Green Building And Home Improvement
When building a new home, adding on an extension or even just a simple remodel within your home, you should always consider your local environment to maximize the efficiency of every aspect of your project.
There are four main areas that need to be focused on when planning your building project. They include:
- building materials
Each of these areas contain specific products and methods that can really benefit your home lifestyle and increase the capital on your house to.
The first area to cover is water, which may or may not be relevant to your project. However, where ever there is plumbing or an outside wall where gutters can be fixed the optimal water conservation methods should be utilized where possible. There are many interior products that can really help to reduce water wastage and improve efficiency which include:
- water saving taps
- water efficient showerheads
- composting toilets
- water diverters (diverters which hold the water while the hot water reaches your tap to save wasting all that water whilst waiting for the hot water to arrive)
Furthermore, by installing a Greywater system you can use all the water that usually runs down your drain, on your garden or lawn.
For the exterior, high quality gutters and water storage devices such as water tanks are ideal for harvesting hundreds of litres of water that can be used for a variety of applications.
A strong water budget mixed with an overall highly efficient water system can save you heaps of money on water bills and reduce the impact on your local catchment system.
The second part of this article focuses on energy. Most people immediately think solar and then think 'I can't afford it!' but there is much more that can be done to improve the efficiency of the energy usage in your home.
If you are doing large scale renovations, the position of your home / room in regards to sun direction is vitally important. A north-south facing house is much more energy efficient in terms of temperature control as the sun has less direct focus on the rooms.
Many different products exist to generate energy or improve the energy usage and overall efficiency of your home. Some of these include:
- a solar panel system, either stand alone, grid connect or hybrid with wind turbines to generate electricity
- high quality insulation, including batts and foil boards
- solar hot water systems
- ventilation and extraction fans
- energy efficient appliances and white goods
- lighting, including CFL's (compact fluorescent lamp)
- hydronic heating
- air conditioners with inverter technology
All of these products will either generate free electricity, use much less energy than other products on the market, or control the temperature of your home to save on running costs to maintain comfort.
Building materials is another important consideration when starting your project. Many materials have good qualities, while others can contain harmful chemicals which can be dangerous for your health. Knowing all these risks is almost impossible, but there are certain things to look for when making these decisions.
- Use as much untreated materials as possible. Most treated materials use very harsh chemicals which contain volatile organic compounds (VOC's) and formaldehyde. Over time, these compounds break down and become part of your indoor breathing space.
- These VOC's can also be found in conventional paints and finishes. Always ask your supplier for brands which use little or no VOC's in their products.
- Concrete that contains high levels of flyash are much better for the environment and lower the use of the toxic concrete powder in construction
- Conventional termite control utilizes the harshest of all chemicals and can be extremely carcinogenic. However, there are many new products that can remove termite problems without the use of harmful chemicals. Always ask your provider about their environmental policy and research the chemical they use
- Many insulation companies still use the resin based fiberglass insulation which contains high levels of formaldehyde and are damaging to your health. Look for insulation that is glass wool or made from cellulose fibre is your best bet for your families health and the environments.
- Double glazed windows and the utilization of roller shutters and blinds is the best way to reduce heat build up within your home.
- Strawbale and compressed earth homes are becoming more and more popular due to their constant interior comfort levels, and no they don't look like 'mud huts', in fact, they are fast becoming a distinguished and stylish home design
- Finally, cabinets and draws often use the cheap particle board over the solid wood varieties to save money. However, the particle board contains formaldehyde to bind the particles together.
Building and home improvement can be very satisfying when the job is complete. However, it becomes even better if taking into consideration these factors mentioned above to make your home comfortable all year round for you and your family.
About the Author:
Environmental Scientist, Rob Barton author of 'The Sustainable Path' showcases sustainable products and services.
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By Rob Barton