What do you think is the most important aspect of building an Eco home?
The most important aspect is making sure the building is energy efficient to allow for sustainable living at a low cost by reducing use of electricity and water.
Where is an ideal site for building and what orientation would best suit that area?
A home that is designed to suit the topography of the land site and offers a connection to its environment i.e coastal, hills, etc. and make sure the living area is orientated on the North side.
What would be the best trees/ plants to plant outside of the house?
The best trees and plants are small to medium size native plants to maintain the eco system, and deciduous trees on the Northern side that provide shade in summer however, allows for natural light and warmth in winter.
What material is best used for the construction of an eco-home e.g. rammed earth, timber, etc.?
There is a choice of products such as Hebel, rammed earth, timber, haybales etc. The main aspect is the building techniques and using the best product for its orientation to increase passive heating and cooling; such as the reversed skin method with a sandwich of external BlueScope, wooden frame in the centre with insulation and then second-class bricks or type of sandstone/cement blocks on the inside.
What are some things I should consider when thinking about passive heating and cooling?
To have polished concrete or tiles for those rooms on the northerly aspect of the home. Good cross ventilation with fans and windows placed strategically through-out the home. Courtyards with a water feature which allows for air to be cooled before entering the room.
Is there any particular brand or product that is best for insulating an eco-home?
Polystyrene is very popular at the moment but there is also a product called EarthWool which offers a range of insulation properties and rating up to R-6.0; this product does not contain formaldehyde or artificial colours.
Where would be best to include this insulation in an Eco-home?
Wall cavities in interior and exterior walls, under the floor and in the roof.
What type of lighting would be best, besides natural lighting?
LED lights are low energy use, have different luminous ratings to suit different needs or rooms and have a long life if installed correctly. The initial cost can be the issue, however on a long-term basis, it certainly pays for itself by reducing electricity usage and bills.
What would you suggest for water supply? (rainwater, grey water, both?)
Depending on the State legislation for health reasons, filtered rainwater is possibly the best option if you have space to install a large rainwater tank above ground and/or underground. The benchmark is approximately 10,000 litres per person per year, on the condition that you manage well the use of water, reduce time in the shower, change some habits and have efficient taps, shower heads and toilet cistern.
Are there any other suggestions you could give me that would assist me in designing my eco home?
We urgently need to embrace the principles of sustainability quite generally. No aspect of our lives has more impact that the buildings we live in. We typically spend about half our life inside our dwelling. We cook, eat, relax, wash and sleep within our home. Domestic use accounts for a large fraction of the total energy and water requirements of our cities. Choose a builder and architect that believe in the principles of passive design for your home and believe in the benefits in designing a home that will work with its environment. It is an investment that pays long term for you and your community.