Environmentally Friendly Houses



Environmentally friendly houses are easy to build if your mindset is attuned to a natural way of life. When we look at the bigger picture and feel the natural forces directly and indirectly influencing our lives, we start aligning our life with an eco-friendly lifestyle.

It starts with looking beyond one's self and getting an idea of life outside of us. By being conscious of the infinite universe and the vastness of life in it, we become more appreciative, humble and caring. Feeling connected with this beautiful planet green and all the wonders of nature we are half way to cleaner, greener, happier and ethical life.

This appreciation of beauty and the intricacies of life beyond our immediate needs and desires is required to create healthy environments around us.

Environmentally friendly houses are the next step to environmentally friendly thinking, philosophy and lifestyle.

Eco Design Principles

There are core principles to be considered while planning and designing eco homes. These are -

  • The design evolves organically from the site, surroundings and the local materials available.
  • Design is executed with careful accounting of all ecological costs, from resource depletion to pollution to habitat destruction.
  • Design with Nature - The existing eco-systems should not to be disturbed. By working with the patterns and processes favored by the natural world, ecological impacts of the built environment can be dramatically reduced.
  • Make natural cycles and systems part of the design.
  • The environmental impact of waste disposal to be minimized.
  • Making reuse and recycling of used materials and products easier.

Planning

While planning environmentally friendly houses it is vital to understand how energy efficient homes work, which building materials to use and which to avoid, how to plan for the future and to see the importance of recycling.

Being a passive house is the first step to making environmentally friendly houses as these use low-energy techniques to create comfortable homes. Using local materials and devices tuned to local climates are the way to go.

Natural Light

Natural light is an important element not only to reduce the amount of energy consumption in a house but to create healthy, cheerful and welcoming environment in a house.

Following techniques make the best use of natural light in a built environment -

  1. The rooms should be planned to maximize natural light at different times of the day.
  2. Increase the amount of light coming in the house by strategically positioning the windows and openings.
  3. Increase transparency between different rooms, consequently increasing the amount of light entering the dark recesses of the house, by creative use of clear or translucent glass in solid walls.
  4. Light colored walls, floors, ceilings, furniture and furnishings add reflected light in the interiors.
  5. In hot climates, where the sunlight is more than required, use screens to filter light coming in.

Air And Ventilation

Fresh air is as vital for our well-being as sunlight and clean water. While outside air might not be as clean as we wish, it can still be up to ten times cleaner than the air inside a dwelling. It is always better to ventilate with outside air than by using air conditioning. And it is highly recommended for environmentally friendly houses as air conditioners consume a lot of energy and use environment harming refrigerant gases.

Passive ventilation and cooling techniques should be used to maintain fresh air flow in a house. These are safe to use, have no environmental impact and do not cost anything.

The movement of air in a building is governed by certain principles which, when followed, can achieve passive ventilation inside.

  1. Air inlets and exits are necessary for air movement. There will be good air ventilation if there are windows on opposite walls of a room.
  2. Warm air rises, while cold air falls. This is known as the stack effect. By giving openings at strategic locations, air flow and ventilation can be created in conjunction with the principle in first point.
  3. Air movement outside a building increases with height.
  4. Normally there is unequal air pressure on different sides of a building creating air flow.
  5. Evaporation cools a surface.

The best way to ensure good ventilation and smooth air flow through a home is to have air inlets and outlets on different sides of the building with clear routes for air to flow between them.

Heating

It is the big one while optimizing energy consumption in environmentally friendly houses. Space heating consumes maximum energy use (58% of the total) within an average home.

To make the interiors of a dwelling adaptable to human body comfort zone (65-80 degrees F/18-27 degrees C), in a way which is environmentally friendly and significantly reduces the fuel and energy costs, certain guidelines need to be followed-

  1. In a new construction, ensure that cavity walls as well as roof insulation is installed. Statistics show that maximum heat escapes through these areas.
  2. Seal your home and fix any sources of draught that is cooling the warm, heated air within your house.
  3. Turn down the heating in your home by a few degrees.
  4. Energy efficient windows need to be installed to trap the maximum heat inside the house.

Landscape

The importance of landscape goes far beyond creating healthy environments in our homes. It is the most direct way to connect to mother nature in an environment planned for the comfort and safety of humans.

Having landscape inside and around the built environment has many benefits. Research has shown that plants reduce the amount of pollutants and harmful chemicals in indoor air.

Plants give off moisture in the air. This helps in increasing indoor humidity. In winter air is normally dry. And it is made even drier by most heating systems. It can contribute to a range of allergic disorders. Plants help to counteract this by bringing humidity to healthy levels.

Materials

It is important to see what effects different building materials have on the environment. Further understanding eco materials, how they are made and how to use them is vital for creating beautiful, functional environmentally friendly houses.

Natural Materials

These are naturally occurring eco materials that are easily replenished minimizing their environmental impact.

When left untreated by chemical finishes, natural materials are free from toxins. Some of them even have natural anti-bacterial qualities. And they allow moisture to pass through thereby helping to manage condensation and prevention of dampness within the home.

It is important to use eco friendly products and materials in our homes that do not cause environmental damage and use less resources, reducing the amount of waste.

Materials such as wood, bamboo, wool and cork are examples of natural materials produced in a natural setting in a sustainable manner.

Furniture is a vital element of our homes, using a variety of materials. A wide range of uses eco furniture in different styles is available in the market now-a-days. We can easily avoid furniture which causes environmental pollution in its production or during its life-cycle or damages indoor air quality.

Key Features

Environmentally friendly houses incorporate certain features with the aim of reducing the amount of resources they consume, making them sustainable, in harmony with the site and the surroundings and making best use of natural resources actively and passively. These features include -

  • The roofs, walls and the ground floor are well insulated.
  • The windows are double or triple glazed.
  • Proper fresh air ventilation through passive means.
  • Sun shades that reduce the amount of summer sun but allow the winter sun in.
  • Efficient heating system.
  • Energy needs are met through renewable energy sources, such as solar water heating, photo-voltaic panels or wind turbine.
  • A-rated energy efficient appliances such as fridges, freezers and washing machines are used.
  • Reduced flow water systems, such as duel-flush toilets and low-flow taps and showers.

The ultimate focus of environmentally friendly houses is connecting with nature, having a healthy environment and avoiding energy consuming practices, services and appliances.

The consequences of the needs and desires of present day society are turning out to be too much for the environment and subsequently for our own good.

Design decision and choices which lead us to healthy homes, a fulfilling life and a promising future for us and the entire planet, is the need of the hour.





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Sushil Wadhwa

Sushil Wadhwa
Architect, Interior Designer, creator of Homes and Interiors... more.