater by preheating the water. These are often the weakness that many “green” homes face.

Mixergy Hot Water Tank and My Plumber

One consideration that is often overlooked is how to properly use and manage your water systems. Many of the green designs incorporate different water saving measures, such as low flow toilets and the recycling of water. It is a beneficial option for you to re-use greywater or use other natural filtrations systems where you can.
One appliance you should consider is the Mixergy Hot Water Tank, which you can get from My Plumber. This hot water tank is friendly to the environment and provides you with a better energy economy, which results in savings. This water heater has just recently been approved for permit use in new London household installations.

Sustainability and Adaptability

Not all sustainable homes are one-size-fits-all. For a home to be truly sustainable it has to be adapted to the people living in it. We have already discussed the need to design a home and account for energy loss and energy consumption. This shouldn’t be the only consideration, though.
You have to consider who will be living in the home and what kind of energy usage they will need. The home has to be able to adapt to the family living in it, not the other way around.

The home also has to feature liveability. The home can be as green as possible, but that won’t make a difference if the family doesn’t like living there. This means that the home has to be able to adapt to a variety of different issues, ranging from the number of bathrooms all the way to changes in the weather.

Keep the Environment in Mind

If you are environmentally friendly and ethically minded then you have to consider far more than just the energy impact of the home. A zero-carbon home should be designed to help facilitate a low-carbon footprint lifestyle.
That means you consider things such as growing your own food, composting waste, as well as incorporating green living into your home office. Having something like a home garden will help allow for a more sustainable living area and lifestyle.

The Final Word

A properly designed green home will always begin with the proper design and material usage, but it will always end with you. The house can be as green as possible, but it won’t make that much of a difference if you don’t take advantage of the features provided to you. This means that to get the proper full effect of green living, you have to begin by incorporating a green living lifestyle.

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