The following guest blog post is by Caroline Pidcock, a 1MW Ambassador and Sustainable Architect

Imagine if your new home can contribute to the creation of a visionary path to a restorative future.

Imagine if your home is designed and constructed as elegantly and efficiently as a flower: informed by its bioregional characteristics, generating its own energy and renewable resources, capturing and treating all its own water, and operating efficiently and for maximum beauty.

This is what the Living Building Challenge aims to achieve. See:

The following list of possible actions has been developed using the Living Building Challenge framework. This will be the first of 2 blog posts…in this post we will focus on:

  • SITE

SITE – restoring a healthy co-existence with nature


When considering the location and site for your new home, you should try to select a site that has already been developed and disturbed. You have the opportunity to use the project to help restore the site and improve the local area.
Map out surrounding habitats, ecological patterns and plants. Understanding and working with existing systems will help you to maintain and enhance as much as possible.
Consider opportunities for growing food on site. In recognition of future capacity to feed ourselves in a responsible way, projects should integrate opportunities for growing food wherever possible. Options include:-        garden beds

–        green walls

–        green roofs

–        pots for balconies

–        community gardens

Try to chose to live somewhere close to the facilities you regularly use, and/or on good public transport routes or bicycles / pedestrian paths.We need to encourage communities that are based on the pedestrian rather than the car, which will allow you to engage more with the communities you are in, keep healthier and spend less time and money on travel.

Design simple and convenient bike storage solutions. This will help with reducing your car usage by making cycling an easy option.
Consider using car share schemes instead of owning your own car. These schemes can be very convenient and cost effective, and help to reduce car use by making it user pay focused.
Design in facilities to assist you to work from home. Minimising the need to travel assists in reducing car usage. Talk with your architect about ideas for desks, storage etc.

WATER – creating water independent sites, buildings and communities


Review your past water bills. This information will be useful to help understand your current patterns and give a starting point for understanding what might be required in the future.
Identify options for harvesting water on site, including rainwater capture, recycling and non-chemical treatment. This will identify how much water will be available for use (including the different grades) to enable the project to be water self-sufficient.

Identify options for reducing quantities of water required including water efficient appliances, replacement with waterless options and low water landscapes. This will be needed to help shape the demand side of water usage that will be required to meet the water budget for the site.

Confirm total water cycle system for the building and the site and how this will impact on the wider area. This will be required to help design a system that will enable the proposal to contribute positively to the maintenance and/or restoration of the natural hydrology of the land.

ENERGY – relying only on current solar income


Review your past electricity and gas bills. This information will be useful to help understand your current patterns and give a starting point for understanding what might be required in the future.
Identify options for harvesting renewable power on site or nearby. This might include solar, wind, geothermal and waste heat/coolth. This will set the energy budget that the project will need to achieve the ultimate aim of net-zero energy use over a year.Gas (a fossil fuel) and wood burning are not deemed renewable forms of energy.
Identify where you will need to use energy in the project. You will need to work through these requirements and options that will enable you to meet the energy budget.
Carefully consider the orientation of the building to optimise and manage the potential solar gain and prevailing winds. Addressing these basic issues does not have to cost any money and can have significant impacts on the natural comfort and enjoyment of the home, as well as the energy requirements for addressing inadequacies.
Identify options for optimizing the building envelope’s performance. This can include appropriate:- specification and location of insulation

– amounts and placement of thermal mass

– amounts, types and framing for glazing

These will be required in association with orientation to optimise the comfort of the home with minimal energy input.
After designing the house correctly and getting all occupants to dress appropriately, identify energy efficient options for any supplementary heating and cooling that might be required.A t-shirt in summer and a jumper in winter can often be all that is needed to achieve comfort. Ceiling fans can help move air and create comfort in summer. Additionally, they can be reversed to help move the warm air from the ceiling to where the occupants are.

After these simple initiatives have been implemented, the more efficient systems such as solar heated hydronic heating should be considered.
Identify options for reducing quantities of energy required for the operation of the building, including- hot water

– lighting

– appliances such as fridges, TVs, computers etc.

These are the major items in your home requiring energy, and can have a big impact on the energy budget. More efficient versions are being developed every day.
Design in smart switching so that stand-by power requirements can be reduced. This is a very simple way of reducing up to 10% of the power consumption of the house, without changing actual usage patterns.
Design suitable places for naturally drying clothes. This can remove the requirement of the large amounts of energy used by dryers. Additionally, it is better for your clothes and linen making them last longer.
Confirm if a swimming pool is really required, and if so identify the most efficient equipment to operate. Pools are highly energy intensive as their pumps and filtration systems require constant power input. Natural pools might be an option, but require additional area and are difficult to cover so as to reduce water loss.

Hope you enjoyed these ideas… next post will be focusing on:

  • HEALTH – maximising physical and psychological health and well being

  • MATERIALS – endorsing products and processes that are safe for all species through time

  • EQUITY – supporting a just, equitable world

  • BEAUTY – celebrating design that creates transformative change


  1. Pingback: Part 2 – SUSTAINABLE DESIGN CONSIDERATIONS FOR HOMES…By Caroline Pidcock |·

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