Your Home. A Manual For Environmentally Sustainable Housing (Book Review)
Image credit: yourhome.gov.au
At over 350 pages, Your Home is a formidable tome, but it does cover all the bases, from the usual suspects of green homes, such as insulation and solar orientation to rainwater harvesting and double glazing. But it also comprehensively details myriad other aspects of building a home, that other mainstream publications might not include, the ilk of strawbale, mud brick and rammed earth wall constructions, design for bushfire prone areas, and even adaptable design, like when the inhabitants become noisy teenagers, or develop mobility issues needing walking aids or wheelchairs. There is little about good housing design that is missing from this book, which is written in simple, easily understood, plain English.
The content of Your Home is derived from some of the best minds and most experienced hands in Australian green building. But its accessible nature means that it is as relevant to home buyers as it to construction practitioners. Whilst localised for Australia, the bulk of material in the book is relevant the world over. Plus, the whole thing is also available free on the web.Back in 2001, The Australian commonwealth government funded the Institute for Sustainable Futures to produce a document accessible to everyday Australians, so they could have down-to-earth information on environmentally sustainable homes. The Alternative Technology Association, a member of the steering committee sent us a review copy of the recently minted Fourth Edition of 'Your Home', which includes some updates.
Let's say up front that we think this is probably the most useful $50 anyone thinking of building green could spend. Buy a copy from the ATA here.
Alternatively, if recycled and FSC certified paper is not your thing, then the entire book has been reproduced as website information sheets, for free.
With that plaudit out of the way, let's cherry pick some excerpts, to try and give a sense of book.
"The average Australian household emits around 14 tones of greenhouse gases per home each year."
"Draught sealing around doors and windows can save up to 25 per cent of heat losses and gains in may climate zones."
"Decreased motor vehicle use and increased use of public transport, cycling and walking are vital to creating a healthy, liveable city, now and fir future generations."
"You may have an energy efficient home but still be a high energy household if you rely heavily on your car. Transport is a crucial ingredient in the good design of homes, neighbourhoods and cities."
"Choosing an appropriate size for your home is the most important step in controlling its economic and environmental impact."
An indigenous garden requires much less watering and provides a link between your home and ecosystem in which you live."
"Design for adaptability ... increases the building's serviceable life span prior to remodelling, with associated financial, energy and material savings."
"Unprotected glass is often the single greatest source of heat gain in a home."
"Passive cooling is the least expensive means of cooling your home."
"Air leakage accounts for 15 to 25 per cent of winter heat loss in buildings."
"The single most important factor in reducing the impact of embodied energy is to design long life, durable and adaptable buildings."
"Up to 40 per cent of waste generated by Australians is building waste."
"... opportunities for cost effective inclusion of sustainable features decline exponentially throughout the design process. Up to 90 per cent of critical decisions are made during the design phase."
And we'd barely begun to scratch the surface of this highly informative book.
Remember if felled trees are not your cup of tea, the entire 350+ pages are available at: Your Home - Design for Lifestyle and the Future
More Australian Sustainable Housing
• Zero Emission House: A First for Australia?
• Australia's First Green Star Social Housing Project
• Hemp Houses for Australia