delivering excellence

Sustainable building: how to achieve the best outcome

Green building is a diverse and growing area with various options available to create a sustainable home. 

What does sustainability mean in the context of building though? 

Designing and building a green home can be a satisfying process that leads to years of enjoyment in a healthy and efficient house. 

With interest in this style of building growing rapidly, it is an area where the notion of what ‘green’ actually means has become somewhat muddied. 

A large range of products and materials are also being labelled as ‘eco’ or ‘green’ or ‘environmentally friendly’, and discerning what is and what isn’t can be difficult.


What to consider when building a green home

The first thing to consider is the intended use of the home. Is it designed for family living over the generations, or is it a property destined for the auctioneer’s hammer in the near future? Is it intended as a primary dwelling or will the house be used as an occasional home or bach?

The answer to these questions will help to determine the initial design scope and brief and the type and style of materials to be incorporated.

For example, a bach or holiday home may be suited to operating off the grid, generating its own electricity and collecting rainwater, while a primary home located in a high density area may be approached in a different way.

A sustainable home can mean many things, from a house that utilises locally sourced natural or non-toxic materials right through to a living building that becomes a functioning part of the surrounding ecosystem.

In many cases though, a more moderate approach is taken incorporating clever design decisions from the outset, along with careful consideration of material and site use. 

This can mean, for example, incorporating passive solar design, where the power of the sun is harnessed to heat the home and retain an ambient temperature year round without the need for mechanical heating or cooling devices. Passive solar design is often achieved using simple, non-mechanical design elements such as well-placed windows, correct orientation on the site, and the use of louvres and shading. 

Choosing materials carefully in conjunction with design decisions like these can have a huge impact on the overall efficiency of the home. For example, incorporating a concrete floor beneath areas of extensive glazing allows for the concrete to act as a heat sink, absorbing the sun’s heat during the day and slowly releasing it at night as the temperature cools. 


How to choose materials for a sustainable home

As the concept of what makes a sustainable building can be interpreted in different ways, material choice needs to be considered in terms of the overall aims of the project and budgetary constraints. 

For example, selecting a material such as concrete that is not generally seen as sustainable can be a good option in terms of longevity. Concrete will outlast many other construction materials by a long stretch, reducing the need for resource use to replace or maintain a house. Conversely, another material may be considered ‘green’ but will only last for a much shorter period of time, eventually requiring replacement or significant maintenance over time to maintain its integrity and therefore utilising unnecessary resources. 

The right materials for one project may be different to another, and will depend on the intended use of the property and how the client views the concept of sustainable building.




Registered Master Builders House of the Year Lifestyle Award Winner, 2015

Set on a narrow site that slopes towards the beach, this two-level, four-bedroom home rests comfortably in its environment. 

Material choice was important in this project, with a brief that required no chemical toxins to be present in the finished home. 

Designed for a retired couple, the house includes a minor unit to allow for passive rental income. 

Sustainably-sourced Douglas fir was used throughout, including for framing and all external walls. Clad with Weathertex, a material made from eucalyptus, and corrugate highlights, the entire house is insulated with Earthwool to achieve much higher standards than those required under the Building Code. 

The roof is home to solar panels, which fuel both power and water heating in the house.

To ensure the home performed as well as possible, the main entry door is thermally broken, as are the double glazed windows and all joinery. 

In the conservatory, louvres allow for shading and passive temperature control throughout the year. 

Sun protection was added to the west elevation through bronze tinting on the windows. 

The living/dining area features electric opening windows in high ceiling areas for passive ventilation, and cork flooring for reduced impact, sound and thermal insulation. 

Sarked Macrocarpa ceilings feature through the home while outside, retention tanks were installed for the reuse of grey water in the toilets, laundry and for gardening. 

Talk to us today about designing and building a sustainable home.

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