Sustainable Building Principles
1. Choose building materials that are durable and from renewable, recyclable or non-depletable resources.
Renewable resources such as timber or non-depletable resources such as earth means the potential for building with these materials remains constant, provided they are properly managed. Much energy and labour goes into the production of materials and the creation of buildings, so that if a material is more durable or can be used again, the associated costs to the user and the environment are reduced.
2. 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 until to their 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, releasing harmful particles or creating non-biodegradable landfill.
3. 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 rather than demolishing it means what cannot be reused can be recycled.
4. Design buildings with efficient planning and multi-use spaces for a smaller physical footprint.
Many modern homes are of extravagant size. Smaller, simple buildings use less material to build and take up less land, as well as being easier to heat, cool and clean. Good design means that circulation space is minimised and main spaces can work well for several different functions, but still feel spacious.
5. 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. This lessens the impact on the environment, and gives the user a greater degree of autonomy and resilience. Using minimal energy in day-to-day living is achievable through good design and mindfulness without having to sacrifice comfort.
6. Plan developments to reduce reliance on mechanised transport, and use renewable sources of fuel for longer haul transportation.
Fossil fuel use for transport can be reduced or eliminated if most people's needs are met locally. However, there will always be some need for longer haul journeys, so an efficient network of commuter or goods transportation, using renewable sources of fuel, lessens the impact on the environment.
7. 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. Efficient water use ensures neither the supply nor the disposal exceeds the natural capacity of the area. Purification of water supply and treatment of wastewater needs to mimic natural water purification processes.
8. Restore and enhance water quality before returning it to the natural ecosystem.
Water loses its vitality when polluted, heated or forced to run in straight channels. It needs to be used with non-toxic cleaners and body care products and returned into the natural environment cleansed, cooled and revitalised through in-winding movement so it can continue its natural course without loss of quality.
9. Choose to redevelop existing buildings and built areas for their resources and heritage, and to avoid locking up useful open spaces or building on marginal land not suited for habitation.
Fleeing to the countryside to live a sustainable lifestyle is not what everyone wants, nor is it appropriate to discard everything we have already and fill up our open landscape with yet more buildings. Rehabilitation of existing building stock will make a larger impact and must be a major focus of eco building.
10. Design the building, site and surrounding landscape to maximise food production using Permaculture principles, and allow natural habitat and wildlife to flourish.
Healthy and sustainable living does not stop at the walls of the building, but includes the site and its watershed. Growing food on or near one's property makes for greater resilience in times of adversity, as well as lessening the impact of travel either to buy food or supply shops. Permaculture principles exemplify healthy and sustainable living and land use.