Considering rebuilding sustainably

Bushfire resistance and sustainable design often go hand in hand. Many of the characteristics of a BAL-rated or bushfire resistant home, such as gap sealing, airtightness and careful consideration of house orientation, are features of a thermally efficient sustainable home. The Green Rebuild Toolkit includes information on how to leverage bushfire resistant features for greater energy efficiency in the home, and vice versa. 

At Renew, we believe strongly in the need for our homes to be more energy efficient to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the impacts of climate change. And while many Australians agree with us, we understand that for people who have lost their homes to bushfire, affordability is a key concern. So is it possible to achieve a fire resistant home that is both sustainable and affordable?

Keep your costs down without compromising on design

In the Sanctuary article More affordable and more sustainable? Jenny Edwards, a Director and Scientist at Light House Architecture & Science, tests houses to help people tailor their renovation or retrofit budgets for maximum benefit. Here, she provides some tips to keep your costs down without compromising on good design:

Affordability and sustainability fit together perfectly! Through excellent design—use of natural light, connection to outdoors, smart integrated storage–a small footprint home can feel as big as, and function better than, homes with much larger floor areas.

To make a new home more sustainable:

→ The quality of the building envelope is vital. Insulate and draught seal. Do both of these things, as one without the other just doesn’t make sense.

→ Minimise your floor area through excellent design with no dead spaces – maximise space efficiency and functionality.

→ Think hard about how you want to live, what functions you want your home to be able to perform and design to achieve this brief without excess. The smaller the footprint the lower the upfront costs and embodied energy. The smaller the footprint the lower the running costs.

Dick Clarke discusses this further in his Toolkit article Designing a house for bushfire resistance and thermal performance. 

“I think that every single parent, and every family, deserves an affordable sustainable house.”

Iris House was built on a tiny budget to a high sustainability standard. This video details the house, and was made by the owner as part of Sustainable House Day 2020.

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