Building an Eco Friendly House for the Budget Conscious

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While we may dream about building a house where budget is not a limitation, of course, many of us have some budget constraints.

So how do you prioritise spending when building a new home or renovating?

1. The concept and spaces:

  •   The number 1 priority is the planning, siting and spatial arrangement of the home. No-one goes back and adds 500mm to the end of the new living room that is just that bit too small- that would be inconvenient and very expensive.
  •   Passive solar design.
  •   The relationship between the rooms should be logical, natural and in keeping with your everyday life. Allow for rational, flowing circulation spaces that don’t disrupt functional spaces and allow easy movement through your home.
  •   A flexible, adaptable concept design that allows different rooms to be used in different ways depending on the time of day, the season and future households/ families or users. Your home should be able to be readily adaptable for your changing needs as your children leave home, as you age or make a career change and work from home.
  •   60-70% of the final outcomes such as solar gain, natural light and ventilation, and the level of excavation for your home are determined at the concept design stage. Working with an architect is a good investment to help achieve these outcomes.

2. The building envelope:

Get the building envelope right. If your budget is a bit limited, consider staging construction. You can still live comfortably in a house with built-in wardrobes that can be added later, but it is more difficult to amend the chipboard timber floor to concrete for good passive solar gain or add the additional 500 mm in width to the too-small living room.

Good solar design goes hand in hand with quality construction, quality insulation and draught proofing.

  •   Quality construction – to minimise ongoing maintenance and ensure your home performs to its maximum and to protect your investment. You want to invest in a quality exterior for your home as well as this can dramatically alter the value of your home in the proceeding years. Rendering Sydney is a business we personally recommend for eco friendly rendering work which also is very durable
  •   Thermal mass –the sun provides free heating! Thermal mass in the best way to maximise the benefits of passive solar gain. Thermal mass can be integrated into a home through a concrete slab floor, masonry walls and bodies of water.
  •   Maximise Insulation- ceiling and roof, walls and underfloor including the concrete slab. Good insulation retains heat in winter, keeps the house cool in summer. It is more expensive and complex to retrofit or add additional insulation.
  •   Double or if you can afford it, triple glazed windows – windows can be the source of biggest heat loss areas of a home. Have you ever stood next to a large single glazed window and felt the chill factor as the cooler window seems to draw heat from you?
  •   Draft proofing – Drafts dramatically reduce the performance of a home. By sealing all draught prone areas you retain passively gained heat. Tape the sisalation around windows, all joins

and repair every tiny little hole especially around service penetrations such as plumbing pipes. Think about pelmets above the windows.

3. Things that you touch and move:

Things that you touch and move daily are the things that you will notice the most. The sense of touch is very finely tuned and you will notice every time your front door sticks a bit or your kitchen tap wobbles when you flick it on. Investing in quality items that you touch will make them a joy to use.

  •   Door handles – ideally they have a good mechanism, are easy to turn or lever and feel solid. Levers are often easier for aging hands and people with people. Better access for people with disabilities is better access for everybody!
  •   Stair handrails – you run your hand over these so make sure they feel good- smooth and of good proportion with no fixings to disrupt even flow as you go up and down the stairs or ramp.
  •   Kitchen work benches – you will use these for a multitude of tasks, chopping, writing, leaning on, so they should be durable, tactile and beautiful.
  •   Taps and sanitary ware –bathing is pleasurable so select taps that have a smooth action and feel good to move.  Quality hinges and mechanisms on doors, windows and joinery – The items that you open and shut or move should not jam or swell and be a hassle to use. There is an unconscious pleasure in smooth operating doors and soundless sliders. Make sue you have “bumpon” buttons on all your cupboard doors and if you can afford it, consider soft close drawers even if it is just in your kitchen.