We often hear the terms ‘green architecture’, ‘green design’ or ‘green building’, but when it comes to creating your Dream Home, what do they mean? When we say a building is ‘sustainable’ and ‘eco-friendly’, how is that defined?
Green architecture, or green design is a building approach that aims to increase resource efficiency, (i.e. energy, water and materials), while reducing impact on human health and the environment. All this may give us an idea of what ‘sustainable’ and ‘eco-friendly’ means, but what elements of green building do we need to be aware of and why?
What are the main elements of green building?
Green building is more than the end result – it is an ongoing process. It starts with proper site selection as well as the design specifications of your dream home. It incorporates the practices, technologies and materials used in its construction. Furthermore, it is determined by how you operate, maintain and develop the building throughout its entire lifecycle.
Energy efficiency is perhaps the most important element of sustainable architecture. Reducing the amount of energy used within a home is the ultimate goal. As well as choosing the right heating and cooling system, it involves using the right building fabric, high spec insulation and effective window / door seals. This helps reduce carbon emission and the amount of energy required to heat and cool your home. While solar PV panels can generate energy, low energy lighting can maximise its efficiency and so minimise costs.
Reducing water consumption can be a challenge due to modern living habits, but with careful specification of household and garden products, it can be managed effectively. Low flush toilets, low flow rate taps and showers as well as water butts and other water harvesting systems can all help.
Use of responsible materials to reduce environmental impact is fundamental to effective green building. More use of locally sourced, recyclable materials as well as natural elements such as eco-friendly timber and less use of UPVC all help to strike a balance between sustainability and cost effectiveness.
Reducing waste, pollution and environmental degradation is a key consideration in green building. Making provisions for effective waste disposal and re-cycling as well as use of eco-friendly products all contribute. Surface water run-off is also considered; specifying permeable paving to reduce flood risk.
Occupant health and well-being is of paramount importance. Maximising natural daylight and ventilation as well as good sound insulation are all key factors in eco-friendly design. Making homes more adaptable throughout their lifecycle whilst minimising costs is considered good practice and design criteria is set by the Lifetime Homes standard to achieve this.
(For more information see www.lifetimehomes.org.uk)
Attaining a balance between ecology and design, sustainability and cost effectiveness is definitely a challenge in the architects’ practice. That’s why everyone is involved in the green build process – designers, planners, developers, builders and of course you, the home owner. Safe to say, the main goal is to meet your individual requirements, while doing some good for the environment along the way.