Sustainable Building Principles
1. Design buildings with efficient planning and multi-use spaces for a smaller physical footprint.
A smaller house makes for a simpler lifestyle and is easier to clean and heat. With good design you can minimise circulation, and by using fewer, multi-use spaces you keep a feeling of spaciousness.
Bigger buildings use up more raw materials for building and furnishing.
2. Choose to redevelop existing buildings for their resources and heritage, and to avoid locking up useful land or building on land not suited for habitation.
It is better use of resources to improve our existing built environment than to fill up our open landscape with yet more buildings. Building on moderate land means steep land can be permanently vegetated and flat land used for food production.
Deforestation on steep land can cause flooding.
3. Design the building, site and surrounding landscape to maximise food production using Permaculture principles, and allow natural habitat and wildlife to flourish.
Growing food on your property makes for greater resilience in times of adversity. Permaculture principles exemplify sustainable living and land use. Setting aside areas for permanent natural habitat helps with local water and air quality, and the survival of species.
Transporting food or buying it from shops uses fossil fuels, as does lawn mowing.
4. Choose building materials that are naturally durable or biodegradable, re-usable or recyclable, and from renewable, abundant or non-depletable sources.
Renewable resources such as timber or non-depletable resources such as earth means the potential for building with these materials remains constant. Much energy and labour goes into producing materials and making buildings, so it makes sense to use materials that are durable or can be used again.
Materials from limited sources need to be reused or recycled otherwise demand will outstrip supply and more invasive extraction will be required.
5. Choose building materials that do not contribute to environmental problems in their production, transportation, installation, demolition or disposal.
Building materials need to be considered in all stages of their existence from their initial formation and use, until to their reuse or eventual decay.
For some materials high energy costs for production or transportation may have a more detrimental effect on the environment than their relatively benign useful life, others may be problematic when the building is demolished, creating toxic or non-biodegradable landfill.
6. Design to minimise construction waste, avoid unnecessary packaging of building materials and promote reuse or recycling of waste materials.
Dimensioning a building to suit the unit sizes of building materials can save labour and offcut waste. Materials such as bricks can be transported without excessive packaging, leftovers can be returned without wastage and they can be used again. Dismantling a building means what cannot be reused can be recycled.
Waste that cannot be reused ends up in landfill, scarring and often polluting the environment.
7. Incorporate efficient energy use and renewable and on-site energy sources in the building design to achieve zero net imported energy use.
Zero net imported energy use involves on or near site generation of power and heat using renewable resources such as solar or wind. Independent power can give you a greater degree of autonomy and resilience in emergencies, without sacrificing comfort.
Energy created by the burning of fossil fuels is polluting, and nuclear power is hazardous.
8. Plan developments to reduce reliance on mechanised transport, and use renewable sources of fuel for longer haul transportation.
Neighbourhoods with a mixture of homes, shops, entertainment and offices facilitates walking and cycling. Car sharing schemes can supply transport when the need for a car arises. For longer haul journeys and freight transport there needs to be an efficient network using renewable sources of energy.
Burning of fossil fuels contributes to global warming and oil extraction accidents are devastating.
9. Incorporate efficient water use and on-site stormwater and wastewater disposal in the building design to achieve zero net imported water use.
Zero net imported water use involves the harvesting of water on or near the site, and the disposal of wastewater back into the same natural ecosystem in quantities suited to its natural capacity. Purification of water and treatment of wastewater needs to mimic natural processes.
Reticulated water supply and wastewater is expensive and disruptive. Many systems are antiquated and overstretched, causing pollution.
10. Restore and enhance water quality before returning it to the natural ecosystem.
Water self-cleanses and cools through an in-winding movement as it moves around rocks in a stream or the loops of a river. We need to preserve that vitality in our water supply and restore it in our wastewater treatment. Using non-toxic cleaners and body care products minimises pollution.
Denying water’s inherent braking properties by forcing it to run in straight channels can cause flooding. Domestic and industrial pollution can affect wildlife right up the food chain.