How to build a home with sustainable living in mind
We live in an ever-changing world, more ever-changing than it has ever been. The way we live our lives differs greatly from the one our parents lived, and the one our kids will live – kids who know nothing about a world without internet - will differ even more from ours. Even the unquestioned Australian Dream of a free standing house on a quarter acre suburban site has been toppled and replaced by a dream that comes in different forms.
It is for that reason that sustainable living has become a key matter of modern cities, where sustainable does not only address environmental features but also – as the meaning of the word says – lives and homes that can be resilient throughout time in all aspects: environmental, social, demographic and economic.
The following lines briefly introduce and discuss aspects considered crucial when designing a sustainable home.
“Population growth is an exponential progression occurring within a system of finite space and limited resources. The end will arrive abruptly”
Dan Brown, Inferno
Although the apocalyptic scenario plotted in Dan Brown’s latest novel has been controversial and highly questioned, there is no doubt that the world and the rules we play by have changed in almost every aspect of our lives, and that we are starting to face climate disruption, peak oil, soil degradation, non-renewable resource depletion, and fresh water shortages.
The extent and consequences of global change have been the scope of thousands of papers and research which not necessarily agree. Some state that climate change and overpopulation are only a work of fantasy and collapse is neither a risk nor is it possible, others state that we will soon come to an inevitable disaster which “will not be that of slowly running out of gas … it will be more like driving off a cliff.”, paraphrasing the book again. Amongst all the uncertainties on the future, one is almost certain: we will have fewer resources, and plotting a simple economic equation, these resources will most likely come at a higher price.
For that reason, the evaluation of the environmental impact of each of our daily activities plays a crucial role in this world with more people and less resources. In that way, there is vast literature dedicated to assess the environmental impact of all the household activities, and nowadays we have technology that allows us to reduce our footprint.
The consideration of environmental aspects will probably be compulsory in the future, but including those aspects today will allow the owner to keep ahead of the game, contribute to the wellbeing of our local community and the planet, and add value to our property. Some of the aspects to be taken into account are:
Source and environmental impact of all component materials and processes: where renewable, locally sourced and hazard free (asbestos, VOC) materials are preferred.
Recycling Potential: Materials that can be returned to its source or re-used for other purposes.
Energy Consumption: The concept of passive design – the use of natural methods of heating and cooling – has become of great interest not only because of its environmental impact but its direct impact on reducing the energy bills
Water Consumption: Toilets and washing machines represent nearly half of the monthly bill of an average household, and none of them technically requires drinking water. Including Rainwater Tanks and Greywater systems allow the property to reduce considerably the amount of drinking water used for non-drinking purposes and also improve the quality of the water disposed into the drainage system.
The paradigm has changed, and so have the conditions and the way people perceive house owning. A generation ago, everybody wanted to live in a house, and they were relatively affordable for the average buyer. Nowadays, housing space and price are growing issues Australian buyers are facing, especially when it comes to buying their first property.
Social trends experts point out that there is a growing portion of people who choose to live by the “rent where I want, buy where I can” motto, whereas others simply decide not to buy a property and rent as a way of life, especially those who have experienced or witnessed the struggle of their relatives or friends to keep their houses during economic crisis.
Whether due to the natural high expectation of Australian buyers (where the size of average dwelling is 215sq m, nearly three times the 76 sq m average in Britain), the sustained capital growth of Australian Real Estate (where the price of a property is doubled every 7 years) and other economic and demographic factors, climbing the ladder to buying a house has turned steeper and more complex.
It is for that reason that the typical cost analysis has shifted, and factors with a direct financial impact on the acquired property not only at its initial state but also on a long term basis have to be taken into consideration. Aspects like:
Durability of materials compared to intended life span
Availability of skills and materials
Life cycle cost effectiveness
Lice cycle energy consumption
Adaptability and the potential to reuse materials when renovating
will obviously carry an increase in the overall cost of the construction, but the saving during the life of the house can re-pay the initial spend, increase the overall comfort of the occupants, an increase the potential of the property and thus the sale price.
Socials and Demographics
The constraints are not only practical (like the obvious reduction of free space) or economical (capital growth and the price rise on housing) but there are other factor – let’s called them social – that are shifting towards a new conception in house owning and buying.
The market is still governed by buyers aged between 40-50, but the new generation – the also called Generation Y (aged 20-40) are the immediate future. This generation – pictured as more ethnically diverse, open-minded and educated than their predecessors – will soon dominate the market, and look for different priorities when buying a house like, such as:
Location: This, at constant budget leads unequivocally towards buying a smaller place.
Environmental Features: items like grey water systems and solar panels which help reduce both the footprint and the monthly bills.
Trade-Free: Unlike older generations looking for a cheap old house to renovate throughout the years, new buyers much prefer to buy a new (or just renovated) place that does not take much time away, not to mention the labour costs.
Low Maintenance: New generation, too busy with building up their lives probably don’t want to look after a garden. Grey is becoming the new green, and rock gardens will be a likely trend.
Cooperative Living: The next generation will live in a smaller space, and shared areas like communal gardens and laundries will make up for this loss in the living space and will also have a positive impact by encouraging the occupants to engage and develop a sense of community. In addition, a cooperative vigilance system is also beneficial for a generation with greater opportunities and interests on travelling and spending more time away from home.
Likewise the way society has changed its perception on aspects like welfare, animal rights or marriage, the way a house can be perceived or judged will certainly change in the future, as will do they needs throughout the duration of the household. In that way, if we consider some aspects prior to the construction of a house, a much more adaptable project can be achieved which leads to more comfort and also potential for a better sale in the future. Here some examples of adaptability:
The number of occupants is expected to increase with every child that is born. However, those children one day will leave leaving not only an emotional void but also a physical one. Therefore, a large unit which can be detached into two small apartments can be designed, allowing the owners to live in a more reduced space and get an extra income by renting the other half.
A house initially designed on a single level can be easily used by an elderly relative, or by the current occupant by the time he or she becomes old.
Town Planning: Most of the houses experience at least one major renovation during its lifetime, being the addition of extra rooms the most common one. However, during the time span between the initial construction and the extension, council rules might change. A house with a prebuilt case for an extension (which can be used as a garage in the meantime and needs no posterior council aproval) would also be a good example of an adaptable house.
Finally, it is important to quote what many experts and observers state: despite the decline of the Australian Dream due to modern planning policies, house prices and the influence of immigration on demographics and culture, ownership of a dwelling still is and will be important to many Australians. Adjustments are to be made, and we are to work throughout it.
LUXURY CUSTOM HOME BUILDER
Carmel Home’s ultimate goal is to ensure a unique, luxury custom home for each client from start to finish. Whereas some builders make a business in building variations of only a few dwellings over and over again, each Carmel home is truly an original, just like you. Moreover, our service offering is unique and tailored specifically for each build and each client. At Carmel Homes, we walk the client through the full build of their new home and consider every detail.
Most importantly, Carmel Homes works with your own style and tastes, assisting and guiding you throughout the entire process, helping you to realize your unique vision for your custom home. Our quality materials and experienced trades people are hand selected to fit not only the superior quality standards that our clients can expect from Carmel, but to also match your discriminating and individual tastes.
We understand that building a luxury home can be both exciting and stressful and we go to great lengths to make building with Carmel an enjoyable and stress-free experience. We recognise that great communication and customer relations are just as important in ensuring each projects success. As a family business with over 20 years of experience, you will have the same dedicated consultant from the beginning to end. You can take comfort from the fact that the person you deal with owns the business.
Clients love working with us because we make their project easy, our knowledge saves time, money and stress, our budgets can be banked on and our timeframes can be lived by.
Architects like working with us because they know that their projects are run by a solution based, experienced, highly organised, top quality, client focused company.
If you are looking to build and you want the job done right with the quality your project deserves please contact Carmel Homes.