Design tips for eco-friendly homes

12 Sep 2012

While many people are aware that they can help to save the planet while also saving themselves money if they 'go green', few really understand how to go about it. 

A green home should be orientated so as to maximise the use of solar energy, not just through solar panels but also through the correct placing of the building’s thermal mass.

Mandi Mac of Rawson Properties’ Fish Hoek franchise says a fair proportion of clients now accept that it would be ‘a good idea’ to live in a ‘green home’, one which reduces the consumption of energy and water, recycles its waste and needs relatively little maintenance. 

However, she and ‘green’ architect, Jonathan Green of Green Integrated, say although people accept green concepts, they often do so in a vague way that reveals that they simply do not understand the subject.  

On investigation it turns out that they have relatively little knowledge of the subject. 

Furthermore, Green,who has a Master’s Degree in Sustainable Development, says if they are trying to buy such a home on the current market, they are likely to be disappointed as there are few genuinely green homes available for sale. 

The house would shun the use of all potentially harmful materials. Materials such as paints, plastics and treated timber, Green says, give off more harmful emissions than home occupants know about.

The upshot, therefore, is that if the client is really sincere about wanting a green home he will probably have to employ an architect familiar with green technology, and then build it for himself. 

Green shares the design aspects of an eco-friendly home… 

1. A green home should be orientated so as to maximise the use of solar energy, not just through solar panels but also through the correct placing of the building’s thermal mass.  

Such a home would be sited so as to be warm and filled with light year-round, but, at the same time it would have adequate protection against over-heating.  

The solar heating, Green says, could well be supplemented by alternate low energy sources such as a heat pump. 

2. An eco-friendly home would collect rain water for use in a variety of ways and would ensure that its grey water is used to irrigate the garden.  

If a swimming pool is installed, roof heated solar heating might be used to raise the temperature of its water. 

3. A green home would use at least some recycled materials in its structure and possibly elsewhere, and it would avoid the use of scarce or threatened materials such as certain sub-tropical woods. 

4. The house would shun the use of all potentially harmful materials.  Materials such as paints, plastics and treated timber, Green says, give off more harmful emissions than home occupants know about. Adequate natural ventilation, therefore, is also a prerequisite of any well designed ecologically friendly home. 

Paul Henry, Managing Director of Rawson Developers, says while his company supports the recent Cape Metro legislation for the introduction of green technology, it has to be recognised that in most cases this adds 12 to 15 percent to the cost of the unit.  

However, it also reduces the annual running costs by 5 to 8 percent. It is, therefore, he says, definitely worth going the green route, especially as it is now a proven fact that such buildings are far more beneficial to the health of the occupants.

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