A contemporary ecoluxe house is one that makes the most of sustainable building practices to create a home that is truly in tune with its environment.
Today’s eco-friendly houses aren’t just sustainable, they’re smart. Installing technology that can monitor smart-home systems control light, heat, ventilation, sound, and even irrigation at the touch of a button is an ideal way to ensure energy and resources are not wasted, used more efficiently or even put back into the solar grid.
What are the other key features of an eco luxe home?
Sustainably sourced materials
Ecoluxe homes are built with building materials sourced from renewable, sustainable sources. Builders and architects are also favouring local suppliers more and more, which adds to the sustainability of their builds. The use of recycled and natural materials is encouraged wherever possible – from recycled brick to radially sawn timber and insulated cladding – as well as improved orientation of windows to gather the maximum amount of natural sunlight.
Additionally, any materials from older houses before a knock-down rebuild should be reclaimed and used throughout any new homes, such as hardwood flooring and framing timbers, benchtops and bricks.
Biophilic design is where architecture design connects building occupants more closely to nature. Biophilic designed buildings utilise natural lighting and ventilation, natural landscape features and other elements to create a more productive and healing spaces for a home’s occupants. The use of plants is also key to the biophilic approach.
The benefits are manifold – From maximizing natural energy which leads to the reduction of energy bills, to allowing for natural light diffusion that makes the best of nature’s temporal changes throughout the day to mimic our circadian rhythm. This and extensive plants and natural materials helps to link people to the outdoor environment keep residents on track with their natural 24 hour cycle. Maximizing natural light and changes throughout the day also enhances visual comfort.
Low VOC finishes and paints are those that contain less “Volatile Organic Compounds” (VOC) or VOC Solvents than traditional coatings.
High levels of VOC solvents contribute to the formation of pollution and reduce the indoor air quality. In order to minimise the level of VOCs released during construction, external bodies such as the “Green Building Council of Australia” (GBCA) established “Green Star” Industry Standards in order to control the level of VOC solvents that can be incorporated into various paints during manufacture.
The “Good Environmental Choice Australia” standard (GECA 23-2012) stipulates even tighter levels of VOC solvents allowable for products that wish to carry their stamp of approval.
As the environmental requirements continue to increase in the market, new paint technologies must therefore be developed in order to keep pace with this demand for quality and performance.
Low-E, or low-emissivity, glass was created to minimize the amount of infrared and ultraviolet light that comes through your glass, without minimizing the amount of light that enters your home. Low-E glass windows have a microscopically thin coating that is transparent and reflects heat. Low-E coatings keep the temperature in your home consistent by reflecting the interior temperatures back inside.
If you live in an extremely cold climate, the hard-coat Low-E glass may be an option for you, because it allows some of the sun’s short-wave infrared energy to pass through the glass. This helps to heat your home in the winter and allows the glass to reflect the interior long-wave heat energy back inside. However, if you live in a cold to hot climate, the soft-coat Low-E glass is best, since it offers better UV protection and has a better overall U-value. The soft-coat Low-E coating also reflects the warm and cool air back into your rooms instead of allowing it to leak outside.
Double-glazed windows and uPVC window frames
Double glazing improves sustainability because they effectively reduce the transfer of heat – the insulating gas in the void between the panes prevents heat from passing through. Simply put, this keeps your home cooler in summer and warmer in winter for reduced energy usage.
Additionally, uPVC windows and doors have thermal insulating properties which mean that you will use less energy to keep your home comfortable with cooling and heating. These windows and doors are made from materials which are completely recyclable so they are virtually waste-free.
Organic produce, waterwise gardens and water tanks
Gardening is a proven way to clear the mind and enjoy some fresh air and sunshine. And there’s an added benefit: You can eat your work. Vegetable gardens are as good for the planet as they are for the gardener and the dining room table. With increasing interest in organic produce, home vegetable gardens have become a feature of ecoluxe homes, where a scaled-down version of the “farm-to-table” concept goes right into the kitchen.
Organic gardening especially promotes the cycle of growth and decomposition that maintains healthy soil, and growing plants produce oxygen—as well as the ingredients for a farm-fresh salad. With enough space, an avid gardener can tend a grove of citrus or apple trees or even produce wine from a small vineyard. Like vegetable gardens, orchards surround a home with fresh air and greenery, offer natural shade, and perfume the air with the subtle fragrances of fruit and flowers.
Water shortages will become more common and we have to change our behaviour to reflect this reality. By adopting water-efficient garden practices we can ensure that our gardens continue to thrive and continue to provide their many benefits – creating habitat for wildlife, enhancing air quality and storing carbon, which helps to reduce the greenhouse effect.
Designing more water efficient gardens includes:
- Adding compost and manures to your soil that enrich the water retention capacity of your soil, which means there’s more water available for your plants.
- Mulching your soil which prevent it drying out, put nutrients into the soil and discourage weeds, which compete with your plants for vital water.
- Planting drought tolerant or dry land plants
- Choosing to use organic manures and fertilisers in your lawn and garden to stimulate beneficial soil organisms, reduce harmful wastewater run-off, and create a healthier place for your pets and children to play.
- Grouping plants according to their water needs to prevent water wastage
- Watering in the cool of the day i.e. in the early morning or evening is best as it avoids water loss due to evaporation from the sun and transpiration by plants.
- Capturing rainfall by installing a water tank.
Lighting is undergoing a radical change once again, thanks to advances in LED technology. LED bulbs are vastly more energy efficient than the filament bulbs of the 20th century, which means the carbon footprint of a home can be greatly reduced without switching off the lights.
The Dutch multinational corporation Philips, founded in 1891 and a global leader in LED lighting, even produces LED-powered luminous textiles called Kvadrat Soft Cells that can add an atmospheric glow to any interior without the need for a single fixture. And, of course, software, smart phones and their virtual thumbwheels can instantly change the intensity, temperature, color, and even the very moods of light—restoring the soft, romantic flicker and glow of ancient lamps and candles.
Ecoluxe homes tend to prioritise the use of materials that are free from harmful chemicals or effects, to make for a healthier living environment. The priority for low toxicity goes as far as the finishes used in the home, including the paints, sealants and varnishes.
Insulation and thermal mass management
Using efficient/passive heating and cooling strategies means making use of a building’s sun-facing aspects, maximising winter sunlight and summer cross-ventilation. This results in passive solar principles which mean that artificial heating and cooling of the interiors are unnecessary, aided by cutting-edge insulation, an exceedingly efficient airtight envelope and heat-recovery ventilation.
Eco insulation also involves using materials such as thermowood (from manufactures such as Lunawood), polished concrete floors and full-height brick fireplaces to provide ample thermal mass to regulate temperatures throughout the year. Any timber-framed walls need to be fully insulated and then lined externally with fibre cement sheeting, followed by additional insulation and finishing cladding.
Even better is the adoption of an air-tight design, clever insulation, efficient appliances and a natural heating and cooling system. Installing a solar-powered system would potentially increase the amount of natural energy an ecoluxe home actually uses, making it net energy positive.
Bold new materials
Builders, architects and homeowners with a passion for sustainable homes should embrace and be bold with new materials, such as hempcrete, a natural, textural material used for both construction and insulation.
Bamboo is now also on the list of trends in construction. Bamboo has a related appearance to traditional wood while having a harvest cycle of only three years, compared to a standard tree with a harvest cycle of 25 years. You can help slow down the rate of deforestation by giving trees time to grow back by choosing bamboo as an alternative. In addition, you can use bamboo in other interior designs, such as for antechambers and mudrooms. Not only does it help lessen the rate of deforestation, but its unique and natural appearance adds a fresh aesthetic to any room.
There’s also adobe bricks – made from earth, water and dung/straw which may sound unimpressive (or even a bit gross). But, these common and eco-friendly ingredients make it one of the most sustainable building materials around!
Bio-plastics – semi-synthetic plastics that are derived from plants, including corn, sugar beets and castor beans – are another hot material at the moment and many single-use plastic items are now being manufactured from all manner of bio-plastics in place of traditional petroleum based plastics.
The concept of an eco-friendly lifestyle is ever evolving to ensure we live longer, healthier and more in harmony on Planet Earth. To create the best ecoluxe edens we can, we need to find the perfect balance: living mindfully within nature.
Have you introduced sustainable and eco luxe building principles into your home renovation or new build? Or are there any that you would like to include in the future? Tell us all about them in the Comment section below.
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