When Kermit the frog sang, ‘It’s not easy being green,’ he was talking about skin colour, not the building game! While an ecologically sound home may not be on the top of your list of priorities, there are many reasons why going green should be a renovation consideration.
Environmentally sensitive homes use water and energy more efficiently, are warmer in winter and cooler in summer, they’re healthier to live in and save the owners serious money year in, year out.
During the construction phase of an extension, addition or renovation, a green building project will also reduce and/or recycle waste.
The GreenSmart principles relate to 8 key areas – some relate to how the property will work once construction is completed, while others relate to how the building process itself will be carried out. They include:
- management of energy and water
- indoor air quality
- material selection
- universal design
- stormwater management, and
- resource efficient practice
If you want your home to receive GreenSmart accreditation, you’ll need to get in touch with an HIA GreenSmart Professional before you submit your plans to council.
Even if going the whole hog isn’t part of your plan, have a quick look over the following ideas. In many ways, applying GreenSmart suggestions is just a matter of old fashioned common sense.
Orientation and Solar Benefits
Firstly, check the orientation of your proposed changes. If possible, the areas you spend the most time in should face north so you capitalise on passive solar access. Clever eave design and overhangs will ensure that sun penetration is maximised in winter and minimised in summer. This cuts heating bills and reduces your reliance on artificial cooling.
Also look at what trees currently surround this area of your site; if you already have an established tree, investigate whether judicious pruning or crown lifting might improve the amount of sun you receive. If you’re in the landscaping market, a deciduous tree that loses its leaves in winter is the better choice.
Next on the green housing agenda is insulation and thermal mass. No matter where you live, good insulation is imperative as it inhibits both heat loss and heat gain through floors and flooring systems, roofs and walls. During winter, your home can lose up to 35 per cent of its residual heat through inadequate ceiling insulation, up to 25 per cent through your walls and up to 20 per cent through your floors. By insulating these elements, you can reduce heat loss and effectively ‘cocoon’ your home.
You can always contact AddBuild for advice on how to properly insulate your house to ensure that you preserve as much heat as possible, making a big difference in your electricity and heating bills.
Thermal mass on the other hand, refers to materials such as concrete, bricks, tiles and rammed earth and their capacity to absorb heat during the day. Correctly positioned, on the inside of the building, materials with a high thermal mass will cool your house during the day. As the temperature lowers in the evening, this stored heat is re-emitted, keeping you warm and cosy. When thermal mass and insulation work together, you’ll see significant savings when your gas and electricity bills arrive each month.
Your choice of flooring is another way to improve the environmental attributes of your home. Carpeting, for instance, blocks the re-radiance of heat and acts as an insulating layer, which makes tiles and concrete floors a better choice if maximising your thermal mass is a priority. However, if your floors are timber, which stores heat poorly, carpet is an excellent choice as it will complement and improve the performance of the insulation below.
The AddBuild Master Builders have extensive experience in flooring works that find the best possible insulation solutions, while still taking into account comfort and individual preferences of clients, so you can contact us for any consultations on the matter.
Ventilation is another key area to consider. Sustainable design aims to enhance the occupants’ experience by improving air quality in and around the home. This can be achieved by using mechanical methods, like ceiling fans, externally ducted exhaust fans or roof mounted systems that extract hot air from the ceiling cavity, to complement natural cross breezes. Minimising draughts and gaps around windows, doors and exhaust fans can also reduce heat loss by up to 25 per cent.
Planning and carrying out a home extension, addition or renovation can be an expensive undertaking. The beauty of going green is that your ongoing cost of living comes down through the many savings that can be achieved.