Financially as well as environmentally, if you are building your own home, it is increasingly making sense to build eco homes. Done properly, not only are there huge running cost savings to be made from an eco build, but also an element of future proofing when it comes to current value and future resale value, if and when you come to sell.
For many though, providing a family-safe, non-toxic home and reducing the environmental impact while still enjoying the comforts of modern living remains the main motivation. It doesn’t mean you have to build with straw bales or rammed earth, though these are options; most successful eco builds are very conventional in appearance. But it is much more than just choosing environmentally friendly materials and paint.
The main priority should be designing a home which reduces energy use and therefore production of CO2 which is whats been blamed for climate change. Conserving water comes a close second.
Consider the following, especially if you normally worry about your car use, or the advent of cheap flights – these stats I found from the UK energy wise website.
* Homes in the UK use three times more energy than all our cars.
* Buildings are the fastest-growing source of the UK’s CO2 emissions, currently responsible for 46 per cent, with homes responsible for 27 per cent.
* More than half – 56 per cent – of water supplied is for households, and demand continues to increase.
* Energy use in non-domestic buildings is increasing as fast as fuel for air travel.
When you think of an eco home you need to look at all the angles. These include the location of the materials ie where they come from and how they’re transported. Who is making and transporting these materials and here do they get their training from. A big thing is are they local people so you are putting back something into the local economy.
Building an energy efficient eco house is highly technical, so it is important to check credentials and skills, which are currently in short supply. And you need to properly understand the concept. People are getting the wrong messages. Tacking stuff like a wind generator onto your roof won’t do it; you have to look at the fabric of the building, otherwise everything else is bolted on. Also if you build a 300 sq m mansion it can never be an eco build. Build to your limits.
If you’re building from scratch, even your dream home, it makes sense to consider its marketability should you want to sell. Meanwhile the social housing market already insists builders conform to various eco requirements, such as energy efficiency, as well as considering the local environment. One thing that is coming to New Zealand is double glazing in new builds.
Will it Cost More?
In the past as recently as the 1980s, we were limited by a very small supply of the materials alone. But things have changed. You can now build a low energy house as cheaply as you can build a standard house. There are now more and more places that will help you build an energy efficient home and as more and more people invest in these homes it’s becoming more affordable.
The building budget is always going to be an issue but you have to take into account cost over the lifetime of the property as well as the initial cost. That includes the running costs where owners can look forward to major savings. This is because at this time the supply is and manufacture of the materials to build and eco home are still not common.
Here are some of the things you should look out to do when you build a new energy efficient home.
* Insulation, throughout the house; make sure it is not compromised too by building construction, eg the accidental creation of ‘thermal bridges’ allowing heat to travel out; design should also include airtightness and ventilation.
* Water: conserve and minimise use of water. The average person uses 140 litres per day but should aim to reduce this.
* Energy: includes using natural materials such as wood for burning to heat water while renewable energy systems including wind turbines and solar panels.
* Lighting: should maximize the use of natural light, while energy efficient lighting is used throughout.
* Electrical appliances: eliminating the need for some eg providing a clothes natural drying space, while ensuring A++ energy efficient standard for others.
* Materials: consider those which are natural and from a renewable source; use locally grown timber; also more durable wood such as heartwood which reduces the need for preservatives. Look at the energy involved in production/transportation, and use manufacturers which can provide such information. Avoid PVC.
* Recycle or reuse where possible.