Sustainable house checklist: what to look for in your next home
When it comes to buying or building a new home, it’s important to think about sustainability for many reasons. A sustainable home has less of an impact on the environment when compared with a typically constructed dwelling. It consumes less energy, delivers savings on the occupants' utility bills, and provides optimal comfort all year round.
What is a sustainable home?
Sustainability means different things to different people, and there are many definitions of what makes a sustainable home. Typically, a sustainable home is one that is made from eco-friendly materials, uses low-impact construction methods, and adapts considered design techniques that work in unison to reduce household energy consumption, resulting in minimal environmental impact and less ongoing costs.
If you’re looking to buy or build a sustainable home, here are some things to look out for:
To reduce your impact on the environment, look for homes that are made from sustainable, recycled or cleverly manufactured materials. Sustainably-sourced timbers, for instance, can be a more eco-friendly option, especially if they are used for structural purposes and as an alternative to steel, the production of which can require a great deal of energy.
Structural timbers used by Sekisui House for their SHAWOOD homes, for instance, are sourced from sustainably managed forests in northern Europe. All structural timbers are eco-certified, and the structural frame is made from mature trees selected for their superior quality, uniformity and load bearing performance.
SHAWOOD structural timber is eco-certified.
PASSIVE HEATING AND COOLING
An important element of a sustainable home is passive heating and/or cooling, which reduces reliance upon artificial heating and cooling solutions, like air-conditioning.
Passive heating and cooling means that the house is designed and built in such a way that it largely heats and cools itself using the sun’s heat, air flow and shade. With passive systems, you require less energy, and save money as well as minimise your impact on the environment.
A living area that’s positioned with a northerly aspect, for instance, can potentially allow you to take advantage of the solar aspect in winter, and reduce heat gain in summer. Similarly, construction joints and window perimeters can be specifically designed and sealed to reduce air leakage, which reduces reliance on artificial heating and cooling.
In Australia, the Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme (NatHERS) is used to assess homes for their thermal performance. This directly reflects the effectiveness of its passive heating and cooling systems. Houses are given an energy efficiency star rating, and the more stars a house achieves, the better its thermal performance. All states also have basic minimum star ratings for new houses. Before buying or building a new home, be sure to ask what the home’s existing or predicted NatHERS rating is.
As well as the amount of energy that your home uses, it’s also important to think about how efficient this usage is.
Sustainable homes use consumption in all kinds of smart and efficient ways. Even simple things, like having LED lights in every room, and implementing motion sensors, can also help make a home more energy efficient.
Sekisui House’s MIRAI series of homes which are available exclusively at Ecco Ripley, Queensland, come standard with a 6.5kw solar panel system, reducing reliance on the power grid.
SOLAR PANELS AND BATTERY STORAGE
The ultimate goal for a sustainable home is to be a net-zero energy home. This means the total amount of energy being used by the building on an annual basis is roughly equal to the amount of renewable energy created on the site. Net-zero energy homes can enhance wellbeing, health and comfort, while reducing costs for owners and tenants.
One of the key ways that net-zero energy can be achieved is through the use of solar panels, and battery storage, where unused solar power generated during the day is stored for use at night or on low-sunlight days.
The way in which a home uses water can often be overlooked when it comes to sustainability, though this is extremely important. Check to ensure that the home’s amenities, such as toilets, tapware and shower heads, all have an efficiency rating.
Innovations such as water pod systems, installed in the slab of the home, can also provide a more efficient use of water.
DOES SEKISUI HOUSE MAKE SUSTAINABLE HOMES?
A world leader in sustainable residential development and construction, Sekisui House has delivered more than 47,000 net-zero energy homes in Japan since 2013 and has recently constructed the first net-zero energy home in Australia - SHINKA House.
SHINKA House, Sekisui House's first net-zero energy home constructed outside of Japan
To learn more about the sustainability features of Sekisui House homes, visit the below links: