What makes a GreenSmart home Green?

Building or renovating a home the GreenSmart way starts with the appropriate site selection to ensure that you can maximise passive solar design principles in your home. Getting the orientation right is the first step.

Orientation

Orientation refers to the correct placement of the building on the block to allow sun to penetrate in winter and to minimise this in summer. The best site is one which provides enough room to place a house with the living areas facing north. Renovation projects can consider this by the relocation of rooms to improve passive solar access.

The efficient design of eaves on the northern side lets the sun into the home in winter, warming it naturally and reducing heating bills. It also prevents the hotter summer sun – which is at a higher angle – from entering the home, reducing the need to artificially cool the home in summer.

Insulation

Insulation should be seen as the first line of defence against the external elements after incorporating passive solar design as it reduces heat loss and heat gain through walls, roofs, floors and flooring systems. Ceilings can account for 25 – 35 per cent of heat loss in winter so it is important to place insulation close to the ceiling to help reduce this. Floors can account for 10 – 20 per cent of heat loss in winter, so timber floors and suspended concrete slabs used in cooler climates should be insulated. Walls can account for 15 – 25 per cent of heat loss in winter. However, in cooler climates selecting suitable thickness of insulation can reduce the heat loss. The correct selection and installation of insulation in the ceilings, floors and walls in conjunction with using thermal mass can achieve significant reductions in heating and cooling costs.

Thermal Mass

Thermal mass refers to the ability of a material to absorb heat energy. High density materials such as concrete, rammed earth, bricks and tiles have a high thermal mass, which allows them to absorb heat, unlike timber which has a low thermal mass.

In winter, the correct positioning and treatment of thermal mass has the ability to absorb free heat from the sun during the day and re-radiate the heat through the house at night. In summer, the thermal mass absorbs any heat that has entered the house during the day and cools it at night, which can help reduce internal temperature fluctuations between day and night. To achieve the benefits from materials with a high thermal mass, these should be placed on the inside of the building.

Ventilation

Ventilation is the movement of air through and around the home. Ventilation can be achieved using both mechanical and natural methods. Mechanical methods include ceiling fans and externally ducted exhaust fans. Natural methods include the location and orientation of openings (doors and windows) to allow the flow of air across the rooms, externally ducted air vents to allow air to be pulled through the home or roof-mounted systems to extract hot air from the roof cavity. It is also important to minimise draughts throughout the home by sealing gaps in doors, windows and exhaust fans. This can reduce heat loss by 15-25 per cent.

Flooring

Your choice of flooring can contribute to your home’s thermal performance, i.e. how thermal mass is utilised in the home. Carpets can minimise the benefits of thermal mass by covering and ultimately insulating the thermal mass, i.e. preventing useful accumulated heat from entering via the floor, unlike tiles and concrete floors, which will assist in heat gain through conduction. The colour of flooring can also influence heat absorption, with darker colours absorbing more heat which can re-radiate into the house.

10 Tips For Saving Power And Money Through House Design

1. If you’re building a new home, make sure it is positioned to make the most of solar passive design opportunities. If you’re renovating, consider changing rooms around to take passive design into account.

2. Incorporate shading structures or eaves to minimise the entry of summer sun and allow penetration from winter sun.

3. Insulate the walls, floors and ceilings of the home with the most suitable material and one that has the highest R-value for the job. Combine this with thermal mass, e.g. bricks, concrete and earth, inside the home.

4. Seal around external doors and windows and install self-sealing exhaust fans in bathrooms, toilet and laundry areas to limit draughts.

5. Select window glazing – e.g. single, double or tinted – that achieves optimum glazing conditions for your climate. Te correct placement and selection of windows will also help maximise cross ventilation.

6. Zone the house so you have more control on the areas of the home that need to be cooled or heated using doors and walls.

7. Select the most energy and water efficient white-goods and lighting appliances that you can afford.

8. Install four-star toilets, water efficient tap-ware and shower roses.

9. Consider installing treated waste-water systems or rainwater tanks to help reduce the amount of potable water used in and around the home.

10. Purchase renewable energy for household use or install photovoltaic systems where your budget allows.

Creating a sustainable home should primarily involve water and energy efficiency, use of sustainable materials, reduction of waste and creating a healthy living environment.