When we think of ‘doing up’ our home, this is normally to fix a potential problem or perhaps make it in some way more aesthetically pleasing. But how about making our homes perform better? To retrofit their design to be efficient, smart and sustainable?
Through smart design, homes can be engineered to drastically reduce consumption of electricity and water, to be better for their surroundings and even create a more enjoyable space to live in overall. The solutions are simpler than one may think. Eco Mantra, an environmental engineering consultancy based out of Bali, specialise in this. They follow the principles of ‘Environmentally Sustainable Design’, or ESD, a design philosophy which focuses on understanding our impact on the natural environment to eliminate or significantly reduce the ecological impact of the built environment.
Their solutions have helped properties consume less energy, water, and waste for long-term financial savings while reducing ecological impact. Here Eco Mantra shares some examples of how smart engineering can make a home more sustainable.
1. Roof Ventilation
The roof of every building is typically exposed to the most solar radiation, and heat can get trapped inside if the roof is not designed right. Eco Mantra has measured temperatures of up to 70 degrees celsius, which certainly has effects on those living below!
Designing with passive and natural ventilation in mind reduces heat gain and the temperature of the building just by promoting more natural air flows. Wind-driven ventilation uses the forces of nature, heat exchange, and natural pressure change, to make air flow and move through open areas, and move through the gratings and air gaps.
There are numerous ways to design roof ventilation outlets and build air pockets/ gaps between your main air-conditioned rooms and the space between your ceiling and the main roofs. Moving air and letting heat escape greatly reduces the need for air conditioning and fans and balances your entire house’s natural microclimate and thermal comfort.
2. Solar Protection
Shading buildings from the sun can be done with landscaping, with treated bamboo or recycled wooden structures or by designing large overhangs and awnings that increase the shaded surface areas.
Creating spaces that are not directly heated up by solar radiation allows the surface areas and air to stay cool. As seen in this example, the shaded areas help to protect the main building from direct solar radiation. This simple trick is highly effective in regulating the temperatures of indoor spaces.
3. Rainwater Harvesting
This is a building design principle that helps withstand excess rainfall. When the rainy season hits it can make quite an entrance, with flash floods and heavy storms causing quite the stir. But through effective design one can make use of the heavy rainfall! With rainwater harvesting systems, roof buildings can be the ultimate catchment area, designed to collect water and direct it into storage.
This stored water can then be effectively used for the household, from gardening or cleaning, or maybe even filtered for other uses. The possibilities are great with smart design.
4. Groundwater Recharge
Groundwater is a matter of great concern in Jakarta. As we know, the uncontrolled siphoning of groundwater is one of the main reasons for the city’s annual ‘sinking’. Whilst extracting groundwater is always discussed, why does no one talk about recharging it?
Eco Mantra says that we can design our properties to be self-sufficient. One key factor that will help us in achieving this is recharging the groundwater levels in and around one’s property. Not only will it have a ripple effect on our consumption, but also on the surrounding community and the natural landscapes. For coastal properties, it will act as a barrier to seawater intrusion as well, particularly important in areas like North Jakarta.
Environmentally Sustainable Design Example: Sara and Nino’s House
As environmental engineers, the founders of Eco Mantra also have to walk the walk! Co-founder Sean Nino has thus made his own personal home in Bali a project in sustainability — a showcase of what’s possible if one is passionate and committed enough to create a home with environmentally friendly design principles.
Helped by Co-founder Maitri Fischer and the Eco Mantra team, Nino’s home has integrated many different ESD elements. They’ve opted for aerated brick walls, boasting insulation more effective than cement, all while being remarkably lightweight. Additionally, raising the house on stilts not only facilitates passive cooling during warmer seasons but also provides resilience against the rising threat of flooding and rising dampness and mould in Bali.
To enhance comfort, they introduced long shading structures that diminish direct solar heat gain. The roofing plays a crucial role. They integrated a ventilated and insulated system that helps effectively dissipate hot humid air and maintains pleasant room temperatures.
The AC barely is needed and the entire next-door living room building is open and passive design. The house consumes less water and energy than a Balinese compound and has an electricity PLN bill of less than Rp. 800,000 per month and uses 40% rainwater for yearly water usage. The garden hosts over 100 different plant species and has a big composting pile and there is a “Miyawaki Forest” being planned next door with the Balinese neighbours and land owners that will boast 50 native trees to increase local biodiversity.
Eco Mantra adds the importance of “valuing and understanding the environment you are in.” What does that mean? Valuing the environment means understanding availability, inputs and outputs, be it groundwater, the sun’s energy, biodiversity in landscaping and tree coverage, and indeed ‘land’ and its potential communal value as a green space. When we consider the value of the environment, it forces us to rethink how we approach building: understanding the scarcity of groundwater forces us to find new sources of water, which protects our own longevity as well as the environment. Knowing how the sun can heat up areas causes us to consider how to protect from its heat or indeed how to capture it and use it as a resource.
“Developers and regional policymakers need to remember how to “value” the environment we are building in and look beyond our spreadsheet and Excel costs,” shares Sean Nino.
Eco Mantra is an environmental engineering consultancy based in Bali, Indonesia. They work with visionary leaders and developers to create eco-friendly destinations and experiences by integrating sustainable design principles into the development of one-of-a-kind properties.