Building or renovating? There’s plenty of ways you can reduce the environmental impact of building, and improve the sustainability of your new house or addition, without a great deal of extra work or expense. Here’s our top ten tips:
1. Think green from the word go
Start thinking about how you can reduce the environmental impact of your building from the outset. Work with your site, not against it. How can you maximise the natural light and airflow? If you’re starting from scratch, you might want to visit the site at different times of the day to get a feel for the breezes, the light and the views.
2. Shop around
When you’re selecting a designer, an architect or a builder ask them about the work they’ve done in the past. They should have proven sustainable design case studies available. If they don’t, keep looking.
3. Make use of existing on-site materials
Re-use where you can. Bricks can be ideal for paving, flooring can be used for fencing or shelving – rethinking how you can use materials might bring out the creative home builder in you that you didn’t know existed!
4.Minimise your exposure to hazardous materials
Assess materials in the building to make sure you’re aware of potential risks such as asbestos, lead contaminated paint or dust. Close contaminated areas off from the rest of the building and make sure you work with plenty of ventilation.
5. Dispose of hazardous materials properly
Materials such as asbestos should be disposed of properly as they can constitute a significant health risk. Licensed asbestos removal contractors can be found online as well as frequently asked questions about fibro and asbestos.
6. Check your labels and get more information
Minimise your use of hazardous and environmentally unfriendly materials by checking product labels carefully. Claims such as ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ should be inspected closely – a product may contain natural ingredients, but only as a very small percentage of the whole. If you’re not sure about claims made by companies, ask questions and do your research. Sites such as Eco Specifier can provide a useful starting point.
7. Design to minimise future use of hazardous materials
There are many ways design can minimise use of hazardous chemicals once the building work is done and you’re living your new palace. Proper ventilation in wet areas will reduce mould, tight-fitting cabinetry minimises cracks and crevices loved by rodents and roaches, and insect screens will keep those insects outside where they belong.
8. Use sustainable materials
Source sustainable materials whenever you can. Again, check product claims carefully, and remember that salvaged or recycled materials such as timber are not only better for the environment, they often have a special warmth and patina.
9. Insulate. Insulate. Insulate!
Installing effective insulation is the best way to keep your house cool in summer and warm in winter – reducing your energy bills.
10. Sun and water
See if your house is suitable for solar panels. It will save your electricity costs in the long run and you’ll be using less fossil fuels. Look at installing rainwater tanks and greywater recycling systems wherever possible.