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Sustainable Houses - The Things We Can All Do To Live A Little Greener

Jul 8, 2008
In a consumer driven society we are frequently confronted with life style decisions that can impact on our environment and one of the largest decisions that any of us will make is the kind of house that we choose to live in. The twin fangs of global warming and rising energy costs has seen in a shift in emphasis in recent years away from "environment be damned, show me the plasma!" to looking at ways in which we can live in greater harmony with our surroundings. As such "sustainability" has become a guiding principle in all manner of decision making. Sustainability is about using resources in an environmentally friendly and healthy manner that provide for the long term needs of the community. A sustainable home will emphasize two broad themes: it will be constructed of and furnished with environmentally sound materials and it will utilize energy as efficiently as possible. Sustainable houses seek to be an extension of their environment rather than an imposition, or more importantly a drain on it.

A person wishing to live in a sustainable house is going to be faced with one of two choices: building a sustainable house from scratch or retro-fitting their existing home to make it more green.

There are things that all of us can do, regardless from which materials our home is built, to live more greenly. These measures are largely centered around more efficient use of energy and water. By utilizing energy efficient technologies, expertise, and common sense, homeowners can dramatically cut their home energy costs and the pollution associated with energy use and production. The first place to begin is with electrical appliances. If you need to purchase a new refrigerator, washer, dryer, air conditioner, or other large power consuming item, then do your research to find the most energy efficient option. By the same token if you have old heating and/or air conditioning equipment, you might want to look at replacing them. The energy savings will see that they will be paid for in a few years. You can also save energy and money by using efficient lighting. Compact fluorescent light bulbs are a good option for homes where lights are on for a few hours a day. They can reduce energy usage by as much as 80 percent and go for years without replacement.

The way we conduct ourselves around the house will also have an impact on energy and water usage. Simple measures such as taking re-usable bags when we go shopping, having shorter showers, switching appliances off at the power point whenever possible, starting a compost heap and installing or topping up ceiling insulation will all have a positive impact on the environment and go some way to helping us live more sustainably.

For those who are looking to build houses from scratch however, there is even greater scope to adhere to the tenets of sustainability. A house that is being designed with sustainability in mind can make use of solar power for heating and electricity, as well as the sun (via skylights and sun pipes) for natural daylighting. Greywater systems can be installed to ensure the most efficient use of water, and the house can be constructed with non-toxic and sustainably harvested materials.
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