Designing with Mother Earth in Mind

EFFICIENT SUSTAINABLE HOME DESIGN

An energy efficient and a high performing sustainable home can include features like solar panels and rain water tanks. But, these should not define the features of a green home. They are secondary and some of these features can be left out. An Eco home should always be well designed, well insulated and have North oriented glazing.

Heating almost always uses the most energy. The easiest way to reduce operational costs is to reduce heating. A resilient green home is one where we can use minimal energy to run appliances, heat the home and to light the home.

A home with bigger windows facing North can reduce its heating requirements by almost 25% for no cost. It is important to design them right to avoid overheating during summer. Otherwise you will cancel out any heat savings with air conditioning in the summer.

It is imperative to seal and insulate your home properly. Nothing will compensate for leaking heat. Not even solar panels.
Australian family homes are growing bigger and bigger while our families are growing smaller. A smaller house is always the most efficient. It means less materials, less land to excavate. Moreover, it means that there is less space to heat and cool. They are also cheaper to buy or build.

Our family’s sizes change throughout our lives. We start from being a couple. Kids come into our lives and leave us when they are in their twenties (hopefully). There might be a pet or two joining us.

A flexible home is one that accommodates those changes with as little cost as possible. Anticipating these changes and designing for that moment now can reduce a huge financial burden in the future.

You may want to split your home in the future to accommodate multiple families living in it. Think about potential changes to the layout to where the house can be split into a granny flat. Install all the necessary plumbing and wiring during the build. Sometimes even future door openings can be framed. Hence, when it comes to renovating your home, the infrastructure is already in place to create the new granny flat.

This can also be an excellent resale feature, by making it easier for future owners to make those changes themselves.

Reusing reclaimed and local materials:

By buying local materials and reusing building materials you have made another step towards sustainability. You have become another part of the green building movement. As mentioned before, green building should always start at the beginning of the project, incorporating all these materials into the build.
Knowing the reusable materials ahead of time can save us heaps of time. For example, if there are some old windows that you have found and want to use, they may not fit the standard openings, and it’s best to know the exact size before they get onto site to build.

Designing

When you start designing your sustainable home, ensure you have read, understood and remembered the principles outlined above. If you are using a designer or builder to design your home for you, ensure that he/ she shares your visions.

Before you sign on with anyone ensure you have a very good understanding of your green project and what you want in it. Also, you need to have a very good working relationship where you’re involved.

Hiring an Architect

Architects are not cheap. Plan on spending 8% – 15% of your total construction cost on their fees.
This is because an Architect provides you with a full service. These are
• Design
• Council Approvals
• Contract Bidding to builders
• Contract documentation
• After construction service

Hiring an Architectural Designer

This is usually a much cheaper and affordable option. You can pay between $5,000 to 15,000
depending on the size, complexity and services they provide. The designer will still ensure that their plans will comply with council regulations. Some designers can give a full service like Architects or partial services depending on what you prefer. Ensure you know your designer well. Some designers have the Architectural qualifications but aren’t registered Architects others have achieved a diploma of design and there are others who have only done the CERT IV in design and construction.

Hiring a Builder

Builders have their own house plans. These are standard homes and are more affordable, but these designs are not sustainable designs. They will meet the minimum energy efficiency standard laid out by the building codes but to upgrade and change the plans to suit your visions will become more and more expensive than the original price quoted.
Whatever option you choose, do your research and add and subtract your pro’s and cons. Your research will help you get a final product that you will be satisfied and happy with.

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