Eco-design: What is it, and why is it so important?
Eco-design, sustainable design, green design- whatever you prefer to call it! They’re all about the same thing; building GOOD things in a GOOD way. Eco-design is not just a design approach, but it is rooted in principle. The principle that the world we live in is unique, precious, and deserves to be protected and maintained. This design approach, factors in the environmental impact of all the materials used over a project cycle. This means considering how they will one day be demolished and how those materials will impact the environment. Sustainable design also considers how the inhabitants of a space, will be affected by improving the building’s overall performance to make it suitable for the inhabitants, the planet, and future generations.
But why is eco-design so important?
Well, let’s consider the journey of our waste for a moment. When we are done with something, whether it’s a broken ball, a plastic sandwich bag, or retired construction materials, what do we do with it once we’re done? We throw it away, right? But away is not a destination you can mail a holiday card to; in actuality, what we do is merely send it to a landfill, which is not great. Did you know that construction and demolition waste makes up to 40-50% of New Zealand’s annual landfill waste!? That’s a lot. As our waste grows, our landfill availability dwindles- what do we do once it’s all gone?
Imagine if we had been building right all those years ago; we wonder how little that percentage could have been. Luckily know we know how to make homes and spaces with materials that:
A- Last longer
B- Break down over time due to their material make-up
But it’s not enough to simply know better; we have to do better too.
So, here’s a few eco-design features, tips, and tricks that you can implement to help reduce your impact on the planet!
Passive energy features
Passive energy features consider the location, direction, climate and materials of your house to minimise the amount of active energy required to run your household. Insulation and ventilation play a significant role here. Effective insulation and the incorporation of passive design principles can drastically reduce the need for active space heating. In some cases, it can even remove the need for additional heating entirely. Ventilation is merely considering how to best harness the natural ventilation available without a mechanical system’s support.
Active solar design
Active solar energy is something that you can choose to switch on or off and has capped consumption available. Active solar energy can be sourced from solar panels that convert the sun’s energy into a more useable form to power your home. So you can get on with your day, boiling the kettle or having a hot shower, whilst knowing that you harnessed the earth’s natural energy to do so.
Today there are more eco-materials than ever before! There is constantly new technology and further research taking place in this sector. So if you are looking to incorporate more eco-materials into your space, you could take a closer look at; stucco cement, fibre-cement, recycled plastic bricks, SIPS, bamboo, rammed earth, and straw bales.
Consider implementing a water conservation system(s) into your home if you want to reduce your carbon footprint. This could be a rainwater harvesting system, a greywater recycling system, or installing an energy recovery drain system.
Lastly, ask yourself, “Do I need this?”
New Zealanders, Aucklanders in particular, have somewhat fallen into the trap of “keeping up with the Joneses”. They are building grander, larger, and more extravagant homes when their dollar would be best spent creating a sustainable space for their benefit and the planets.