Does designing a sustainable home really matter? Can we make that much of a difference with our own home renovation or new build?
Do we really need to care? It can be a minefield riddled with terminology. Listen in now to learn more.
When it comes to building or renovating a sustainable home, it gets a whole new level of terminology. I sometimes feel that all this terminology does more to confuse us than help us.
As soon as we feel we’ve got a handle on one part of the conversation, someone comes along with another criteria or term for sustainable design, and it unravels our understanding and confidence.
I actually think confusion is one of the biggest barriers in homeowners creating sustainable homes, and it’s one of the reasons I’m calling this Season 8 “A Simple Guide to a Sustainable Home”.
I will be aiming to keep the information we share simple to understand, and simple to execute as well. This is about giving you the ability to choose in a more informed way – and put into action what you learn.
Many homeowners tell me … when it all gets to that hard, overwhelming, and frustrating point … does it REALLY matter? They ask if it’s worth all the effort it seems to be taking. And I can really understand that it’s hard sometimes.
Not every designer is passionate about creating sustainable homes that make the most of your site and its environment. And so, if you as the homeowner, feel you’re having to convince your designer – who’s supposed to be the expert – as to why this is so essential to you, that can get exhausting.
One of the recent Australian members of my “How to Get it Right in Your Reno or New Home” course encountered this issue with her own home.
She was planning an extension to her existing home, which sat on a corner. One street was on the western side or the home, and the other was on the northern side of the home. So, the orientation of the house was less-than-idea, as she was extending new living spaces to the southern side of the home – opening out to a south-facing garden. On the eastern side was another tall home, overshadowing theirs.
She’d been listening to Undercover Architect for a while, and then had participated in the “How to Get it Right” course – where, amongst other things, I talk a lot about orientation, and designing for the movement of the sun.
She knew the design she’d received wasn’t working to access northern light into the home that well … and she literally felt worn because she said she’d pushed and tried so hard to achieve it in the design, but didn’t think it was going to happen.
In fact, when she asked her architect how she was going to keep her south-facing home warm in Winter (because it didn’t seem to be capturing a lot of northern light), his response was “a Heater”. (Can you believe it??!) And so now she was feeling defeated, and also nervous about committing to the design because of what she’d learnt.
Not all designers are trained in the importance of designing for orientation, or targeting a sustainable home design. There are designers who will simply arrange rooms based on their connection with each other, and the outdoors, and how they fit on the site overall and meet local planning and building codes.
So, when you do become educated as a homeowner about how important this is, then it’s really key to find a like-minded designer you won’t have to battle. Or failing that, have more information to battle them with so they can realise how important it is.
So, let’s kick off this season so it helps you understand why this information matters: Why it even matters to try and create a sustainably designed home in whatever way you’re capable of.
Every little step towards positive change counts, and that our homes have a huge capacity to create positive change for us and the environment overall – and it doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing conversation. Remember, incremental change is a great way to achieve huge momentum and shifts overall.
So, here are some statistics and facts to illustrate the impact of our homes … on us and the environment … both as we occupy them, and during the construction of them as well.
Australian households generate a lot of greenhouse gases – mainly from transport, heating and cooling, appliances and wastes (in landfill). Most families, however, can lower their greenhouse gas emissions and save money by reducing their energy bills. We can also save money and energy choosing carefully what we buy, for example, heavily packaged products require more energy to manufacture and transport. Buying secondhand is very popular, makes good financial sense and gives products a second life. A useful guide is the four Rs – refuse, reduce, re-use and recycle.
Sometimes these types of statistics sound overwhelming, and far too complex to make any inroads on – especially if it’s just you, and your family and your home. It can feel like a drop in the ocean.
As with any journey however, the first step you take can have a radical impact on where you end up. This is the same for home building and renovating too.
The thing that is most exciting when it comes to building and renovating, is that when you make the first step in your journey in an informed and strategic way, it doesn’t cost you anymore. It actually can save you money overall – both in the creation and the long term use of your home.
And what’s even more exciting? It’s that the things that make your home less toxic, and less taxing on the environment, are the very things that also make it a great design overall.
Tune into the episode to learn more.
RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS PODCAST:
Energy use in the Australian residential sector 1986 – 2020 (Source DEWHA 2008 cited on www.yourhome.gov.au/energy) >> http://www.energyrating.gov.au/document/report-energy-use-australian-residential-sector-1986-2020
Indoor Air Project Part 1: Main Report – Indoor Air in Typical Australian Dwellings, CSIRO 2010
Catalyst episode on the CSIRO findings
Data on house sizes internationally
Waste production in the construction industry
Your Home by the Australian Government
CSR Healthy Homes and Daylighting research
Greenhouse Gas Emissions