Sustainability as a concept has gained momentum in the last decade in the building industry. There are ample notions and ideas around sustainability that make it more of an upscale fad rather than a way of life. To be able to incorporate sustainability, one needs to be clear of the concept – what are sustainable buildings?
Sustainable buildings are the ones that are efficient with the use of resources and performance, that help in optimizing the use of water and energy. They are generally built using materials that exhibit high performance and have a low impact on environmental degradation. Sustainability is a concept that should be approached in a wholesome manner and not just a single aspect.
The primary aspect that considers while designing a sustainable home is of course the materials and techniques, but the fenestrations, furnishings, HVAC system, lighting, plumbing, electrical appliances and fixtures and harvesting natural resources (sun, water and wind) should also be given due consideration. Moreover, your habits and mindful alterations to them would certainly help you design a sustainable home that will be affordable across various aspects.
Sustainable practices can be easily incorporated with the design of a house to make it affordable and at the same time more efficient. It not only helps in making the house affordable but also helps in addressing water crisis, climate responsive design, self-sustenance for the occupants, wellness and other uncountable issues. There are times when the initial costs of a sustainable solution might be high, but in the long run, the maintenance or running costs turn out to be affordable. Therefore, one also needs to decide the context of affordability that they are looking at – short term or long term. One has to be clear of their concepts and most importantly their budget to kickstart a project of a sustainable and affordable home. To help you in designing a sustainable and affordable home, here are 10 clever tips –
1. Choose the Materials Wisely
When it comes to sustainability, one should prefer materials that are locally available and adept for local climatic conditions. It is imperative to use locally available materials as it saves on the transportation costs or added labour costs, thereby saving on the money and contributing to the environment too. Local materials satisfy the climatic requirements as well, for instance, Rajasthan with its hot and dry climate, responds well to local materials such as stone, mud, straw, etc. Moreover, local materials can give employability to local craftspeople and businesses, thereby enhancing the value of your dream abode. In addition to choosing locally available materials, one should focus on materials that are highly durable and last for long. This is one of the easiest yet wisest tips one can undertake while designing their home.
To know more about materials and sustainability, read Top 10 Natural Building Materials For Sustainable Architecture.
2. Recycle and Reuse
To adopt a sustainable approach, one’s life mantra should be ‘Recycle and Reuse’. Many materials and products can be reused or repurposed by incorporating certain modifications. People might believe that their homes should be made of only new materials. But we should create awareness and deem the thought process redundant. As repurposing and recycling should be adopted as a way of life, moreover, salvaged materials and products can help in reducing the dump load and increasing the antique value, if used wisely. Numerous materials have about 80- 100% recyclability, therefore making such materials or products viable for use. Many design practices the world over have created a focus towards repurposing and recycling the used materials.
3. Adopt Eco Finishes
Sustainability aims at using materials and finishes in a way that creates the least negative impact on the environment. Paints, polishes, varnish, etc. all the surface finishes have VOCs, formaldehyde and release other toxic gases. To root for the idea of sustainability, one should look for surface finishes that are devoid of these harmful compounds. A conscious approach towards the environment can prove to be affordable in the long run across various fronts.
You must check out 8 Eco-Friendly Ways to Make your Home More Sustainable
4. Respond to Sun Efficiently
Considering the sun path is an essential part of designing a structure. It helps in determining the overhangs or other passive strategies such as courtyards, louvers, etc. While designing to respond to the sun conditions, there have been innovations in glass as well to efficiently respond to thermal heat gain. Not only glass, but louvers as an element have seen innovations. One can opt for louvers not only on the y-axis but the x-axis as well. These louvers can be manually or electronically operated to adjust the angle of the fins, thereby giving adequate shade during the sunny hours of the day.
Considering and giving due importance to the role of the sun in building design is one of the smartest steps that one can take towards a sustainable and affordable home. If you can counter the thermal gains effectively, you will be able to reduce the energy loads of your home, thereby giving it a sustainability quotient.
5. Harvest and Recycle Water
Water is a natural resource that is abundant yet scarce. We might have the best of fittings in our house but if there is no water to feed it with and operate, all the money literally goes down the drain.
When thinking about sustainable options for construction, one must plan to harvest and recycle water. It is not only about being sustainable for the heck of it but being conscious towards practices that would help sustain the future generations too. Planning for rainwater harvesting ought to be taken seriously to be able to conserve and harvest water. Moreover, with a conscious evolution in technology, some fixtures and innovations can be utilized to recycle and reuse the water in our households. Wastewater can also be reused efficiently. One needs to make conscious efforts to be able to adopt sustainability in this context.
6. Focus on Natural Light and Ventilation
Natural light and ventilation are both important factors that should be considered while designing a home. Sheepishly, many people tend to ignore them while designing or there might be site-based constraints. To be clear, if your house receives ample daylight and natural air throughout the day, you tend to cut on your huge bills of energy consumption. While switching on and off electrical fittings and electronics has been imbibed in us from our childhood, it is of utmost importance that we foster concentrated efforts towards getting daylight and natural air. It is not only a sustainable tip for your home but a much-needed factor for personal wellness and mindfulness. To ensure ample light and air, go in for large openings, skylights, light shelves, etc.
Photo by - Search living room pictures
>While welcoming the light and air indoors, do not forget to pay heed to the solar movement and directions in your location.
Believe me, natural light and air can make your home happy and keep a lot of disease-causing organisms at bay! Moreover, natural light has a charisma that can’t be matched with anything per se!
Read Expert Hacks To Maximize Natural Light From Windows to know about the ways to welcome natural light and air into your spaces.
7. Consider Low-Cost Construction Details
When we talk about affordability, low-cost construction techniques cannot be left behind. These techniques help in the construction process efficiently and also save on the construction material. For instance, a rat trap bond wall construction can help in saving about 30% of bricks. There are a lot of practices in place that can be employed to adopt low-cost construction and there is still a lot of scope for innovation in this regard. Low cost does not in any way relate to inferior quality construction. It simply aims at innovating construction techniques to save on material, construction time, thereby lowering the overall cost. When we adopt such construction practices, we automatically help in adopting and promoting sustainable practices.
PC - Flickr
8. Use Energy-Efficient Elements
Energy efficiency has become synonymous with sustainability, rightly so. To help in saving energy and thereby natural resources, we should concentrate on installing fixtures that are energy efficient. Consumers today, are well aware of energy-efficient fittings, local energy ratings and the likes.
In our smart century, homes are also steadily becoming smart. One way of doing that is by installing sensors in the spaces to operate the fixtures. With a sensor for light and fan operations, even if a user fails to turn off the lights and fans, the sensor would do the job. There are a lot of modern structures that have adopted this technology for common spaces such as passageways, parking, etc. to conserve energy. Conserving energy is one of the important aspects of sustainability and can also lead to affordability in the long run.
9. Adopt Green Cover
Adopting a green cover is not only a sustainable idea for a built form but can prove to sustain the occupants too. Adopting a green cover on walls and roofs can aid in achieving ambient comfortable temperature indoors. In addition, the greens have a natural beauty that adds to the overall aesthetic of the built structure – indoors and outdoors. If you wish to plant a vegetable garden, it could be a wholesome experience of sustainability all around.
10. Harvest Solar Energy
Harvesting natural resources are the need of the hour and if it is integrated with the construction industry these can provide solutions that are sustainable and affordable in the long run. Solar energy is abundant and still has a lot of potentials to be harvested. There have been quite some innovations in the field of solar energy. From photovoltaic cells for equipment to the solar water heater, the scale of harvesting the solar energy has a wide spectrum. The solar panels can be heavy on the pocket initially, but prove to be affordable in the long run. Certain facilities in the world are running solely on solar energy. The evolution and innovation in this sector have led to the development of panels that can respond to varied parameters. These can be designed and integrated with the structure in a way that they add aesthetical value to the structure instead of being an eyesore or an additional structure to care for.
This is one of the sustainable measures that everyone should adopt in their homes to do their bit for the environment. Some materials such as solar glass are being experimented with that can harvest solar energy and at the same time can be used as construction material.
Sustainability is a concept that one should understand first before integrating it into the design. More than anything sustainability should absolutely be the way of our life, thus helping us put indigenous solutions to effective use. One should also understand that affordability should be appreciated for the long term and not immediate or short term. Sustainability and affordability are two peas in a pod. If you undertake sustainable practices to construct your home, you sure are going to reap benefits both on financial as well as health fronts. Sustainable practices are many a time related to going back to our roots of traditional practices and at times leads us to adopt innovative technologies for our home construction. These were 10 clever yet practical tips to get you started on the path of designing a sustainable and affordable home.
We would certainly love to read your thoughts about sustainable and affordable practices that you vouch for, please feel free to share them with us in the comments below!
Lastly, take a read to the 10 Unique Building Materials That are Perfect for Modern Homes
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