16 Tips for an energy-efficient and beautiful home | General

Operating from two branches located in two of South Africa’s major destinations (Cape Town and Johannesburg), Francois Marais Architects has been concluding projects and wowing clients with first-rate design solutions since the company was established in 1996. Services like architectural designs and additions and alterations also serve to enhance the reputation that Francois Marais Architects has built for itself over the years.

Today, Francois Marais Architects still continues impressing via luxurious designs and beautiful houses, but also via energy-efficient and green-star rated buildings for the commercial- and residential industries. And that just so happens to be what we’re focusing on today.

Energy-efficient designs is another factor which makes Francois Marais Architects stand out from competitors, for the firm is dearly devoted to including eco-conscious features along with a firm dose of luxury in their high-class designs. And since these architectural experts seem to get it right every time, we thought we’d delve into the world of energy-efficient homes (and how to build a new home that is affordable to build and costs less to own) while being inspired by some of Francois Marais Architects’ finest examples.

1. Choose energy efficient lighting

The exterior A4AC Architects Small houses Solid Wood Beige

Of course, there are rules when it comes to building container houses, like the fact that zoning permits need to be obtained. And of course, every region will have its own sets of rules, meaning some research on your part to understand all the regulations before you start building. And remember that you will also need a vacant piece of land in order to set your container-home dreams into motion.

And with plots in popular areas priced lower than existing house prices, even when taking into consideration the costs of building a container home (plus its interior/exterior extras like built-in cupboards, elegant sliding doors, etc.) this type of construction certainly makes sense to many people.

2. Reconsider your electrical stove

 

Since electrical stoves use a lot of energy, maybe it’s time to switch to a good gas model? They’re cheaper to operate, seeing as the cost of gas (used in cooking) is less than the equivalent costs of electrical usage.

3. Save energy while cooking

Residence Harris FRANCOIS MARAIS ARCHITECTS Modern kitchen

Scope around for pots and pans that conserve and retain heat better. Always keep the lids on while cooking, and consider investing in a decent pressure cooker to cook your food a bit longer (perfect for popping dinner in and coming home to a nice, warm meal).

4. Minimise your geyser guzzling energy

ULTRA MODERN RESIDENCE FRANCOIS MARAIS ARCHITECTS Modern bathroom

Switch to solar geysers which use sunshine to heat water. Although those initial installation costs can be expensive, you’ll save / earn your money back shortly.

If this is too pricy an option, how about getting a timer for your geyser to switch it off when not in use?

5. Conserve energy with your kitchen appliances

Richly detailed FRANCOIS MARAIS ARCHITECTS Modern kitchen

Allow your beautiful house's modern kitchen to help you cut down on energy use by installing AAA or A+ energy-rated appliances like a washing machine, fridge, and dishwasher.

6. Consider solar tempering

Bedforview Alterations FRANCOIS MARAIS ARCHITECTS Modern living room

Allowing sunshine to filter indoors via south-facing windows in wintertime cuts down on heating costs. And shading those same windows come summer does the same for cooling expenses.

With solar tempering, which should be addressed in a house’s design stage, the incoming sun’s heat is optimised without inviting the additional costs of thermal mass required for maximum passive solar heating.

7. Choose highly insulated doors and windows

ULTRA MODERN RESIDENCE FRANCOIS MARAIS ARCHITECTS Modern living room

In a well-insulated, airtight building envelope, doors and windows can be seen as big energy gaps. However, they are also the third most cost-effective opportunity to turn an abode into an energy-efficient home.

Heat loss can be controlled by choosing appropriate door- and window products (i.e. solar control film, exterior shading like awnings and blinds… ), cautiously locating them, then optimising their size and orientation for the most favourable results.

8. Set up a fresh (and energy efficient) air supply

Modern Colonial FRANCOIS MARAIS ARCHITECTS Colonial style house

Energy-efficient homes are airtight; thus, it makes the incessant source of fresh-filtered air and moisture control rather important. And one of the major benefits here is the fact that these homes are healthier, more comfortable compared to standard houses.

Thanks to highly energy-efficient ventilation systems (heat recovery ventilation / HRV, or energy recovery ventilation / ERV), the stale air can be driven out while the heat is recovered and returned to the home with the freshened air.

 

 

9. Be clever with your heating- and cooling system

Residence Harris FRANCOIS MARAIS ARCHITECTS Modern windows & doors

You may have a beautiful house, but do you have a highly efficient, cost-effective heating- and cooling system that is helping you reach the zero-energy goal? A great choice would be an air source, ductless heat pump (also known as a mini-split heat pump). Regarded as a highly energy efficient option, this system lacks the shortcomings of the central, forced-air system while avoiding thermal heat pumps’ high expenses.

10. Trust the sun

Ultra modern FRANCOIS MARAIS ARCHITECTS Modern houses

In this day and age you’ve undoubtedly already seen a house, or at least a swimming pool, being successfully heated by solar pumps. Currently, grid-tied solar photovoltaic (PV) panels offer the most cost-effective renewable energy for energy-efficient homes (although they’re also regarded as one of the costlier options).

However, these panels are perfectly capable of powering an entire home’s energy needs, from lounge suites lighting and kitchen appliances to heating- and cooling systems.

11. An energy-efficient home in warmer climates: House orientation

Modern Colonial FRANCOIS MARAIS ARCHITECTS Colonial style house

Thick layers of insulation might get the most love in cold climates, yet in warmer regions there’s less need for emphasis. And there are also several other factors that are altered when it comes to designing energy-efficient homes in warm climates.

Such as home orientation, where the house should be adjusted with the long axis facing east-west to reduce exposure to the rising- and setting sun. For living spaces, like lounge suites, let the design face cooler façades while placing decks and patios on the house’s north side in the shade.

12. An energy-efficient home in warmer climates: Thermal mass

Bedforview Alterations FRANCOIS MARAIS ARCHITECTS Modern style bedroom

Materials that absorb large quantities of heat and release it slowly include concrete, brick, tiles and thick plaster. This “thermal mass effect” is ideal to keep the temperature consistent, regardless of temperature swings. In warm climates, heat is absorbed in the day and released during the night when outdoor temperatures drop. It is also in desert climates with large daily temperature fluctuations where thermal mass is most effective. During the day, heat is absorbed by these high-mass materials. And if the nights are cool enough, the heat can vent outside by opening the home up.

13. An energy-efficient home in warmer climates: Insulation

Residence Naidoo FRANCOIS MARAIS ARCHITECTS Patios

For houses in warmer climates, both floor- and wall insulation can be reduced. If your house’s walls are concrete-block, rigid foam should be installed on the exterior. There should be no insulation below a slab foundation, since leaving it out will diminish a home’s cooling load.

And while carpeting should be avoided, enjoy those ceramic tile floors that can boost interior coolness.

14. An energy-efficient home in warmer climates: Reflective roofing

Residence Naidoo FRANCOIS MARAIS ARCHITECTS Modern houses

Highly reflective roofing is recommended, with white metal or –concrete tile being preferable. And should your house have an unconditioned attic, opt for radiant barrier roof sheathing.

15. An energy-efficient home in warmer climates: Natural shade

Residence Harris FRANCOIS MARAIS ARCHITECTS Modern houses

Natural shading can do a great deal to up a home’s energy efficiency. Thus, don’t shy away from a building site (or a landscaping project) that can boost your property’s natural shade.

16. An energy-efficient home in warmer climates: Water heating

The modern Camps Bay home with a 12 Apostles view FRANCOIS MARAIS ARCHITECTS Modern style bedroom White

Heat pump water heaters are well equipped to handle warmer climates. And the best location for them would be in a buffered space (like your garage) where they can cool and dehumidify a space as they heat up the water.

Courtesy of Homify | Johannes Van Graan

 

 

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