Building a green home has nothing to do with painting your home a fresh shade of mint, and everything to do with lessening your environmental footprint. Green homes are environmentally efficient, built using sustainable materials and often much cheaper to live in than regular homes.
Green building is a considered process that looks at the local environment, takes into account the local climate and aims to produce a home as efficient as it is well thought out.
Green builders in Australia generally aim for a minimum six star thermal rating. It isn’t easy to achieve, but it can be with the right team and careful planning.
One of the first and most important aspects to building a green home is considering the home’s orientation. Homes facing the north are warmer in winter (thanks to the northerly sun) and cooler in summer. Placing large windows along the northerly side of the home will allow the sun to naturally heat the house. Eaves will shade the windows in summer, preventing the home from overheating.
During the design phase, all heavily-used rooms should be placed on the northern side of the house to take advantage of the natural heating and cooling. Bathrooms, laundries and garages should be placed on the southern side where they can remain cool all year round.
To really get the most out of all the warm, natural sunlight pouring through your northerly-oriented home, install a concrete floor. Concrete retains heat for longer in winter and is naturally cool in summer.
Outside the home there are a number of environmentally efficient systems that can be installed. Slim 2000 litre water tanks placed down the southern side of the home can dramatically reduce water bills. These days these water tanks come in a variety of colours so you can match them to your brickwork. Three to four 2000 litre tanks will be enough to run your toilets and laundry, which account for 40 per cent of an average home’s water usage.
A cheap $30 valve installed by a plumber can allow you to reuse your greywater – the water from your shower/bath and laundry. With little fuss, this simple device means you can either collect your greywater in buckets or directly hose it onto your garden. Greywater is safe to use but cannot be stored.
When picking a roof, consider installing solar panels for hot water. If you want to go a step further, you may install eight panels and start generating your own power. In some areas, the state government may pay you for the extra power you generate and feed back in to the electricity grid.
Finally, if you really want your home to scream ‘green’, grab a nice shade of emerald and start painting that facade – it won’t improve its environmental credentials but it will turn heads!
George Single is a master builder who has built numerous green homes in Victoria. His commitment to educating the community about sustainable building was recognised by Sensis, which chose George to feature on the cover of the Pakenham/Cranbourne White Pages and Yellow Pages this year as an Australian Creating a Better Future.