Sustainable Building Design
Sustainable building design incorporates design elements, materials,
construction methods and energy efficient technologies into a building
environment. It considers environments both inside and outside the
home, and the activities to be performed by the homes inhabitants.
To ensure a building meets the guidelines of sustainability, a
designer must ensure that wherever possible, resources used in the
construction are made from renewable resources, rather than those
limited in worldwide supply. This includes materials utilizing fossil
fuels used to create gas and electricity, and ensuring that any
emissions from the building are minimised, aiming for a low or non-carbon
Sustainability of any home considers:
Many of these sustainable systems are combined in tandem with modern
technology to provide a hybrid home environment.
Location refers to both geographic regional and seasonal environmental
factors as well as sun and noise exposure.
The most sustainable supporting locations:
- Have a good aspect to capture all day sun
- Are surrounded by deciduous vegetation - to provide shade in
summer and sun in winter. Vegetation also filters the air and
helps create a noise barrier.
- Have amenities nearby - a safe 10 minute walk to transport systems.
shopping, parks, schools, to reduce the reliance on transportation
- Are not close to industrial areas or major transport routes
- where hazards of noise and toxic pollution are higher
Sustainable design of spaces ensures that activities are supported
in the most natural environment within the building envelope. Activities
that require heat are separated from those requiring cooling and
integrated into the use of renewable resources, such as bio-fuel
or solar power. This ensures the buidling is planned in an environmentally
and energy-efficient way. Even small elements, such as placement
of the refrigerator on a cool wall in the kitchen contribute to
the overall energy efficiency.
In the design plan, consideration is given to both internal and
external space. Energy efficiency is not the only factor, with health
impact on the inhabitants playing the major role in sustainable
design. Studies have shown that ventilation and air circulation
affect buildings users, hence how will air be refreshed and cleansed
is a critical element. Extraction of any toxic fumes resulting from
activities is also paramount.
A well designed sustainable home appears spacious, open plan, and
energised, providing maximum health sustenance for its users. Consideration
is given to:
- Space requirements for activities performed within the home
- Aggregation of activities that require similar environments
and/or have similar outputs of noise, odors, heat, cooling, etc
- Egress to and from each space to support the free flow of people
- Division and privacy - both physical and audible
- Storage and amenities
Aesthetics also play a role in sustainable design. The Japanese
are masters of eco-friendly spatial design, with every element of
the interior and exterior contributing to the physical, mental and
spiritual well being of its inhabitants. Concepts such as Feng Shui
ensure that a building harnesses the best from its environment,
and voids and negative elements.
The materials used in a home contribute not only to its contribution
to energy sustainability, but also to the ecology.
Timber - a very durable, sustainable resource often wasted in construction.
wasted. In the UK, an estimated 2.5 million tonnes of wood is wasted
from construction each year, being either burnt or put in landfills.
This wastage is largely driven by the relatively low cost of timber.
The ecological impact of devastation of forests is largely ignored
in many regions. Forests act as carbon sinks - they take more CO2
from the atmosphere than they give back. Timber used in construction
stores that carbon ttypically 28.5 tonnes in a 215 sq. m wood-fame
house]. Reducing wasteage, reduces the extraction rate from the
forests, giving them a greater chance to regenerate.
Insulation - there are many different types of sustainable insulation.
- Natural wool
- Rockwool - steel slag heated together with volcanic rock at
- Cellulose - from recycled newspapers. Note: printer's ink can
- Agricultural fibre - available in batts treated with a non-toxic
- Isonet - a mix of hemp fibres and recycled cotton, with a favourable
- Cementitious foam - a natural product made from magnesium extracted
from sea water. The foam product is blown into wall spaces.
Material energy efficiency derives from either its inherent properties,
and/or its recycling elements. For instance, the following materials
are often incorporated into sustainable design:
- Materials produced in harmony with the environment
- Recycled flooring and gypsum wall boards
- Ecologically-friendly finishing and cleaning materials
- Energy efficient light bulbs and appliances
- A green 'living' roof - a turf-based garden upon the roof
Advanced Framing - sustainable building methodologies
include "advanced framing", where unnecessary framing
elements are omitted, and sizing of structures are minimised. Smarter
design ensures that windows and doors are are properly aligned with
the frame, avoiding additional framing elements.
Waste Recovery - recovery of waste wood is improving.
Generally, only around 35% of demolition wood is reusable. Improved
methods of deconstruction are increasing this percentage.
Light access and control is a major element of design. Where possible,
natural light is the only or main source of lighting. Natural lighting
has also proven beneficial to human productivity - both in terms
of physical benefits and also in mental benefits gained from feeling
more connected to our external surroundings.
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Insulation & Heating
Ambient temperature control is an integrated design element of
any buidling. It considers not only the temperature, but also the
intrusion element of any heating appliance, and any adverse health
impacts of the heating method. Typical heating examples include:
- Under floor heating & cooling system - although when used
with carpeted rooms, underfloor heating does increase the irritation
to those with breathing difficulties.
- Radiators and heat pumps - can be intrusive and space-consuming
- Solar heating systems - should definitely be considered, either
alone or in combination with other heating technologies.
- Wood burning fire places and boxes - are more difficult to control
in temperature and emit toxins from the wood to both the internal
and external air.
More on sustainable
There are many elements of sustainable design that can be incorporated
not only into new construction, but also in remodeling and renovations.
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