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Green building ideas for the home

Last Updated Apr 3, 2018 · Written by Craig Gibson


Green building principles are based around effective and efficient use of natural resources, with the objective of reducing or eliminating negative impact on the environment.

The goal is to build a home that has a low impact on the environment, and is comfortable to live in. A green home should also be healthier to live in and adaptable to your ongoing needs. Green building is also a shift in approach, where our homes are no longer viewed in isolation, but as interconnected parts of a larger community and city. In terms of building materials green products focus on having a first and second life. This includes recycling programs to ensure products have a useful ‘second life’.

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Ideally a green home should:

  • Produce fewer greenhouse emissions
  • Consume less electricity
  • Use less water
  • Use recyclable building materials

Green building ideas

A green home could include some or all of these initiatives or elements:

  • Protect and retain existing landscaping and natural features
  • Recycle and use recycled materials wherever possible
  • Use passive environmental design principles
  • Provide natural lighting within the building where possible
  • Use a properly sized and energy efficient heating/cooling system with the correct insulation
  • Consider alternative energy sources such as solar energy
  • Select sustainable building materials and/or use products with zero or low emissions
  • Install a rainwater tank for use in the garden or home and rainwater recovery systems
  • Be water efficient wherever possible by using water conserving fixtures
  • Install a solar hot water system

Find out the cost of being energy efficient

Green building idea: Sustainable plumbing

Looking to conserve water in your home? There are lots of small, and not so small, tweaks you can make to ensure you use less water. These can include:

  • Install low-flow taps and shower heads
  • Upgrade your dishwasher and washing machine to a low-flow, high-efficiency model
  • Repair leaky taps asap
  • Fix broken and leaking pipes
  • Install a rainwater tank

Green building idea: Rainwater tank

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If you are looking to save on your water bills, a rainwater tank can help pay for itself over time. A store of freshwater can be used for a range of jobs around the home, including watering your garden, laundry, flushing the toilet, washing your car and supplying your hot water system. You will likely need a plumber to install a rainwater tank, especially if you want it integrated with other bits of your home plumbing.

Learn more: How much does a rainwater tank cost?

Green building idea: Install solar

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Installing solar panels allows you to reduce your reliance on grid power, which can also help you save. A number of factors will impact how long your system will take to pay itself off. This includes how much electricity your home uses, the cost of your solar panels, the size/output of your system and the electricity rates in your area. In terms of the panels and system, look for a reputable brand with a decent warranty - at least 25 years. You will need an electrician or builder to install solar panels.

Learn more: How much does solar cost?

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You can also take this a step further with a hybrid solar battery storage system. They can be integrated into your existing solar PV system and work by storing electricity generated from solar panels for use when required. Electric car maker Tesla has hit the headlines with their Powerwall, but these are expensive ($10,000) to install though do reduce your dependence on the grid significantly.

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Green building idea: Strawbale

https://www.istockphoto.com/au/photo/hous-of-straw-gm178412771-24542918

If you want a truly unique green home, and a challenge, think about incorporating strawbale into your construction techniques. Simply by compressing straw into a large block by tightening wire around it, you create large blocks or straw bricks that can form a wall. Your walls are finished by adding a layer of earth/soil or cement render; the straw itself is not visible - though some like to have the straw visible on internal walls. The great benefit is that your walls will be environmentally friendly and provide excellent insulation. And if you are worried about longevity, strawbale walls have been recorded to last for a hundred years or more and are strong enough to be load-bearing, although modern designs are built around a frame. If you are not practical not to worry, there are builders who specialise in creating strawbale houses.

Green idea: Passive design and insulation

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If you are building or renovating there are a number of options to include in the design phase which will make your home more sustainable and comfortable to live in. These include elements of passive solar design, which means your home makes the most effective use of sunlight without using "active" energy systems. This could involve siting windows and walls so they are shaded during summer while maximising solar gain in winter; as well as ensuring your walls/roof/floor are well insulated. Your architect can include these elements when you start to decide what specs your home has.

Hiring a tradie

When it comes time to hiring a tradie make sure they are right for your job. Some questions to ask them include:

  • Are you appropriately qualified, accredited or licensed?
  • Do you hold valid insurance (professional indemnity and public liability insurance)?
  • Can you provide a written quote?
  • Does the final price include any rebates?
  • How long will my job take?
  • Do you have references I can follow up?
  • What warranty do your products carry?
  • Do your products meet the relevant Australian Standards?
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