Green design ideas for modern living

Eco friendly design options, sustainable building materials, move towards a greener lifestyle - these are all considerations for today's modern home. Homes should use less energy and offer a comfortable, healthy environment for the occupants.


Activity on our delicate planet is measured via our ecological footprint and we have already brought about climate change as a result of human activity. In January 2015 human activity was acknowledged as an extreme threat to our extinction and the human footprint has grown so massive that it has caused Earth to enter into an new geological epoch called The Anthropocene.

As one of the most expensive investments you can make, today's homes are more than just a shelter, which is why a new construction should provide  clean indoor air that is free from or low in VOC's (volatile organic compounds) and incorporate energy efficient and sustainable building materials, and work towards reducing our individual carbon footprint.

Double volume and open plan living spaces that offer expansive views of the outdoors, either via framed or seamless windows and glass doors have become a main feature as homeowners move towards using building materials that are sustainable and offer the homeowner a greener living alternative. Overhangs, canopies and shade awnings incorporated into the design ensure that buildings require little or no additional heating requirements other than that provided by nature.

Here in South Africa there is vast potential for solar power but actually very little put into practice other than for solar heating of water. Glass is just one of the ways to harness solar power to provide energy and natural light to enhance modern living.

We spend approximately 90% of our time indoors and have adopted the attitude that the spaces where we spend that time should offer a healthy living environment and provide for day-to-day living and relaxation. For this reason, we need to move away from manufactured synthetics as much as possible and go back to using what nature provided; natural materials such as stone (used for tiling and wall cladding) and wood not only enhance the interior of any home, they are sustainable, eco-friendly and healthier.

Timber that is FSC certified (Forestry Stewardship Council) is manufactured into furniture that is responsibly harvested and sustainable, and many furniture manufacturers are adopting the practice of only using these materials. If in doubt when buying wood furniture, check that the manufacturer or supplier abides by this green philosophy.



Cement-based finishes are an alternative to expensive tiled walls, and products like RhinoLite and CreteStone are gaining popularity as a wall-finishing option for modern homes. These finishes are best professionally applied unless you have previous experience or knowledge of proper plastering techniques.

There remains a misconception amongst consumers as to the savings of energy efficient products. An example of this is the energy savings that can be made by replacing incandescent light bulbs with more modern alternatives.

When purchasing light bulbs, many consumers opt for cheap incandescent bulbs, failing to take into account their higher energy costs and lower lifespans when compared to modern compact fluorescent and LED bulbs.

Although these energy-efficient alternatives have a higher upfront cost, their long lifespan and low energy use can save consumers a considerable amount of money. The price of LEDs has also been steadily decreasing in the past five years, due to improvement of the semiconductor technology. [wikipedia]


Sustainable methods can be put into practice both indoors and outdoors. Whether you are renovating a kitchen or modernising a bathroom; if the opportunity arises to incorporate green building into your home improvement project you should at least take a look at the alternatives available for a greener home.


When building a new home or renovating an existing home and wanting to incorporate greener alternatives or sustainable design, consider the following criteria by which new homes are measured:

Building Materials: Sourced in accordance with their environmental impact and that do not pollute or add to global warming.

Ecological Impact: Water run-off and flood risk management. Minimal impact on surrounding landscape and efficient use of construction site. Waste recycling practices implemented.

Health Considerations: Low or zero VOC interior materials, provision of natural light, insulation and accessibility.

Energy Efficiency: Water and energy saving practices

More information on green building practices.


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