Simon Anderson has seen Sydney’s growing thirst for sustainable design first hand. His inner-city architecture firm Anderson Architecture believes a strong connection to nature and a focus on building processes that create less waste are just as critical as aesthetics. Far from a fashion, it’s a necessity. He’s won awards for the sustainable design of both residential buildings and products, including a system for filtering greywater naturally. Simon will be one of the experts on hand at the Speed Date a Sustainable Designer event on 23 June (more on that next!) but in the meantime he tells us how we can incorporate a bit of green into our building aspirations.
Who do you feel is driving the increased demand for sustainable design? Client, designers or government policy?
All of the above. Take BASIX, the Building Sustainability Index, for example. Introduced by the NSW Government in 2004, BASIX ensures new homes and renovations are designed to use 40 per cent less potable water and be responsible for 25 per cent less greenhouse gas emissions than the average home. In keeping with BASIX, we explain to clients the things they can do to up their sustainable credentials and their BASIX score with things like double glazing, water-efficient fixtures and indigenous plants for landscaping. More often than not, they’ll choose the more sustainable option.
How has it evolved since you started out in the business?
I remember the site team baulking at the idea of recycling greywater on a build we were working on nearly 10 years ago. Fortunately there’s more understanding these days, but there’s still a way to go. Builders are also much more interested and don’t glaze over when you mention sustainability.
Where does sustainability sit as a priority in your designs?
It’s a major factor, but goes hand in hand with good design. I want people to say, ‘that’s great architecture’, and then also realise it’s a very positive way of building in regard to our environment.
What products or features are emerging as must-haves in sustainable design?
As timber has one of the lowest amounts of embodied energy and stores carbon, it’s a great product – so long as its origins are green or certified. We’re using a good deal of recycled timber these days with more and more businesses supplying it. Our favourite is a place that recycles telegraph poles.
Does it cost a lot more to go down the sustainable route?
It doesn’t have to; there are materials such as timber and ‘green’ concrete that are virtually the same price. It’s about specifying them and making the builders comfortable using them without inflating the install costs. There are products such as hydronic heating for concrete floors – and while it’s still expensive, because it’s so widely used in Europe, prices should keep coming down as more suppliers enter the market.
Tell us your top three tips for a sustainable home?
1/. Use timber where possible – it can bring a home alive.
2/. Thermal mass is a must-have in the form of well-insulated brick walls or concrete floors. The mass can store heat energy from the winter sun, and with the aid of hydronic pipes in the slab, the concrete can provide the perfect form of heating.
3/. LEDs have come along way and now there’s an LED for most applications at reasonable prices.
For the chance to ‘date’ Simon and find out how to make your renovation or new build a green one, lock in the Speed Date a Sustainable Designer event on 23 June.