Want 3 tips to create a sustainable home?
Sustainable design and construction can feel like a minefield at times, but doesn’t have to be. So here’s my tips.
Are you wanting to create a sustainable home that improves your health, and the health of the planet?
Having the goal to create a sustainable home can start out well. Lots of excitement about how your design and decisions are going to enable you to live in a home that supports your health and well-being, is lower cost to heat and cool, and takes care of the planet.
However, as many homeowners tell me, it can be a bit of a battle.
Sometimes that involves hunting and hunting for the right builder (because many will tell you it’s simply more expensive to create a sustainable home).
Sometimes it can feel like getting a university degree in sustainability, so you can dig through all the greenwash as you do your research.
And sometimes it can simply mean that you have to stick to your goals and your dreams, and keep pushing to get the right team, the right approach, and the right outcome.
Here’s my 3 tips to create a sustainable home.
#1 A sustainable home doesn’t have to be more expensive
Inside my ‘Happy Home Design’ mini-course, I share a series of videos with my six ‘S’ of sustainable design.
The first of these is Site – and getting your design to suit the unique conditions of your site, its orientation and it’s other natural assets – goes a LONG way to creating a sustainable outcome.
Doing this shouldn’t cost anymore than stuffing it up. Because you’re building the walls anyway. It’s simply about understanding how you’ll put those walls in the right place to suit the specifics of your site. (Season 1 of the podcast is perfect for this).
Beyond passive solar design itself, there are schemes and processes to help you navigate this even further, such as GreenSmart and others (Josh Byrne’s 10 star home in Perth is an example of a home that used this). This includes Passive House too (check out the podcast episodes on Passive House if you’re interested).
#2 You’ll need to work out your priorities
I’m yet to find a material or product that ticks ALL the sustainability boxes. (Because – and this may be cheeky – but if we’re really frank about sustainability and using less – we probably wouldn’t be building or renovating at all).
There are, however, a lot of ways you can make more sustainable choices when it comes to building and renovating. And so, if you can work out what’s important to you, what is aligned with your values, or your family’s needs, then you’ll have better clarity for the criteria to use, to assess your selections.
It may be that all materials need to improve the indoor air quality of your home, and be low tox. Perhaps you want to source local products only, and lower your carbon footprint. Maybe it’s that you want to ensure all materials can be recycled at their end of life (like Joost Bakker’s Fed Square project).
There are LOADS of metrics when it comes to sustainability.
I discuss some of the terminology you’ll hear in this podcast episode, to help you understand it better. However, think about what you hold as your priorities, and it will help you navigate the journey more simply.
#3 You’ll most likely need to dig deeper than the rating systems
You only have to dive into the food industry and learn a bit about the “Heart tick” or the star rating on foods, to know that rating systems have their flaws.
The construction industry rating systems can have similar challenges. And so, it’s essential you interrogate the way that products have been rated and ranked, and understand the metrics being measured.
Having someone on your team who dives deep into this information all the time can be super helpful.
It may be a sustainably focussed architect or interior designer, a specialist consultant, or a building biologist. This will vary based on your needs, your budget, and the help you need.
If you want to go it alone, be prepared to do a lot of digging and research, and ask lots of questions. It really is the only way to find out the truth of materials and products, and whether they’re what they seem.
Why isn’t it easier?
It can be.
However, accessing expert help can be critical in simplifying things for you. This may be through hiring a specific consultant for your project, or through researching via an up-to-date resource written by someone who is SUPER passionate about this work, and has done the legwork for you.
Kate Hamblet’s ‘Healthy Home Guide’ is great for US-based homeowners. Melissa Wittig’s ‘The Smart Living Handbook’ is a resource for Aussie-based homeowners.
And there’s publications such as Sanctuary Magazine and the Renew website.
Plus, you can visit homes during Sustainable House Open Day or International Passive House Open Day. There’s lots of resources and opportunities like this that can be incredibly helpful.
What’s really important, is to choose a team that’s aligned with your sustainability goals, because then you won’t have to fight for your choices and beliefs in your own project.
Many homeowners make the mistake of choosing a builder or designer who doesn’t prioritise sustainability, and then they’re having to convince them of why these considerations are important.
Architects Declare and Builders Declare can be a good place to find architects and builders making a public declaration of their commitment to sustainability.
And hubs like The Conscious Space and Planitree are gaining membership and momentum with likeminded businesses signing up.
Lastly, remember the power you have – it’s in your pocket $$
The more we demand to know where our products come from, how they’re made, what they’re like to live with, and what happens at their end of life – and make our spending decisions based on that information – the more the industry will change.
It will have to. Our dollar, and what we spend it on, can drive HUGE change.
Your home can create big change for you – and for all of us. I’m super excited about that – and I hope you are too.
If you’d like to get started on your renovation or new build project, my Get Started Guide is a fantastic resource to help you do just that.
It will teach you the first steps any project needs to take, whatever your dreams, location or budget, and whoever you’re working with. Learn more about it here >>> GET STARTED GUIDE
And, if you’d especially like to get started on your home design, then the mini-course ‘Happy Home Design’ will help you. You’ll learn more about what decisions really matter in happy home design, and how you can design a home that is functional, fantastic and feel-good >>> HAPPY HOME DESIGN
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