Sustainable Design is the phrase buzzing around in architecture today. With the world taking steps towards “being green,” more electric cars being designed, energy efficient light bulbs, and more, architects are expected to do their part when designing new homes and buildings. Here are few of the elements of sustainable architecture:
- Evaluating the site: architects need to know what each site has to offer, including predominant wind, views, solar exposure, watershed, existing vegetation, and the site’s topography in order to factor them into their designs. Installing solar panels on the side of the house that gets little sunlight is a big no-no.
- Energy Efficiency: architects deign a house using appliances that use renewable energy, energy efficient lighting and light fixtures, wind turbines, solar panels, and geothermal heating systems in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Many also use passive heating and passive solar systems in order to save on energy. Double glazed windows and foam insulation can also keep heat or cold out, and “bought air” in.
- Material Selection: materials used to build a house should, where possible, be recycled or recyclable, non-toxic, and produced locally. These measures can reduce CO2 emissions and can help boost the local economy. Many companies are starting to demolish homes a little more carefully so that materials can be reused or repurposed.
- Water Efficiency: using appliances and fixtures that are low flow will help reduce the amount of water used, saving both money and water. Installing proper irrigation systems, a tank for collecting rainwater, and planting indigenous plant life (that doesn’t require much, if any, watering) can also help reduce water use.
- Efficient use of space: more homes are being built with fewer rooms, and a more open floor plan. There are many reasons for that, one of them being that without small, unused rooms pulling heat or cold form the main house, energy efficiency goes up. Open floor plans also have fewer walls which means saving on materials as well.
- Avoid common chemicals: there are more non-toxic substances on the market now, one of which can be used to coat wood, making it fire resistant, mold and termite-resistant. This saves on later costs if termites infest, and keeps nasty fumigation chemicals out of a house.
There are many more ways to make a house as energy efficient and environmentally friendly as possible, but these are just a few ways to start. While building green is still a fairly expensive option, with it growing in popularity the hope is that costs will come down and materials will become more readily available to everyone.