When we talk about environmentally friendly homes and green building design, it may call to mind solar panels and other more active signs of eco-friendliness. It may surprise you to learn that a building doesn’t need to invest in fancy technology or new-fangled inventions to be eco-friendly. Here are just a few ways that a home can be built more environmentally friendly without ever buying a single solar panel.
Custom architectural design can help a house take advantage of the sun to naturally warm a house while insulating against chill winds, or vice versa. A house that is set back in a hill or shaded by trees or trellises will be naturally cooler than a house that is exposed to direct sun. Similarly, a house that has fewer windows on the shady, windy side of the house will be protected from draughts and chills. Design can play a huge role in keeping a house comfortable without ever touching a thermostat. That saves money, but it also saves energy and, by extension, the planet.
That said, these passive design features rely on knowing the location well and using it to advantage. Where does the sun rise and set, and what is the solar exposure like? That will play a role in determining which direction the house faces and where the windows go. What are the prevailing winds and where does the cold come from? In a cold environment, wind needs to be guarded against, but in a hot area, those breezes can be harnessed to keep the house naturally cooler and more comfortable, even on the hottest days of summer, without ever resorting to air conditioning.
The question of materials is twofold. First of all, some materials are sustainably sourced and others are not, so the choices you make with regards to what materials you use in your home can have a very direct impact, either positive or negative, on the environment. But you need to balance that with both durability and conductivity. A poorly insulated home will cost the owner money and create a larger carbon footprint.
A home that is built to use the sun’s energy, insulation and shade to reduce the need for high heating and electric bills is called a “passive home.” This kind of house relies more on design, location and materials to minimize its environmental impact without effort and without even needing the owner to think about it.