What’s the fuss about sustainability?
Wikipedia’s explanation of Sustainability:
For many in the field, sustainability is defined through the following interconnected pillars: environmental, economic and social.
Modern use of the term “sustainability” is broad and difficult to define precisely. Originally, “sustainability” meant making only such use of natural, renewable resources that people can continue to rely on their yields in the long term.
Moving towards sustainability can involve social challenges that entail international and national law, urban planning and transport, supply chain management, local and individual lifestyles and ethical consumerism. Ways of living more sustainably can take many forms, such as:
- reorganizing living conditions (e.g., ecovillages and sustainable cities)
- reappraising economic sectors (permaculture, green building, sustainable agriculture) or work practices
- using science to develop new technologies (green technology, renewable energy, sustainable fission)
- designing systems in a flexible and reversible manner
- adjusting individual lifestyles to conserve natural resources
Despite the increased popularity of the use of the term “sustainability”, the possibility that human societies will achieve environmental sustainability has been, and continues to be, questioned—in light of environmental degradation, climate change, overconsumption, population growth and societies’ pursuit of unlimited economic growth in a closed system.
What do you need to know, if you see an advert about a sustainable home?
#1 Construction Method
Ask the builder or building company, what products are in the walls, roof or floor? We are aware, some of the products are difficult to come by, but it’s important that the builder is clear what makes a home sustainable or not.
Ask if the products are recyclable, or are there chemicals in the product? Which insulation has been used? What R-value are in the walls, roof or floor? Has the builder considered the updated version of the building code?
#2 Performance of a Home
Ask the professionals, if they are familiar with Passive House or Homestar and which principles they use. What product makes it airtight? From Windows to the envelop or ventilation system with a heating or cooling system. Low energy consumption makes your home sustainable.
#3 Non-toxic materials
Ask the salesperson, if they use non-toxic materials for the internal environment, like their paint. It’s not just done with a low VOC, you need to ask if the paint has any chemicals in there and what product they use. If they don’t know, get the answers. A non-toxic paint is sustainable and does not cause any harm.
#4 Thermal Breaks
Ask if they use in their foundation any thermal breaks? What about the walls? (Are there any thermal bridges?)
What kind of windows do they install? Ask for European windows, which will be recessed to improve the performance. Have they got a swiss spacer or aluminum spacer? (That’s the spacer between the glass, because the aluminum spacer can cause condensation between the glass panels.) Thermal Bridges are not sustainable, because you are loosing value heat and causes moisture in your home.
#5 Energy Calculation/Blower Door Test
It would be ideal, if the professionals can offer you an energy calculation, so you know the energy consumption per year and you understand that you won’t overheat your home, that you need to cool it down again, which ads on cost. Handy is to get a sun-study from your architect.
With a blower door test you can measure, how many air-changes per hour your home has and the small the number, the air-tighter the house. That benefits you, especially with your heating cost.