October 03, 2016
Keen for a green renovation?
With issues such as climate change and global warming now a significant part of our lives, choosing sustainable building and renovating practices has never been more important. Megan Norgate, Founding Director and Principal Designer at interior design company BRAVE NEW ECO (who specialise in "creating beautiful spaces that contribute to environmental resilience and generate human health and happiness") believes that whether building from scratch or renovating an existing home, many opportunities exist to lighten our environmental impact.
Here, Megan shares her top tips for achieving a healthy, cost effective and sustainable home:
Aim to transform what already exists
Observe the inherent qualities of a building, and where possible transform what already exists before starting anew. This creates critical opportunities to recycle and re-use and significantly reduces building waste, one of the largest threats to our environment. Most homes have the potential to retrofit sustainable features without rebuilding, thereby allowing owners to continue to celebrate the home's features and character that they have grown to love, while also increasing its long term liveability.
Let nature do its job, with a little help from you. Passive design uses natural sources such as the warmth of the sun and cooling breezes to effectively heat and cool a home, thereby reducing costly energy bills and reducing greenhouse gas omissions. Based on design principles such as a building’s orientation on a site, passive design is best addressed at construction stage. However, simple improvements such as sealing all gaps to reduce heat loss, and adding or improving insulation can be done at any stage for amazing results. Passive design requires ‘active’ users, so remember to thoughtfully open windows and doors to effectively control breezes, and open and close blinds for sun and heat control. Also keep in mind that while it's hard to change a home’s orientation, the simple addition of a door or window could make a world of difference.
Restore, re-use, reinterperet
Whether renovating or rebuilding, seek to re-use materials already on site or recycled from elsewhere. Not only do salvaged and recycled items have a beautiful, unique character, they also significantly reduce construction waste which is an increasing threat to our environment. Everything from flooring to kitchen benchtops can be sourced sustainably, and a design professional will happily assist with contacts. Also carefully consider the disposal of materials that can’t be re-used. Some skip providers use material recovery plants, making them the obvious choice for waste management.
Design for life
Where possible, aim to use products and materials with an extended life span, such as those hand-assembled by local makers rather than mass produced items. These can be surprisingly cost effective, and a designer will be able to guide you to the right person to create what you need. Always consider the potential impact on your health and the environment when choosing paints, sealants, glues, materials, fittings and furnishings. Simply understanding the life cycle and make up of materials is a huge step toward reducing their impact on both the environment and our physical health.
By working with nature’s energy sources, considering how an item or material may be re-used in the same way or even reinterpreted to give it a whole new purpose, and especially remaining engaged with sustainability issues will all significantly lessen your home's environmental footprint.
Megan Norgate is an Interior Designer, Permaculture Designer and Sustainable Design Consultant at BRAVE NEW ECO www.braveneweco.com.au