If you're getting ready to start a reno, addition, or new build project, building sustainability might not be at the top of your checklist. You have a lot of other things to think about and this might seem like just another thing that'll stress you out!
But sustainable design is such a great choice for many reasons. Not only is the end result better for you, your family, and the planet, but its actually better for your bottom line as well. Building green doesn't have to cost more, its all about the difference in lifecycle costing.
OPTIMIZE BUILDING SPACE AND MATERIALS
Part of sustainable building is about consuming less material and avoiding the use of virgin materials, like "reduce, reuse, recycle". This is connected to the idea that highly functional and well-designed spaces can allow us to build smaller.
Smaller building = less consumption.
Some people feel comfortable in a 400 sf space. That's too small for some people. But in North America, people definitely tend towards the idea that bigger is better. But cutting down on building footprint size and square footage will save you construction material and labour costs, operating costs (heat/hydro/taxes), and its a more eco-friendly way of living. And if the space is designed properly, you won't feel like you're living in "cramped" and "crowded" conditions.
You'll feel comfortable, organized, and you'll have less space to clean!
Check out this compact home design concept we created --
Energy use is always an important consideration for sustainable building, but its also a major area to consider if you want a more comfortable home that costs less to operate. Doing more advanced framing and insulation, including high-efficiency window and doors, can save you around 80% off your heating and cooling costs. That's a lot eh?
Why wouldn't you do the construction properly while you're doing your reno anyway and save money in the long run? The additional costs of material and labour for the improved framing and insulation might run around an added 10% of your overall construction costs. But this is where you need to look at upfront/initial costs compared to operational costs. A bit more cash upfront can save you way more in the long term.
And of course using less energy is a great thing for the planet! As concerns about climate change continue to grow and the impacts are thought to be worse than previously expected (yes, climate change is a real thing!), it seems more urgent than ever to reduce our impacts.
Take a look at this really interesting article on new climate change data published by National Geographic --
OPTIMIZE WATER USE
Energy and water use are closely connected. We don't usually think about where our water comes from when we turn on the taps. And for most city-dwellers, water is a resource provided municipally. To make water potable (drinkable), it takes an enormous amount of effort and energy to treat it, pump it, and transport it. The materials and energy that go into infrastructure construction and maintenance also contribute to these high costs of supplying water.
And in parts of the world that have no shortage of fresh drinking water, its easy to forget that many places are suffering from a lack of water and its becoming a scarce and valuable resource (the dystopian world of Mad Max might not be too far fetched after all).
Also, you want to save money, right? Using less water will result in direct savings! Install low-flow and low-flush fixtures for an easy, consumption-reducing strategy that could cut your water bill in half.
If you want to try something a little more challenging you can try collecting and treating your own water. Rain-harvesting systems are becoming more common, as well as greywater recycling.
Think outside your home as well... landscaping should be done in a way that doesn't require irrigation, a good way to do accomplish this is through a principle called xeriscaping. Also, avoid using outdoor surfaces that are impervious to water as those surfaces disrupt the natural water cycle and are a detriment to stormwater management, which is why big cities with lots of concrete tend to flood from time-to-time - ie. Toronto.
There you have it!
If you aren't the type of person who is motivated to make sustainable choices because of the well-being of the planet, hopefully you will at least be convinced for the well-being of your pocketbook.
Save money, save the planet.
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