With resources becoming scarcer and climate change looming, it is important to consider the effect we have on the environment. If you are considering building or buying an eco home in 2014, then here's a list of top trends in eco home construction for you to take onboard.
The word 'smart' has become synonymous with innovation and technological advance; from Smartphones and Smart TVs to Smart cars. However, one of the latest pieces of Smart technology to emerge is the Smart Thermostat. One of the new eco home trends, these devices learn about the way you like to heat your home based on the temperatures you set. After a week or so, it will automatically manage the temperature, adapting to the way the occupants of your home behave. For example, if everyone leaves the house, the thermostat will reduce the temperature to a more energy efficient level. These devices are capable of reducing waste by a great deal, making them a must for eco homes. Some manufacturers even allow you to control the temperature when you are out using a Smartphone app.
Of the new eco home trends, this one is by far the most unique. Compost toilets are designed in a way that they require little or no water to function, and as the name suggests, they produce compost instead of sewage. These toilets vary in design but most work through the use of two chambers; one in use, and the other to store waste products and turn them into compost. After a year, the composting chamber is emptied and swapped with the chamber that is in use. Although they can save an enormous amount of water, it is important to ensure that the chambers are properly ventilated and maintained; unless you want to risk an odorous apocalypse! It is advisable to design and build an eco-home with a Compost Toilet instead of installing one in an existing property. This is due to the cost of installation, maintenance, and the size of the system.
Large scale systems over small improvements
A change in the design philosophy of eco homes is currently taking place. Instead of implementing smaller improvements piecemeal, construction companies are now thinking about the larger picture: designing homes with large systems in place to reduce waste and increase efficiency. This is one of the more encouraging eco home trends, as it means that homes are now being designed with energy efficiency in mind, instead of as an afterthought. This changing culture in the construction industry means that newer houses are likely to be more energy efficient than older properties, which is something to consider if you wish to buy an eco home. Alternatively, if you are looking to build an eco home, look for a construction company that embraces this trend.
Passive House certification
An example of a large-scale system is constructing or improving a home to become a Passive House. Homes that are considered Passive Houses are built with passive energy saving methods in mind, maintaining a comfortable temperature with the smallest energy input possible. An example of a Passive House system could be building strategically in shaded locations, to ensure the building stays cool in the summer. The International Passive House Association assesses buildings and maintains the Passive House standard. Homes that adhere to the Passive House requirements can be assessed by the organisation, and certified if they fulfil the requirements. If approved, you will receive a plaque which indicates your building is highly efficient.
The New Zealand Green Building Council can provide Homestar ratings for eco homes. Similar to ratings provided by LEED in the USA, and the UK’s Code for Sustainable Homes, Homestar ratings give an indication of the environmental impact of a given building. This can be a useful indicator of how eco-friendly your home is, and a good Homestar rating can even increase the value of your property. Homestar provides a variety of assessment methods for your property, from online assessment, to having a specialist visit your property and perform a personal assessment. These new environmental rating boards are representative of a worldwide effort to reduce waste, and will only become more important as resources become scarcer.
Across the world, governments are also realising the importance of conserving resources. The New Zealand government is currently running a scheme called Warm up New Zealand; in which those vulnerable to illnesses related to cold weather can request insulation to be installed for free in their homes. Although this may not apply to you at the moment, it is important to note that other governments are running similar schemes to improve the energy efficiency of homes. For example, the UK government provides grants to those in the north of the country to improve the energy efficiency of homes. As the demand for resources grows, governments will have no choice but to begin programmes such as these, so it is important to look out for government incentives and rewards for eco-friendly building.