Building Industry Green Washing

Sustainability and energy efficiency are now irrevocably on everyone’s agenda. Humans must urgently reduce carbon emissions to avoid overheating the planet causing an ever-increasing scale of environmental catastrophes.

60 % of all carbon dioxide emissions are related to the building of, and upkeep of buildings. If every human improves the efficiency of their home, even in a small way, there are 6 billion peoples’ buildings using less energy and resources.

Despite the current consensus, the inertia of old habits is still blocking progress on the climate front and badly designed dwellings still make their way onto the market. Worse than old habits and lack of education on the subject, some developers spruik about doing good things for the environment without, providing a well thought out, efficient product. Don’t fall for the hype and look for the facts.

Only efficient homes use minimal energy, consequently cost less to run and are comfortable to live in. Also, energy-efficient homes have better resale value.

As a prospective owner of a new home, home extension or apartment which efficiency specifications should you look out for?

Renovate or detonate:

Making the most of an existing structure will always use less resources than demolition and starting over. As a renovation business we have found this to apply in about 90% of all residential home renovations and extensions.
In the commercial and apartment sectors, some developers are making the most of solid, older buildings by repurposing them into efficient comfortable homes. The upside is, less material and time inputs, providing a more cost-effective end product.

Living within our (environmental) means:

  • Just because one can afford a 40 square home, is that what is really needed?
  • The environment certainly does not need the average family of 2.5 people living in a 40 square home, for all the obvious reasons.
  • A well designed 20 square home would be more than enough space for any small family and far less resources wasted.

North orientation:

  • A north orientation is essential and should not be traded off or excused from any design.
  • Any home design can incorporate northerly access to light and warmth from the sun.
  • Correctly oriented homes rarely require heating and cooling energy and when they do, it’s very little energy for short bursts. Also, they attain higher energy ratings and resale values.

Ventilation:

  • All modern, well-insulated homes require a dedicated ventilation system of some description.
  • Preferably a Heat Recovery Ventilation System.
  • Recent, stricter airtightness and insulation regulations are positive, from a heating and cooling point of view.
  • However, without appropriate ventilation, condensation and mould have become an ever-increasing factor.
  • This is also known as sick building syndrome.
  • In theory, Ventilation can be achieved by a resident judiciously opening windows.
  • However, most people are not attuned to this or understand how critical ventilation is.
  • Fortunately, there are many ventilation solutions for most situations.
  • If you are experiencing mould in any rooms in your house you have a ventilation problem.

Shading:

  • North facing windows require correctly calculated eaves of between 600mm to 1200mm depending on window size and relative height of the eave.
  • Correct eaves provide shade in summer and free solar heat in winter.
  • Eaves are also essential to protect the building from water ingress and UV radiation.
  • East and west-facing windows should be kept to a minimum size and number.
  • Where such windows are required for light, ventilation or views they will require awnings to provide shade in summer.
  • Again south windows and doors should be kept to a minimum and do not require shade, other than a standard eave.

Windows:

  • Windows are the weakest part of a building’s fabric, also known as the building envelope.
  • The average wall has an insulation rating of around R 2.5+.
  • A good, double-glazed timber or UPVC window will be about 50 % less capable of heat retention than a well-insulated wall.
  • Aluminium and steel window frames are considerably less efficient than timber or UPVC window frames.
  • Large Skylights in roofs are the worst form of heat transfer and therefore a bad design option.
  • There are ways of providing energy-efficient roofed lights or solar tubes, without compromising your homes energy efficiency.
  • Drapes in pelmets, whilst currently out of vogue, are a very useful way of retaining heat in cold weather.
  • With careful planning and selection, drapes can be well concealed when open, yet aesthetically pleasing when closed.

Materials/ Building fabric:

  • Avoid Bricks, Terra cotta, Stone, Concrete, Steel and swathes of Glass.
  • All these materials have high embodied energy (energy to manufacture and transport).
  • Further they are highly efficient heat conductors, meaning not energy efficient.
  • Timber framing, fibre cement claddings, lime plasters, laminated and particle manufactured timber and claddings, lightweight metal roofing are all sustainable options.
  • Ceramic rather than porcelain tiles. Any air dried or low heat dried tiles or bricks, Hemp products all provide good insulation and low embodied energy qualities.

Solar panels and other efficient appliances:

A genuine 7 star home with all the above specifications can provide zero or very low electricity bills using a 5-7 KW solar panel array. Unfortunately, energy companies are continually lobbying governments to reduce the feed in tariff (recently cut by 50%) which has caused Zero carbon homes to pay small amounts where previously there were none. However, despite these fees it is still a cost-effective decision to install solar energy in your home.

  • Avoid using gas, in fact don’t use it, electricity does everything better in an energy-efficient home.
  • Energy-efficient appliances should be all be electric, from water heaters to heating and cooling.
  • With solar panels generating lots of power on hot days, you can run aircon all day and guilt free and at no cost.

If you are serious about improving the energy efficiency of your current or future home, and wellbeing enlist only experts…. Call Capital Building to help you design genuine, energy-efficient new home….

At Capital we live in and build energy-efficient homes. Let us demonstrate how you too could benefit from an energy efficient renovation, extension or new home and without it necessarily costing you any extra.