Zombies and aliens have long been an inspiration for disaster and apocalypse movies, but we rarely see the true villains depicted on screen – the Homo sapiens. Don’t you think it’s absurd that we call ourselves the most intelligent species and yet we’re destroying the only home we’ve ever known? We’re the real threat to life on Earth, directly responsible for nearly all environmental problems including but not limited to global warming, pollution, depletion of natural resources, deforestation and loss of biodiversity.
If we don’t put on the brakes now, we’re not looking at a bright future. But what is the solution? The answer lies in the simple phrase “think globally, act locally.” Instead of throwing the blame around, accusing everyone but ourselves of the planetary emergency that we’ve found ourselves into, we can take the matter into our own hands. And the best way to start is by adopting more sustainable housing solutions.
What Is Sustainable Living?
Sustainable living is coexisting in perfect harmony with the planet Earth. It’s a lifestyle that aims to reduce both the personal and societal impact on the environment by reducing the carbon footprint, energy consumption, waste etc. Luckily, Australia has the perfect conditions for sustainable living and offers several ways in which you can make a change. If you’re ready to join the good fight, it’s time you meet the future of Australian housing.
Passive Solar Design
With climate change taking its toll all over the world, it’s clear that homes of the future need to be as much climate-responsive as possible, so we can lower our energy consumption. And currently, passive solar design is one of the most energy efficient home design solutions on the market. It’s estimated that passive design can reduce energy consumption by whooping 40% which is why it’s worthy of your attention. This building standard revolves around utilising natural and eco-friendly sources of energy for things like heating, cooling, lighting and ventilation.
But passive solar isn’t just the most energy efficient home design; it’s also the most affordable one. That’s because instead of using expensive mechanical or electrical devices to function, the passive solar design utilises local climate and site conditions to maintain a comfortable temperature in the home.
This is done through an accurate site analysis which determines the unique climate characteristics of the location and the best ways to utilise them. There’re several elements of passive solar design which play an important role in the overall energy efficiency. Some of them are location, orientation, building layout, shading, window placement, glazing type, thermal mass and insulation. All of these elements work in correlation to absorb and distribute solar energy in the form of heat during winter, but also to reject the solar heat in summer.
Passive solar design can be incorporated in both new and existing buildings although it’s certainly better to make use of the passive solar principles in the early stages of constructions to maximise the benefits. The best part about passive solar design is that it costs nothing compared to the financial and environmental benefits it’ll bring in the years that follow. By choosing a passive solar design you’re making a huge step towards a healthier environment.
If you’re willing to go even a step further, you should consider building a self-sustaining abode called a zero-carbon or carbon-neutral home. Zero-carbon homes produce the same amount of energy that is expended with the use of solar panels, wind turbines and other renewable energy sources.
As you can see, although passive solar and zero-carbon homes share a similar goal, the latter uses additional equipment to produce the required energy to meet the daily needs of the household. The passive solar principles are often a part of zero-carbon home designs in order to achieve maximum energy efficiency.
For instance, the house may have its windows located on the north and south sides to absorb the solar energy and use materials with good high thermal mass such as concrete blocks or stones to store and rerelease the heath. This can be backed by airtight insulation to stop the heat from escaping the building. Once the energy needs are reduced with passive solar principles, clean renewable energy can be then generated with solar panel systems. The benefits of investing in a solar panel system are quite numerous and more than two million Australian households have already gone off the grid.
When you combine the principles of passive solar design with the standards of carbon-neutral homes, you get the most eco-friendly housing solution that has a direct positive impact on the environment.
Another great way to reduce your environmental impact even further is to opt for a modular house instead of a site built home. Prefab homes nowadays make use of all the elements mentioned above to provide an eco-friendly and sustainable housing solution. Plus, incorporating all those elements into the design is far less complicated even after the construction is complete because you can easily add or remove modules to change the layout of the building.
Apart from being airtight, modular homes are also packed with energy-efficient filtration systems, energy-efficient LED lighting and Energy-Star certified appliances which can reduce your energy consumption and carbon footprint by more than 60%. What’s more, some modular homes come already equipped with complete solar panel systems.
Besides saving energy, choosing modular homes is also an excellent way to decrease deforestation since most prefabricated houses use easily renewable or recycled materials at all stages of construction.
Australia is among the top 10 countries for green living. Do you know that more than 60% of our energy needs can be covered by renewable sources only? We have the best conditions in the world for producing clean energy and it would be a pity if we don’t start using this to our advantage.
If more people decided to switch to passive solar, carbon-neutral, or modular home designs we can dramatically reduce the depletion of Earth natural resources and greenhouse gas emissions. With that being said, the only thing left is to ask yourself whether you’re ready to become the change you want to see in the world