While we tend to think of energy efficient homes as a fairly recent phenomenon, did you know they actually date back to Roman times? Let’s take a look at how we’ve got to where we are today when it comes to creating more sustainable living spaces.
When the Romans were building their homes over 2,000 years ago, they made sure their drinking and washing water sources were kept separate. Drinking water came via aquifers, while water for washing was collected in cisterns, much like our modern water tanks.
When it came to heating, the Romans were also very efficient. The rooms and floors of their homes were raised by pillars that consisted of layers of tiles and concrete and the spaces around these pillars were filled with hot air that was blown from a constantly burning furnace. The air escaped through roof vents and wall flues, the latter having the added benefit of providing insulation for the walls, increasing the effectiveness of the heating.
The Romans were also conscious of the positioning of their homes, ensuring they faced south or south-west to take advantage of the sun. What’s more, they used a lot of recycled materials to build their homes, such as crushed pottery and metal from demolished homes.
Beyond Roman times
Jumping forward 1,200 years, the Anasazi Indians also considered the sun when constructing their homes. Built into south-facing cliffs, they benefitted from the warmth of the winter sun, but were protected from the higher sun during summer.
Race through time to the Industrial Revolution and you’ll find a scientist called Henri Becquerel, who was the first to observe solar energy being transformed into electrical energy through a process called photovoltaic power. Solar energy, however, remained small scale, as the use of fossil fuels was very affordable.
It wasn’t until the 1970s that people’s wallets started to take a hit with the increase in energy costs and the spotlight was turned onto sustainable housing once more. Solar panels became a viable option to provide energy to the home, however, they were initially very expensive, so the take-up was low.
The modern perspective
Today, we’re well aware of the need to make our homes more energy efficient, for the sake of both our bank accounts and the environment. So when you’re building a new home, what should you consider?
- Position it right
Like the Romans and Anasazi Indians, we should take care to position our homes to both take advantage of the sun and shield us from its ferocity. For most Australian locations, this means facing north. Not only will you enjoy winter warmth, but you’ll also maximise the amount of sun that reaches your solar panels. The right aspect will also ensure you benefit from any lovely cooling breezes at the end of a hot summer day.
While a perfectly positioned house is ideal, it’s not always possible, depending on your block. However, a reliable, experienced builder will be able to work with your needs and maximise any environmental advantages of your site.
- Keep it cool
Adding shade to the exterior of your home not only provides you with comfortable outdoor entertaining spaces, but it also keeps your home cool. And shade for your house comes in many forms. Consider planting deciduous trees that will give you shade in summer, but shed their leaves to let in that all-important winter sun. You can also add exterior blinds and shutters, and if space permits, shade sails are practical and stylish.
- Seal it off
One of the best ways to ensure an energy efficient home is to make sure it’s sealed in all the right places. Of course, if you’re building a new home with a reputable builder, this is part and parcel of the construction. You’ll enjoy wall and ceiling insulation and there won’t be any pesky draughts around the windows.
- Let there be light
One of the most beautiful aspects of modern Australian home design is the use of natural light – there’s nothing quite like stepping into a space that’s flooded with sunlight. While aspect is the first step to guaranteeing optimal natural light, talk to your builder about window placement. If you’re limited in terms of your block, remember that skylights can be a wonderful way to allow an otherwise dull space to be lovely and bright. And the benefits are threefold – you have the beauty of a radiant space, savings on electricity costs and a more environmentally friendly home.
- Make every drop count
As we’ve seen, given the Romans achieved water efficiency in their homes, there’s no excuse for us to waste a drop! Fortunately, rainwater tanks are a standard addition to new homes, so by building a new house you’ll be at the very least harnessing nature to water your garden. This is just one use for your tank, however, so talk to your builder about utilising rainwater for flushing your toilet and doing your laundry.
Thankfully, when you choose to build a modern home, a lot of the energy efficient choices are standard. Jones Homes are built using passive solar design that takes advantage of a building’s site, climate, and materials to minimise energy use. Jones Homes are also given a BASIX score, which provides you with peace of mind from an independent source and Jones Homes use the ABSA sustainability assessment certification to help clients understand how to best use their home to optimise energy efficiency.
Get in touch to find out more about the sustainable advantages of building a brand new home.