Increasing housing does not have to come with environmental costs
More than half of the land on Earth has been modified by humans either for cultivation or settlements. That may sound scary but for a fact, it’s only going to increase with increasing population and rapid urbanisation. We believe every change contributes towards a bigger outcome, as our little contribution we help our clients go through the development process by having a less impact on the environment. Here are some of the feasible approaches we take to minimize the environmental costs.
Storm Water Management
When talking about green infrastructure, drainage plays an important role in your property. New Zealand receives an average to medium rainfall throughout the year, that requires your property to be flood prone.To break it out, your property is going to comprise of two types of general surfaces; Impervious and Pervious. Impervious is the built coverage which does not allow the water to seep into the ground, while pervious surfaces does the opposite by helping the soil retain the water.
Most of the councils already have regulations on impervious surfaces in the resource consent process. The simplest way to increase drainage by more folds is by cutting down the driveways by smart design and making parking facilities pervious through porous pavers. There are many more opportunities to incorporate them into the developments after analysis.
Going through a proper design analysis for your property, we can try to completely eliminate the connection to the public stormwater connection saving you the rates and the environment. It has to be reviewed together by a civil engineer, urban planner and urban designer to support your consent to prove the council your good off grid.
Smaller Building Footprints
In addition to addressing the alleviating of the Auckland housing crisis, another greener approach is to minimise the building footprint. This means building housing typologies such as a semi-detached housing, terrace housing and small-scale apartments.
These houses are able to accommodate a higher density of people in a smaller area as well as saving resources and money for development compared to single houses. Auckland and Wellington are moving towards others housing typologies as it is a right step in addressing the housing crisis and minimising environmental impacts associated with intensification.
Green infrastructure is an approach to address urban environmental issues through building along with nature. It helps mitigate the effects of increased housing as it reduces storm-water run-off, supports ecosystems by providing a habitat for species, reduces air pollution and mitigates heat island effect.
> Prefabricated Houses
Prefabrication is taking over the construction industry. It is the new age construction method where components for framing and panelling are bought onto the site. It is usually constructed on piles which is a low impact construction technique which does not require any laying of the foundation. As the framing used is steel, the structure is strong enough to stand on piles thus reducing the damage to the ground. The panelling comes with premade insulation which reduces a lot of time, money which goes into construction.
> Low Impact Design
The interdisciplinary approach involves valuing natural systems and utilize them to manage stormwater in urban areas. It is a collaborative approach between planners, urban designer, engineers and ecologists to come with solutions like integrating biofiltration practices, clustering, catchment planning, minimising site impact and a lot more.
> Building materials
Construction and Demolition waste is one of the biggest problems our urban cities are facing. The proper ways to manage and produce them are being revisited slowly. There is a huge range of choice coming up from recycled materials which are affordable, durable and energy efficient. Pre-engineered materials like Metrapanel which is made from recycled pine wood is a good example.
> Urban Forests
Green roofs and walls are great for setting up microclimate in your house. But for cities fighting with heat island effect, there needs to be much more. Clearing forests to construct cultivation lands or housing is like stabbing nature in the back. Forests are essential for our ecosystems, they play an important role in sucking carbon, managing water and a habitat for wildlife. Urban forests need to be encouraged by taking in methods like agroforestry and climate resilient native forestry.
Onsite Water Treatment
We may not see it but New Zealand does have intense water pollution. Waterways which were safe to swim in are being closed down due to increased risk of chemical presence due to dairy farming and increasing capacity of wastewater and stormwater. We usually support onsite treatment where the regulation allows. Having three waters addressed on your site will make your property resilient.
New Zealand receives enough rainfall to cover you most of the time. There are rainwater barrels which go beneath your roofs or the new technologies like Aquacomb which give you a seamless outdoor space by pacing rainwater pods under your built area like your house or the driveway.
The water from your kitchen and bathroom faucets, showers and washing machine(only if you use biodegradable detergents) are not potent like your wastewater. They can easily be moderately filtered to use them in toilets for flushing or for the garden.
This applies if you live in the suburbs or have the opportunity to have a wastewater treatment system. There are wide varieties of systems available from underground treatment plants to natural systems if you have a natural slope in your property. From our experience, we have recommended it to quite a lot of clients who were about to pay a lot of money for extending wastewater connections into their property.
Energy Efficient Homes
In New Zealand, our primary energy source is hydroelectricity, while 25% is from non-renewable energy such as gas and coal. Though hydroelectricity is renewable, it does a lot of damage to our ecology by eroding soils, scattering the soil nutrients and destroying the plant and animals species. The increase in housing leads to an increase in usage of electricity from both hydroelectricity, gas and coal.There are several ways a home can be designed to be energy efficient.
> Find your North
We are placed in the southern hemisphere which means we receive sunlight from the north. Positioning rooms which are used through the day facing the north will help conserve energy by reducing the heating and lighting requirement.
> Housing footprint
Tiny Houses are becoming favourites for eco-conscious people around the world. Smaller homes with a smaller building footprint are more energy efficient compared to homes with a larger building footprint. Overall, they have a smaller carbon footprint compared to larger houses.
A home with good quality insulation leads to a home that can easily keep a home warm throughout the year, especially in winter. This makes homes energy efficient as less money is spent on heating. Good insulation should take place in ceilings, walls and underfloor according to the building code requirement.