As a first priority, a design should aim for a dwelling that uses the minimum amount of energy to run. This can be supported by, for example, applying conservation techniques and passive solar design principles. Where possible, the use of solar hot water and photovoltaic systems is highly advisable to generate on-site energy (wind or water power may be appropriate in some situations).

Once the design strategy is clear, local building materials and those requiring the minimum processing should be selected in preference to highly processed materials and those from further afield. Non-toxic products should replace chemically treated materials and those containing toxins. The durability of materials is also very significant as it will affect the lifespan of a building and, the longer a low-energy house lasts, the less relative impact its materials will have. Ideally, all building materials should be easily recyclable. Finally, the potential for flexible occupancy will help to extend the useful lifetime of a building.

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