Claire L Cardwell in Design & Sustainability Network, Architects and Technicians, beBee in English Writer (The Naked Architect) • Blue Designs (+27 82 399 0180 / +27 66 232 3676 - WhatsApp) Jan 31, 2017 · 4 min read · +900

Building Green? Here's some tips.

Building Green?  Here's some tips.

In South Africa we have had 2 years of unusually warm weather and a drought.  The coal reserves are set to run out by 2020.  It is now vitally important to be environmentally aware and active.  

According to the Zero Energy Project, the construction and operation of buildings accounts for 40% of all energy used in the USA.  Fortunately more and more building professionals have noted the harmful effects and have developed strategies for creating greener buildings.

In order to have a green home you need to cut costs when needed.  This means using less electricity and trying to eliminate products that have a negative impact on the environment. Often many cost-effective ways of going green are forgotten.

 Here are some of the top reasons why you should choose to go green in your household for the sake of your budget.

1. You eliminate the stress that comes when you pay high utility bills every month.

2. You can use the money saved for holidays or special occasions.

3. You will reduce your carbon footprint.

4. You will be living in a much healthier environment.

The first step is to hire a green contractor to build your house.  Be careful to check their credentials, many people are 'au fait' with green building jargon, but are not qualified to build a sustainable, energy efficient house.

There are certain elements and home features that contractors use to construct eco-friendly homes. Here are some excellent home building ideas to consider:

1. Location, Location, Location :  When choosing a plot or buying a property take note of the house / plot orientation - avoid building/buying a West facing home.  I've lived in West facing house and even in the winter it got unbearably hot.  Avoid building a house in an environmentally sensitive area such as earthquake or hurricane prone areas or near a flood plain.  Check if public transport is easily available and that schools and local shops are not far away.  This means that you will not need to drive everywhere and travel time will be reduced.

2. Size Matters : A small house built with eco-friendly techniques is going to have a much lower environmental impact than a large home.  A big house is going to cost a lot more to heat and cool.

3. Insulation :  Insulation is the most important factor to consider when building a green home.  Heating and Cooling account for about 50% of your home's energy bills.  40% of all heat lost is through your homes walls, so it's worth looking at building cavity walls (if you are building with brick) or installing insulation under plaster boards.  Be careful about air leaks around windows, doors and ducts - air leaks are responsible for a lot of heat loss.  Properly installed insulation will not only reduce your energy consumption, but will reduce your electricity bills substantially.

4. Choose Sustainable Materials : Some materials have a much lower impact on the environment than others based on such aspects as how they’re harvested, their amenability to recycling or decomposition in landfills. 

Some of the top sustainable building materials include :

· Bamboo, Linoleum or cork flooring

· Wool bricks

· Solar tiles

· Paper or cellulose insulation

&  Triple-glazed windows

5. Choose Materials & Appliances that Boost Efficiency : It's vital to keep an eye on the environmental impact of your house after it's been built. Many Appliances and materials will make your home more energy efficient.  They include :

· Programmable thermostats, which significantly reduce heating and cooling consumption

· A high-efficiency, Energy Star-rated HVAC system

· Energy Star-labeled appliances and fixtures

6. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle:  Try and reuse old material such as windows, wood floors and doors in your new home.  Recycled materials like glass, aluminium, recycled tiles, reclaimed timber and recycled plastic can be used in Green Building.  It's also worth checking out Architectural / Building Salvage yards.  You can often get great bargains and contribute to saving the planet at the same time!

7. Install Solar Panels:  Solar Energy is a clean and renewable source of energy.  Solar Panels may be expensive at first, but the long-term savings you will make are an amazing example of the benefits of going black to green.

8. Rainwater Harvesting Systems and Tankless Water Heaters:  It's worth installing a rainwater harvesting system.  The water can be used for flushing toilets, washing your car and watering your garden.

With tankless water heaters you don't have to wait for your geyser to heat the water you need. Tankless water heaters only use the water that is required - it passes through an electric coil. This means that excess energy costs are eliminated as you don't have to keep a tank of water constantly hot and you get more attic space from eliminating your geyser.

10. Water Conserving Fixtures: Low flow taps, toilets and shower heads are a few of the ways you can cut your water consumption.  Also buy washing machines and dishwashers that are water and energy efficient.  It's also worth looking at installing a grey-water recycling system. The Grey Water can be used to flush toilets and for irrigation.

11. Eco-Friendly Lighting:  Both LED and CFL Lights cost more initially, but use considerably less energy and last a lot longer than the traditional incandescent light bulbs.

12. Efficient Landscaping: Shady landscaping can protect your home from direct sunlight during the summer.  Planting trees on the Northern (Southern in the Northern Hemisphere) and Western side of your home will keep your house cooler.  In the Winter when trees shed their leaves they will allow more sunlight to reach your home.

And finally : 

How to Become Greener in your Household :

Some people think that going green is going to be difficult and expensive.  However there are some very simple ways of saving energy such as :

Turn off any lights and appliances when you don't use them.

Remember to unplug appliances or switch them off at the wall.  Leaving appliances such as TVs and Computers in hibernation mode will eat energy.  Also make sure that you do not leave your cell phone charger plugged in when you have finished with it. 

Only buy recyclable containers and re use plastic containers for food storage.

Initially building a green home can be more expensive, however in the long term it will save you a lot of money.  In addition there are many health benefits to living in a green home, you will sleep better and cognitive performance is greatly enhanced.  By creating a green home you will be passing on the importance of environmental issues to your children and the rest of your family.

I am originally from the UK and moved to South Africa in 1999.  I started Blue Designs in 2004 after working as for Avalon Construction on a luxury home in the Featherbrook Estate.  In my spare time I am a keen artist and photographer.

I love Architecture. I think it's vital to talk about all aspects of Architecture - whether it be planning, construction, design or green building. I have written 3 E-Books & over 110 articles. Please feel free to let me know if you have any queries regarding architecture, planning & construction & I will assist you.

I can be reached on +27 11 025 4458 (mobile landline) or at

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I've started two new Hives - please feel free to join!

Other Articles I've written on Green Building & Sustainability : -

Sources : -

frances taylor Dec 1, 2019 · #21

Hey,I read the post entirely and couldn’t help thanking you for sharing with us this piece of informative resource. Could you please explain the solar Energy is a clean and renewable source of energy a little more, so I can enhance the knowledge base of our community website course, you can do it in another post! Any effort appreciated!

Claire L Cardwell Mar 2, 2017 · #20

@Preston 🐝 Vander Ven - even small changes like not leaving your T.V. etc. on standby can make a huge difference. My Dad once told me that leaving devices on standby and phone chargers plugged in all the time can add at least 15% to your energy bill a month!

Preston 🐝 Vander Ven Mar 1, 2017 · #19

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Claire L Cardwell Mar 1, 2017 · #18

Me too @Preston 🐝 Vander Ven! Even the small changes we can make re our water usage and using LEDs rather than incandescent lights will go a long way to saving our planet.

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Preston 🐝 Vander Ven Feb 27, 2017 · #17

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Lisa Gallagher Feb 5, 2017 · #16

#15 Thanks @Claire 🐝 Cardwell, interesting and extremely informative. I had no idea air conditioning began in 1902!

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Claire L Cardwell Feb 1, 2017 · #15

@Lisa 🐝 Gallagher - I've just spotted this link :- The end of air conditioning? Asia architects use green solutions to cool buildings

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Claire L Cardwell Feb 1, 2017 · #14

Thanks for the share @Lisa 🐝 Gallagher! Have an awesome day!