A number of projects I am working on start at the ‘We want to fit such-and-such devices and have this-and-that technology on the roof and want to use a so-and-so system’.
I think overall that you’ll get a better result to specify sustainability into your building project if you start at the beginning with a few succinct questions.
1. What is your capital budget?
2. What are you household energy costs in our current home?
3. What is your interpretation of sustainability?
Then the discussion can move forward to find the right solution for the specific project. To me, sustainability is beautifully encapsulated in this quote:
“..by meeting our needs today, we don’t compromise the ability of future generations to meet their needs”
(From the Brundtland Commission) report Our Common Future, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987).
It could also just as easily apply to the banking crisis or the quality of education as to environmental issues.
So, sustainable building does not mean ‘zero’ everything, it means balancing the design far better than in the past. It includes the budget, it includes cost management and it includes the practical matter of living in the property.
If you want to achieve a sustainable building within a budget, then first of all let’s develop a list of targets in terms of budget, running costs then the carbon and energy performance.
I like to use ‘Essential’, ‘highly desirable’ and ‘preferred’ levels to set and compare for example, with Code for Sustainable Homes. Once these target levels are agreed and in place we can talk about how best to meet them and which mix of technologies will do that best.
Sometimes good insulation and a high efficiency gas boiler might be all you need!
I’d like to hear your views on designing for sustainable building, please comment.