The right design decisions in relation to building form, home layout, levels of insulation, amount and orientation of glazing, utilisation of renewable energy, heating system, choice of construction materials and measures to conserve water, can contribute greatly to the sustainability of a home. In addition these decisions can lead to savings in running costs and make the home much more comfortable to live in.
Sustainability is generally considered to comprise three components, social, economic and environmental.
Improving the energy efficiency and comfort conditions of homes in a cost-effective way requires careful consideration of many issues at the design stage, such as compactness of design, orientation, thermal insulation and air change management. A well-designed sustainable home should not require the active management of the householder and should continue to deliver cost and comfort benefits throughout the life of the building. Consideration should also be given to the long-term maintenance required to maintain optimum energy efficiency, and the embodied energy of proposed materials or components. There are a number of grants available to improve the energy efficiency of our homes. More information on these grants can be found on the retrofitting and renovation page of our website.
The Building Energy Rating (BER) of a home, which must be supplied to the buyer or tenant when a building is constructed, sold or let, is a label containing the energy performance of the home, illustrated as an Energy Rating (A1, B1, B2, B3 etc) for the home. The BER also includes an estimation of the CO2 emissions associated with this energy use and an advisory report. Guidance and assistance on the sustainable use of energy is available from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI).
Since 1 November 2019, new building standards have applied to all new residential homes. New homes now typically require a Building Energy Rating of A2. New homes with this high level of energy performance are called Nearly Zero Energy Buildings (NZEB). NZEB homes are 70% more energy efficient and emit 70% less carbon dioxide than those built under the 2005 Building Regulations standards. The new standards result in new homes being more energy efficient and cheaper to heat, and also give health benefits through increased comfort and improved air quality. More information on these standards can be found on the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage website.
At the macro level, sustainable development can be achieved by:
- Mixed Tenure – integration and lack of social isolation can provide better educational and employment opportunities for all income groups
- More compact settlement – more local business become viable
- Improved permeability – increased footfall, boosting local business
- More compact settlement –retaining more land in agricultural use , reducing need for imports
- Mixed House types – facilitates options for older persons to live longer within their community thus reducing the need for full-time care
- More compact settlement – public transport becomes more commercially viable
- More compact settlement – more facilities become viable within walking distance (AFI have prepared a template in this regard to evaluate the suitability of locations for Age Friendly Housing (ref: link)
- Improved permeability – easier access, more facilities within walking distance
- Improved Quality of Public Realm – with perception of improved safety, walking and cycling become more attractive.