A 2022 perspective on sustainable houses with Altereco

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When we say ‘sustainable living’, many of us immediately call to mind tiny houses, compost toilets and veggie patches – but the team at Altereco Design has a more holistic approach. This approach prioritises not just the health of our environment but the health of those living in the house. They believe that a sustainable house actually works to sustain you. Director of Altereco Design, James Goodlet, explains their take on sustainability, “With so much of our lives spent in our homes, it should be as sustainable to its occupants as possible. Effectively I mean a healthy and comfortable environment.”

The problem with ‘sustainable’.

Just like ‘organic’ and ‘artisan’, what does ‘sustainable’ really mean these days and who is responsible for it? Kind of, no one. That’s why the team at Altereco Design are so passionate about being clear on what sustainable home build and design choices are and how they can be implemented into regular everyday lives in a meaningful way.

Sustainable to James is, “to be long lasting and enduring without being detrimental to, or degenerative.” He continues, “A house that provides a healthy and comfortable space for its occupants. It is also a building that takes into consideration its demands on natural resources in its construction and lifecycle, minimising long-term effects on the environment and finite resources.”

There are four key things the team at Altereco Design considers at the beginning of a new build or renovation project:

Health

Key factors influencing the health of home-dwellers are air quality and presence or likelihood of mould.

James tell us that “25% of the population live with asthma or allergies, plus over 50% of 

Australian households have mould growth issues, and to top it all off, a poorly ventilated home can have levels of CO2 that are 2-3 times higher than what is deemed ‘safe’.” 

Now that sounds pretty horrifying, and it helps to explain why the health factor is one that Altereco Design considers the top priority for their projects. James continues, “It’s clear to me that a significantly high proportion of houses in Australia do not embrace the occupants with a safe and healthy environment.”

Considerations: 

  • insulation to better control moisture within the home. 
  • Specify low-toxicity materials and finishes. 
  • Lowering VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and other potentially harmful particles. VOCs are most commonly present in paints and flooring finishings.

 

Comfort

An issue especially important for Australians, is the house comfortable in both cold and hot times of the year? James adds, “when I think about sustainable living, I think about the environment in which we live, and how well does it harbour a good quality of life?” 

A ‘sustainable’ home in terms of comfort will withstand climatic extremes. Those struggling to sleep in the heat or cold, for example, have a problem here. That is to say, if you can’t sleep properly or enjoy spending time inside, your house is not a comfortable place to live and therefore does not sustain a good quality of life.

Considerations: The home’s orientation, layout, materials and insulation.

Energy

Is the energy source and consumption in the home efficiently and what  its long-term effects on the environment are. Getting houses off gas and total dependency of the grid (if practical) is ideal here, but the overall goal is to minimise energy use overall through clever design and building.

Considerations: 

  • Energy options like solar are great given the Australian climate offers lots of sunshine. 
  • Purchase through Energy retailers with a renewables program and Carbon Neutral policy. 
  • Batteries are becoming a viable option too, storing energy created during the day for use later, especially at peak times

Materiality

This looks at both the materials used and their ability to last and perform functionally. Sustainability means ‘long-lasting’, creating spaces that don’t need constant updates or re-dos, using more and more resources. It encompasses both using materials that are sourced sustainably, are fit for purpose and will last the distance.

Considerations:

  • Set high standards in the sustainable materials you use to build and expectations from the trades you choose to engage. 
  • Re-use and repurpose wherever possible.

Eco friendly kitchen with wooden beams, white cabinetry and breakfast bar

How can I make my home more sustainable?

It can be overwhelming at first, not knowing where to start. Especially if you’re not planning on a full renovation of your home. Firstly start with low hanging fruit – like choosing an energy retailer that aligns with your environmental values. 

Then, depending on the condition of your home and how it performs for you, decide whether you’d prefer to minimise your environmental footprint, or just focus on making your home more healthy and comfortable to live in. Even if you’re looking to do both, picking one priority is a good place to start.

A team like Altereco Design will be able to help with a holistic plan that brings together a multitude of small changes that affect big changes to a home. Did we mention that their designs are equally gorgeous as they are sustainable?

Check out more Altereco Design’s work and more information about their approach. 

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Marika Berney
Marika Berney
Marika is the Marketing & Communications Manager at Homely and property enthusiast. Homely is an industry-backed platform with user-friendly property listings, millions of helpful suburb reviews from locals and agent profiles to help better connect homeowners with the resources they need to sell, buy and lease.

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