When we think of our carbon footprint, we often consider how many things we buy, how much meat we eat, and how often we fly. While these factors are important, many people forget about another vital issue, which is how sustainable our homes are. In recent years, sustainable home building has become more popular, particularly as we are facing an energy crisis and spiraling costs of living.
Building a net zero energy home is a challenge, but it is worthwhile because it reduces the need for non-renewable resources like oil and natural gas. Since environmentally friendly buildings are efficient and cheap to run, it’s likely that they will become increasingly popular in the future. Planning and constructing one could be a great investment. In today’s post, we will discuss the seven elements of a sustainable building.
What Is the Most Sustainable Way to Build a Home?
A net zero energy building doesn’t use more energy than it produces over the course of a year. It doesn’t tax the environment or cost the homeowner a lot of money. There are two main ways of making homes more sustainable.
First, the amount of energy used by the house or apartment has to be reduced. This can be achieved by insulating the rooms, making the structure airtight, using smart technology to turn off unused devices, and selecting materials that retain the heat or cool down the property naturally.
Second, innovative energy sources must be found. In addition to installing solar panels and similar devices, people should make use of all the natural light available at the property.
Use Enough Insulation
Many traditional homes aren’t well insulated. In the summer, the hot air is able to penetrate the house, and in the winter, the warmth from the heating system dissipates quickly. As a result, the homeowners have to use a lot of gas or oil, and they have to turn on the air conditioning system frequently. When planning a sustainable home, insulation should be one of your priorities because it is a cheap yet efficient way of reducing your energy use.
You should insulate your walls, the floors, and the roof. If you have many rooms, you might also consider insulating each one, so you can heat or cool down just one room at a time. Additionally, you should think about the acoustic effects of insulation. It is not only a way to increase sustainability but also to reduce noise transfer. Because insulation is very hard to add once a building has been completed, it needs to be planned ahead of time.
Build an Airtight Space
Insulating your home won’t be enough, especially if your roof, window frames, door frames, and other structures aren’t airtight. The most important thing to remember about creating an airtight space is that this has to be planned ahead of time. Just like insulation, it is hard to achieve once the home has been built.
Once you’ve removed unwanted air leaks, you and your architects will need to consider how to create enough ventilation to let fresh air penetrate and remove unwanted toxins from your home. The keyword here is controlled pathways. When you’ve sealed your home from the outside world, you can control the way air is introduced to your home and, if necessary, heat up the air, for example through mechanical ventilation and heat recovery (MVHR) technology.
Use Natural Light
If you’re building a new home, you can think about which way you want it to face for maximum efficiency. South-facing windows are best during the cold months because the heat from the sun can be captured and transferred to the rooms, warming them up. What’s more, you’ll have plenty of early-morning light, so there won’t be much need for artificial lighting.
During the planning phase, think about how the windows you add will affect the light in your space. Many modern buildings include large floor-to-ceiling windows that make the space look open and bright. However, this is another area where you will need to plan ahead and purchase quality materials. Triple-glazed windows are the most efficient, and they can significantly reduce your heating bill.
Use Thermal Mass to Your Advantage
An integral part of sustainable home building is using the thermal mass of the property. Certain materials, such as brick and concrete, can store warmth, so the home stays at room temperature even if no heating is used. Building with materials that can store a lot of energy is always better because it reduces the need for artificial temperature control. Many natural products like stone, steel, and timber have a good ability to create thermal mass.
Select Green Materials
An important part of creating a net zero home is using materials that will retain the heat and stop the outside air from penetrating your home. However, you should also consider the production process of the items you use for your home. If a lot of energy is wasted when your materials are produced, the home-building process can no longer be considered sustainable.
Selecting natural materials that have been sourced in an environmentally friendly manner is better than incorporating many artificial components in the home. Using reclaimed or recycled materials can also be a great way of reducing your home’s ecological footprint. If you’re concerned about the origin of your building’s components, speak to your architects. They can double-check with the manufacturers and recommend the most sustainable options.
Select the Right Systems
No matter how well-insulated and airtight your home is, you’ll have to use some energy to heat or cool down the property, run your appliances, and illuminate the space at night. Fortunately, there are now tools that can help you to further reduce your energy use. If you build a smart home, you can connect your devices to a central point, such as a tablet or a smartphone.
That way, you can turn off the lights, the appliances, or the heating system even when you’re not at home. You can also set a timer, so the appliances turn off and on automatically. For example, you can start heating your home half an hour before you get back from work instead of keeping the heating on all day. Some smart devices can even open and close windows remotely.
Use Green Technology
The most common and successful green energy source is solar panels. These can be installed on almost every property, and they can effectively provide households with enough electricity for their day-to-day needs. In most areas, solar panels should face south, southeast, or southwest, and they should be at an angle to the sun. However, your architects and specialists will consider your home’s individual properties to determine the best placement.
In addition to solar panels, you can also install other energy sources, such as wind turbines. There are small options that can be placed in your garden or fitted directly to your home. You could also consider getting an air source heat pump, which extracts the energy from the air and uses it to heat your home or provide you with hot water.
Is Sustainable Home Building Expensive?
Now that you understand the most important elements of a sustainable home, you might wonder how much more you will pay to build a net zero home. In the US, the average house costs approximately $240,000 to build, but the average sustainable property costs around $263,000. Therefore, you will pay an average extra $23,000 for the sustainable features of your house or apartment.
While this might sound like a lot, it is less than 10% of the overall cost. Since you won’t have to spend a lot of money on energy, you might recoup your investment within five to ten years. What’s more, sustainable homes are likely to be extremely popular in the future, so your property will be worth a lot more than a traditional house.
How Can I Plan and Build My Sustainable Home?
When building a sustainable property, the planning phase is the most important. If you fail to think ahead, you won’t be able to make use of all the resources, and your building might be less efficient. Therefore, you have to employ highly experienced architects who know your local area and are willing to create a sustainable property with you. To find a suitable professional, you should first look at the website.
Are there examples of sustainable projects the architects have completed? If so, you should reach out and speak to the architects in person to find out more. By attending an initial consultation, you can find out what type of work they can do and whether their ideas match your vision. Because building a home is such a big project, you might also want to get references and testimonials from previous customers.
Building a net zero energy property is a great way of reducing your ongoing costs and investing in your future. Some of the strategies you might use include insulating the space, using natural light, using the thermal mass, selecting only green materials, and using technological solutions to create renewable energy. Call us at Hutter Architects to find out more about sustainable home building and to discuss your project.