Sustainability and eco-friendliness are some of the buzzwords industries just can’t get enough of these days. This is particularly noticeable in the construction sector. But, when you design, build, or buy a home marketed as sustainable or eco-friendly, what does that mean?

Although the terms overlap, sustainability and eco-friendliness are not the same things. Sustainable homes are generally eco-friendly, but eco-friendly homes are not always sustainable. Want to know more? Here are 5 key differences between sustainable homes vs eco-friendly homes.

Definition and Purpose

Eco-friendly and sustainable building designs both aim to minimize construction’s impact on the environment. But it’s in their scope and timeline that they sometimes part ways. A quick look at the definitions of sustainable and eco-friendly homes will highlight these subtle differences.

Definition of a Sustainable Home

A sustainable home is designed to conserve natural resources and optimize energy. It’s durable and requires only minimal maintenance.

With sustainable homes, the focus is on long-term environmental impact and resource efficiency. Not sure how energy efficient your home is? An Energy Efficiency Assessor can tell you.

Definition of an Eco-Friendly Home

An eco-friendly home is built with environmentally friendly, non-toxic, and often recycled materials. It’s designed to produce fewer harmful emissions and reduce waste. With eco-friendly homes, the emphasis is on reducing harm to the environment.

Construction Materials

There’s been a move to less toxic construction materials. Even interior decor now echoes eco-friendly sentiments, with natural materials like bamboo or driftwood decor pieces.

That’s a big win for eco-friendliness! However, construction materials’ durability and availability ultimately dictate if the home’s construction is sustainable.

Sustainable Construction

Sustainable construction materials are not just less harmful to the planet. They have fewer negative economic consequences, too. They are usually readily available, or at least, accessible with minimal environmental upheaval and expense.

Recycled/recyclable materials are becoming more widely used in the bid for sustainability. This reliance on repurposed materials conserves raw materials for future use. Engineered wood is another example of sustainable materials. It prevents the future depletion of timber resources.

Eco-Friendly Construction

Eco-friendly construction materials, on the other hand, are just less toxic and harmful to the planet. They are not necessarily the most affordable choice, but are the safer and healthier choice. Bamboo and hempcrete are two examples of eco-friendly building materials.

Recycled materials are also often eco-friendly if they are non-toxic and can be recycled without damaging the environment. Despite concerns that many eco-friendly materials are not as strong as conventional building materials, they are mostly durable and long-lasting.

Energy Efficiency

Energy efficiency is a major player in today’s property market. How energy efficient a home is comes down to various factors, including the choice of fitted appliances in kitchens, and bathrooms. However, the building envelope and use of natural energy sources play the largest roles in energy efficiency.

Sustainable Energy Sources

Sustainable energy sources include natural energy resources, obtained by harvesting the power of the sun, wind, water, and other natural elements. They are therefore eco-friendly, too. But what makes them sustainable, is their long-term availability and renewable nature.

Eco-Friendly Energy Sources

Eco-friendly energy sources include alternative natural energies such as solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal. Because these are natural, they are more eco-friendly than other conventional forms of energy for power and heating.

However, if they are not viable due to limited supply or intensive maintenance, they will not be sustainable. To qualify as sustainable in the long term, these energy sources must be affordable, plentiful, and low-maintenance. Some areas just don’t have the infrastructure for this, yet.

Water Conservation

Water conservation is yet another hot topic in today’s increasingly eco-friendly and sustainable society. As our most precious resource, every attempt should be made to both preserve and conserve it. The design of any new home must take this into account.

Sustainable Water Conservation

Sustainable water conservation is chiefly about conservation, thus using it sparingly so that in future generations there’s still water to be used.

There are elements of eco-friendliness about this, but the goal is more long-term and includes designs that prevent common plumbing issues.

Eco-Friendly Water Conservation

Eco-friendly water conservation centers more around preservation than conservation. This means that nearby bodies of water should not be contaminated by any greywater from the home. It must be said that this, too, helps to conserve water for future generations.

Cost Considerations

The cost will always be a significant feature of every home design. Eco-friendliness is often easier to achieve than true sustainability. Much of this rests on the location of the proposed home’s construction. If it’s not in an area that can support alternative energies easily, for example, this will impact sustainability.

Sustainability Costs

Sustainable home costs are often far higher, as sustainable practices can cost a lot more in time and labor than less sustainable, mass-production building techniques.

As sustainability in the construction industry becomes the norm, and these materials and techniques are more widely available, this should become less of an issue.

Eco-Friendly Costs

Eco-friendly homes often cost more than homes built with standard building materials. However, this price difference will largely fall away as more eco-friendly materials are discovered and become cheaper to mass produce. And when reclaimed wood and steel are used, the cost is further greatly reduced.