An Exercise in Eco-Friendliness
Regardless of differences in cultures and geographical locations, when you pull back to the macro level, we all share one home: our planet. Earth, in all its wonders and beauty, is a precious place. Unfortunately, it seems we can’t go a day without hearing about climate change and global warming devastating our environment. Nurtured and raised by Earth’s essence, many believe it us up to humanity to make strides towards sustainable, eco-friendly futures. If you’re one of those people, the first place we can start is at home – the place many of us spend most of our time. But where to begin? Well, dear readers, this article has you sorted, as Western Australia Home Design + Living’s Robin Harper sits down with the founder of Solar Dwellings, Griff Morris, to discuss how you can make your home sustainable for the future of planet Earth.
As individuals, making sustainable changes in our day-to-day lives might feel as though you are attempting to swim through sand. Global warming is a big problem that requires a big solution, but that doesn’t mean you still can’t make a difference, however minute it may seem in the grand scheme of things. If you’ve read this far, dear reader, then let’s assume you are interested in incorporating eco-friendly elements into your home, whether it’s the one you are currently living in, or one you’re planning for the future. Settle in, and let’s explore the multitude of ways sustainable living can improve your environmental impact.
Specialising in passive solar-designed homes, Griff Morris began his business back in 1991 and his company has successfully designed more than 1000 homes. It’s safe to say, Griff Morris is an expert when it comes to building sustainable homes. As such, he was asked to name a few characteristics that you’d typically in a sustainable, eco-friendly home. For Solar Dwellings, the team uses “thermal mass to keep the internal room temperature consistent throughout the year whilst the outside temperature moves up and down,” he says. This passive thermal technology ensures that you’re comfortable in your home regardless of the outside temperature – which means no need for doubling up on socks during winter!
While passive solar design is known to some, there are certain elements you may not have considered, such as house orientation, glazing, shading and landscaping. Flooring that’s exposed to the sun should be made of heat-absorbant material, such as tiles. Choosing its colour is also important as well. If you pick a colour that’s too light, it’ll reflect sunlight and cause issues. According to Griff Morris, Solar Dwellings regularly “position and size windows and doors to promote airflow throughout the home in summer”, ensuring that there is a healthy breeze to keep you cool and refreshed.
As another added bonus, eco-friendly living can also strengthen the longevity of your home. “Wet areas are designed to be low allergen, reducing the need for nasty chemicals to clean mould as they do not have the environment to grow,” he says. This is achieved through house orientation, ensuring that the house is facing north to allow sunlight to absorb moisture. The company’s homes are also designed for people with reduced mobility, the elderly and temporarily injured, as they enable you to move around freely and reducing the risk of trip hazards.
SAVE THE PLANET, SAVE THE WALLET
While reducing your carbon footprint is an honourable cause in its own right, there are also financial benefits to going sustainable. According to Griff Morris, “A passive solar-designed home uses less electricity and water to run, saving people money and the environment.” With energy and gas prices reaching new heights to accommodate for the temperature extremes that are gradually becoming our new norm, having these features incorporated in your home are well worth it in the long term. Mechanical heating and cooling account for 40 per cent of the energy use in the average Australian home, which means this large chunk of financial bleeding is best addressed sooner rather than later.
“Savings are generally the operational energy of the home and they can be reduced by 60–80 per cent without adding PVs,” he says. He adds that “if you add 4–6kW PV system – as most of our clients do – the home ends up being energy positive (no electricity bills).” Now there’s a thought! By implementing these changes, you can make a meaningful difference not only to the planet, but to your wallet as well.
Where extra costs are concerned, Solar Dwellings uses “basic building materials” for its homes to reduce the cost of the build overall. The company also uses clever design principles that aren’t too dissimilar from any other home of equal size and style. “The benefit is that it will cost less to run, which many of our clients then use the extra money to put in PVs, batteries, rainwater tanks, etc., which will further reduce their running costs,” says Griff Morris. With so many pros to implementing sustainable practices, you could very well do away with your energy bills altogether!
For many, the aesthetics of a home matter. While it may seem a bit superfluous when placed alongside all the benefits that come hand-in-hand with sustainable living, it is still important that the individual takes pride in their home. On that note, he says that Solar Dwellings “can design a house to suit any aesthetic, and over the years we have. We do recommend not to go with trends though, and to pick a style that you will like ten years from now.” After all, moving house because the one you built has gone out of style is “not sustainable”.
On top of sustainability, Griff Morris strives to ensure that each and every one of Solar Dwelling’s builds are designed for inclusivity. Whatever your needs, tastes or requirements, eco-friendly options are out there for you – so take charge of your environmental impact today!