There are many different schools of thought in sustainable construction. Some favour an approach which maximises insulation and does not worry too much about the carbon cost of materials used. Others favour an approach where the sustainability of materials comes first. There is, of course, also a middle way, which involves treading the balance between lifetime efficiencies and true build costs.
But when we look at what really makes a sustainable home, we need to look far beyond the basics of construction. Good, holistic, planet and people centric design is crucial. Many different homes, in all shapes and sizes, can be sustainable.
A sustainable home should:
- Enhance rather than detracting from its natural environment.
- Contribute to a surrounding community in a positive way.
- Improve capacity for, or enable, home renewable energy generation.
- Enable inhabitants to use water more wisely, and conserve fresh water.
- Enable multi-generational living, thereby cutting overall consumption and forging more co-operative living paradigms.
- Improve capacity for or enable home working/ entrepreneurship. Therefore cutting carbon costs associated with work spaces and commutes.
- Enhance home growing potential, allowing for food production or improving capacity to grow food, preserve food and increase self-sufficiency within a household.
- Make it easier for homeowners to manage waste on an ongoing basis.
There are, of course, many different ways to meet those goals through good design choices and careful implementation. And even when we have an existing home that may be less than ideal, we can think about the above and make our own homes more sustainable, wherever we live.