As environmental concerns and discussions about sustainability become more widespread, many prospective homeowners are looking for ways to make their build more eco-friendly. With new, innovative technologies coming out all the time and lots of strong opinions on which eco-friendly approaches are best, designing a sustainable home can feel like an overwhelming task.
If you’ve been dreaming about building a sustainable home but aren’t sure where to start, take a look at the four factors that will have the biggest effect on reducing your home’s footprint and enable you to live a sustainable lifestyle.
Use utility-efficient designs and supplies
All sustainable home builds should focus on reducing water, heat, and electrical usage. Some of the most popular heating options today include geothermal heating, solar panels, masonry heat systems, and hydronic heat systems.
The best place to begin is to be aware of any issues with your current location. Any plumber can look at the area and see if there are major issues with sewer lines, or if your location is not conducive to efficient sewage. If you build a property on a faulty mainline, the quality of water you use could be compromised.
To conserve water, collect rainwater and recycle your greywater. If you have lots of outdoor space, consider putting in an irrigation system in place of underground sprinklers. If you have the space and a license, well drillers can provide you with your own source of clean, safe drinking water, saving you from purchasing plastic water bottles.
Keep in mind that although some of these features have high upfront costs, many will save you money in the long run and increase the value of your home.
Look for eco-friendly materials
When deciding on the materials for your build, there are three main considerations to keep in mind:
- Is the material easily renewable?
- Can they be locally sourced?
- Are they free of contaminants and harmful chemicals?
Bamboo and wool are popular materials, as they meet the first and third criteria. Having an extensive understanding of all potential building materials is just one of many things you should know before you self-build. Even if you’ve hired a builder to do the work for you, you shouldn’t expect to take a back seat in the project. Make sure you have a firm idea about what materials you want and be ready to negotiate this with your builder.
Less is more
Energy-efficient design or not, larger eco-friendly homes will always use more energy than smaller eco-friendly homes. How much space do you truly need to live comfortably? Focus more on building a functional, comfortable space than your dream eco-mansion.
There are lessons to be learned here from tiny house architects. While you shouldn’t feel pressured to live in a space that small, their designs are worth taking a look at to get some ideas on how you can maximize the space you have. Less space means less waste.
Plant a permaculture-inspired garden
Living sustainably is all about seeking connection and mutual benefit with the natural environment around you. Your sustainable home should therefore not shut out the outdoors, but seamlessly integrate into it.
Your garden is just as important as the house itself. Design your garden using permaculture principles, which take an approach to agriculture that mimics and supports natural processes. Cultivate your own fruits and vegetables to your heart’s content while simultaneously giving back to the environment.
That being said, sticking exclusively to permaculture principles exclusively isn’t for everyone. To reduce your reliance on the supermarket and eat locally, factor space for a polytunnel into your build to grow produce that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to.
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