What is the True Cost of Sustainable Homes?

Many people are becoming more aware of their environmental impact thanks to recent news articles highlighting things like carbon footprints, heat energy wastage, and recycling. Unfortunately, most houses haven’t been built to be environmentally friendly, meaning they are full of non-sustainable materials and inefficient insulation. There are many schemes in place to help homeowners upgrade their homes to be greener, but they can only scratch the surface of the problem.

However, there are also a number of options for building your own new sustainable home. Sustainable homes take advantage of green technologies and use natural features to provide heat and light, thus reducing electronic usage. They are more expensive to build than a traditional house and the size of their impact will depend on the location as much as the materials used, but the money saved in the long run – plus the priceless reduction to your environmental impact – can make them a smart investment.

Benefits of Sustainable Housing

  • More energy efficient – green buildings are designed to use the sun for natural warmth and are well insulated so less heat escapes. Other features like solar panels, water butts, and low-flush toilets also help to maximize their energy efficiency.
  • Made of recycled or natural materials – sustainable houses are often made of wood because there’s no processing involved in its manufacture and it’s a renewable source. They can also use eco-friendly cement, bricks made from earth, or recycled steel, like these freestanding steel huts.
  • More natural light – greenhouses are designed to use as much natural light as possible so will have large windowpanes to let in as much as possible. The sun is also used for heat, so the windows should be south facing in order to collect as much as possible. More natural light helps you sleep better, can combat SAD (seasonal affected disorder), and increases your vitamin D intake.

Costs of Sustainable Housing

A recent report by the Rocky Mountain Institute estimated the cost of building a sustainable house to be between $240000 and $26000, with about 60% of that cost going into the construction itself. And it’s not just the raw materials, this also includes the internal appliances and finishes.

Eco-friendly homes shouldn’t just be made of recycled materials, they need to help their occupants use less energy on a daily basis, so sustainable homes must be fitted with energy-saving appliances, and these are typically a higher cost item. But this does mean that energy bills will be reduced, so the extra cost upfront guarantees a long-term saving.

Downsides of Sustainable Housing

  • Needs the right location – to take full advantage of natural sources of heat and light, you need to be very specific about where your house is built. Without tree cover, some rooms will be unbearably hot, while a lack of south-facing windows will mean that the rooms don’t get the heat they need.
  • Inside air temperatures vary – because sustainable houses use heat from the sun for the warmth it’s very difficult to control the internal climate. Some rooms will be warm in the morning, others in the evening, and this will be different in summer and in winter. If you live in an area where temperatures vary a lot between the seasons, this could cause issues.
  • Must have specialist constructors – greenhouses built from recycled and sustainable materials use different construction techniques than regular houses. They need qualified tradespeople who are trained in eco-construction, meaning you might have to wait a while to find a company that can fit you into their schedule. Specialist skills also carry a higher price tag, so you’ll have to factor this into your construction costs too.

Sustainable housing has a bigger impact on your wallet in order to have a smaller impact on the environment. But this initial outlay will be recouped in savings on energy bills over the long term, and you will be helping to lower your impact on the environment and reduce harmful emissions.

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