You might think that there is a lot more hassle and expense involved in building a home that conforms to your eco-friendly standards, but in truth, it is very similar to standard types of building in that the price and the level of difficulty depend largely on what you choose to use. For example, the average home-builder might have to decide whether they want to install carpeting throughout the interior or pay extra for hardwood or stone flooring. In the same way, the eco-friendly home will have options that change the price and construction schedule for the project. While you will certainly want to take some time to research green options, you need not necessarily expend more than your own free time. In any case, here are just a few guidelines to observe when it comes to planning and building your green home.
- Transportation of goods. One of the major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions is the shipping industry. If you want to do your part to dispel unnecessary exhaust, think about purchasing only local materials when building your home. You will not only curb pollution by going this route; you’ll also support local business and you may even end up saving a few bucks in the process.
- Building materials. Once you’ve decided to buy local, you’ll want to look at what is available. You likely have access to natural resources like stone or wood, but you might not be able to find companies that embrace green practices in the process of harvesting these materials. If this is the case you may want to consider opting for a substitute that is eco-friendly and can be found anywhere: concrete. Insulated concrete forms can be used for the foundation, framework, and even the walls of your home. They resist damage from insects, mold, fire, water, wind, and just about anything else nature can throw at your home. Plus, as the name implies, this material has excellent insulating properties.
- Lighting. While it might occur to you that installing energy-saving light bulbs is a great way to conserve, there is an even better way to cut back on illumination during the building process. By opting for an open floor plan and including plenty of windows (possibly even skylights) in your design, you can ensure that your home enjoys an abundance of natural light so that the instances in which you have to flip a switch are significantly reduced.
- Utilities. You can certainly practice to conserve by installing energy-saving appliances and electronics after the fact, but during the building process you have the unique opportunity to do more. By opting for solar, wind, water, or other forms of alternative energy you can bring your energy usage down to practically (or actually) nothing. This is good for your wallet as well as the environment, so that over time you can offset the initial cost of installation (which can be quite steep).
- Outdoor spaces. People often see landscaping as an extra, but here you can do good things for the Earth, as well. Strive to use native plants and look for those that are drought resistant (read: requiring less water to sustain). You can even use your vegetation to save on energy use by arranging plants around the house to block sunshine in the summer and wind in the winter.
Source: Talking About Green
Whether you are renovating or building from scratch, water conservation systems are highly recommended, especially for South Africa where water scarcity and unreliable municipal water services are a reality. Bamboo is a great natural building material for decor and structural features; see www.bamboo4.co.za for ideas.
If you live in South Africa and need environmentally friendly water conservation and solar energy solutions, contact us for a free quote. Our WWF award winning water systems include, rainwater harvesting systems, grey water irrigation systems, grey water recycling systems, swimming pool backwash recycling systems, toilet flush mechanisms and other water-saving devices (see product demo).
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