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Sustainable Housing – A Blueprint For The Future

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Introduction

The booming world population is pushing our natural resources to the brink of extinction. The exhaustible resources are under looming threat because of the increase in demand and the limited supply. Considering the deleterious impact of over-exploitation of our resources on environmental, social and economic systems, the concept of sustainable development becomes significant (Rosen, 2009). One of the approaches, which the policy makers emphasize on is “Sustainable Housing” or “Green Housing” (Breysse et al, 2011).

What is Sustainable Housing?

A house or a building that is designed to alleviate the environmental impacts (pre-and post-construction) ensuring that the requirements of the present are fulfilled without impacting the potential of the future generations to meet their own necessities. The design of a house is considered sustainable if it reduces the carbon footprint, avoids habitat ruination, encourages rain water harvesting and conservation, allows enough sunlight into the house for the overall well-being of the inhabitants and embraces technology that promotes effective and efficient use of water and energy. An environment friendly and sustainable house design incorporates natural methods for cooling, heating and lighting the house year-round (Maliene & Malys, 2009).

Significance of a sustainable or green house design

The growth and prosperity of any community has an influence on the natural resources and the environment. The contriving, architecture, building and operation of the house in which we reside is accountable for the usage of our natural resources. Green and sustainable design strives to reduce the pressure on the exhaustible resources used in the construction of the house, operation of the house and in minimizing the damage to our ecological system through carbon emission and pollution.

In order to limit the negative effects and design eco-friendly houses possessing resource efficiency; “green building systems” or “Sustainable house design” needs to be emphasized on and introduced among the masses by creating more and more awareness.

Ways to design a sustainable house

1.  Insulate your house

The process in which products or substances act as a barrier in the succession of electric power, humidity, heat, shock or sound from one medium to another medium is called insulation. Insulated roofs, walls, floors and ceilings helps to conserve energy and is also a cost-effective practice. A house which is well insulated is energy efficient and a sustainable house as it keeps the building cooler in summer and warmer in winter thus saving on energy bills and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Insulation also alleviates condensation in the house and offers some health benefits as well by minimizing moulds and damp conditions (Lechner, 2014).

2.  Energy efficient glazing

Install double glazed windows in a house which minimizes the heat loss thus reducing the heat bills. Glazing also makes the house quieter. Even thermal-backed curtains act as glazing objects and save on energy costs (Ruiz & Romero, 2011).

3.  Select energy efficient appliances

Using energy efficient appliances like Light Emitting Diode (LED) and Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFL) bulbs which utilize twenty-five to eighty percent less energy and last three to twenty-five times longer as compared to the traditional incandescent bulbs. Design your house in a way so as to ensure maximum natural light in order to reduce artificial lighting. Appliances with high energy – efficiency ratings, save on energy bills (Wood & Newborough, 2003).

4.  Rain water harvesting for eco-friendly houses

Collection and harvesting of rain water is one of the best ways to conserve and save water. A household can use the filtered rainwater to water plants in the garden, clean the car, flush toilets, maintain landscapes and for other cleaning purposes. Many rainwater collection and conservation systems (water efficient equipment’s and less-flow sanitary fittings) are easy to install and help to save around 50% of water consumption.  Rainwater harvesting system is a part of sustainable house design (Tan, 2014).

5.  Use of non-toxic building material

The building material selected at the time of construction and design of the house fundamentally influences the sustainability of the house. Use of eco-friendly and non-toxic materials like mudbrick, strawbale, timber, timbercrete, recycled stuff, rammed earth and other usable and renewable items increases the sustainability of the house and such materials have implications for energy conservation, improving bushfire resilience and increasing comfort (Joseph & Tretsiakova-McNally, 2010).

6.  Use renewable electricity options

Renewable energy sources like solar energy and wind energy contributes to a sustainable house design. To install solar water heating, solar lighting systems and small-scale wind turbine in a house is a good idea. However, there will be some initial costs involved but once installed, one doesn’t have to worry for years. This ensures uninterrupted, clean and affordable non-conventional electricity supply and will also save on electricity bills (Schelly, 2014).

7.  Design for life

A house should be designed for the long haul.  A sustainable house design is the one which uses materials which are durable, reused or recycled. This ensures that the house not only meets your current needs, but can also meet any changing needs in the near future without you spending too much on any expansion or renovation. This approach is relevant not only during designing the house, but also when you select appliances for the kitchen, any furnishings, doors, windows etc.

Benefits of a sustainable house design

  1. A sustainable house has a less impact on the environment.
  2. Health of the inhabitants in a sustainable house is mostly good. Health issues like asthma, eczema, headaches and sneezing are linked to moulds and other toxic substances found in most of the damp homes. A sustainable house is free of dampness and is well insulated to keep the moulds away (Bradshaw et al, 2005).
  3. Sustainable houses are a wise investment as well. In some countries like Australia and New Zealand, the financial institutions are even offering ‘green mortgages’ to customers who will invest in eco-friendly or green home products because the banks believe that these homes will better retain value over time.
  4. Sustainable houses are also cost effective as insulation, smart heating, cooling and lighting options, water and energy efficient appliances in the house makes homes cheaper to run (Seyfang, 2010).

References

Bradshaw, W., Connelly, E. F., Cook, M. F., Goldstein, J., & Pauly, J. (2005). The costs and benefits of green affordable housing. Cambridge (MA): New Ecology.

Breysse, J., Jacobs, D. E., Weber, W., Dixon, S., Kawecki, C., Aceti, S., & Lopez, J. (2011). Health outcomes and green renovation of affordable housing. Public Health Reports126(1_suppl), 64-75.

Joseph, P., & Tretsiakova-McNally, S. (2010). Sustainable non-metallic building materials. Sustainability2(2), 400-427.

Lechner, N. (2014). Heating, cooling, lighting: Sustainable design methods for architects. John wiley & sons.

Maliene, V., & Malys, N. (2009). High-quality housing—A key issue in delivering sustainable communities. Building and Environment44(2), 426-430.

Rosen, M. A. (2009). Sustainability: A crucial quest for humanity. Sustainability, 1(1), 1-4. Doi:10.3390/su1010001

Ruiz, M. C., & Romero, E. (2011). Energy saving in the conventional design of a Spanish house using thermal simulation. Energy and buildings43(11), 3226-3235.

Schelly, C. (2014). Residential solar electricity adoption: what motivates, and what matters? A case study of early adopters. Energy Research & Social Science2, 183-191.

Seyfang, G. (2010). Community action for sustainable housing: Building a low-carbon future. Energy Policy38(12), 7624-7633.

Tan, T. H. (2014). Satisfaction and motivation of homeowners towards green homes. Social indicators research116(3), 869-885.

Wood, G., & Newborough, M. (2003). Dynamic energy-consumption indicators for domestic appliances: environment, behaviour and design. Energy and buildings35(8), 821-841.

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