The term green home is being used more and more often in the residential building industry, but what does it really mean. According to the Green Building Council of Australia a green house is “a high performing home that is energy and water efficient, has good indoor air quality, uses environmentally sustainable materials and also uses the building site in a sustainable manner”. A green home also requires a holistic approach, beginning at the design stage and continuing on through the construction process and the eventual day-to-day running of the home. The main goal of these characteristics is to reduce the environmental impact a home will have over the course of its lifetime.
As mentioned above, a green house should begin at the design stage. Incorporating green design elements at the initial stages of a home construction will ensure the home can take advantage of the surrounding natural environment. By utilising the topography of the site, sunlight and breezes a green home can significantly reduce its dependence on additional heating and cooling sources. This saves the occupants money on their energy bills and reduces the production of greenhouse gases.
Choosing recycled and environmentally friendly building products is another important element of a green home. The type of materials used can affect the homes’ environmental impact and the health of the homes’ eventual residents. A green home utilises recycled timber or sustainable harvested plantation lumber for its structural and cosmetic components. It is also possible to use a range of other natural products in the construction of a green home, such as straw, mud, hemp and dirt. Although some of these materials are not conventional building products, it does not mean a green home has to look very different from a regular home. Many of the materials and finishes in a regular home contain formaldehyde and volatile organic chemicals (VOCs). Once installed in a home they continue to release gases which can be harmful to the people living in them. A green home uses materials and finishes with low or no VOCs that ensure good indoor air quality.
A green home also minimises the use of energy and water by using efficient materials and products. Water saving devices in the bathroom, toilet and laundry significantly reduces water consumption. Collection of rainwater and the recycling of grey water can further improve water efficiencies. Insulation in walls and ceilings helps maintain a constant indoor temperature reducing the need for mechanical heating and cooling. Energy and water efficient appliances can also be found in this home. They reduce environmental impacts and keep running costs down for the occupants.
Consideration of these factors and the inclusion of sustainable building techniques and materials make a green home use energy and water efficiently, provide a healthy environment for the occupants and reduce the environmental impacts over the lifetime of the dwelling.