Green Living, houses, Renovations, sustainability

Eco-Friendly Renovation


Rayne Neave came up with the concept behind Eco Exhibit in Cape Town, a showroom that serves as an environmentally friendly supplier of building materials. The space is described as a 'physical guide to cost-free greening' for industry people, such as architects, builders, developers, designers and decorators.

With our July Renovations issue currently on sale, House and Leisure is concerned with updating your living space and all the possibilities that a renovation can offer. We asked Rayne for some tips about incorporating 'green' products into the renovation process and how to ensure that you limit the production of greenhouse gases as much as possible. She offers the following advice:

When renovating think of your environmental footprint, which encompasses more than just your carbon footprint. You must consider issues like the environmental impact of newly harvested or wasted materials, the off-gassing of newly introduced toxins, and so much more.

While renovating can be a stressful process it can also feel like a fresh and healthy start. This can be significantly enhanced when you know that you are doing your bit to make an environmental difference - remember no effort is too small.

Get Help Planning Your Eco-Friendly Renovation

A medium- to large-scale renovation requires hiring the right professionals; this is your first opportunity to make an environmentally considered choice that will benefit both you and your pocket. An expert who thinks sustainably will know what to do with demolished material, what can be reused as well as the toxicity and sustainability of certain products, how to take advantage of natural light and heat, how to reduce energy consumption, and lowering your overall energy costs.

Choosing Your Materials And Products

During the design phase you will decide on what material and products you'd like to incorporate in the renovation. There are many conventional building materials that can be substituted with more environmentally friendly or considerate materials. Whenever possible, choose local products. This, however, may not always be possible as a trade for green products is still growing in South Africa. Green materials help the environment in one way or another; they are often very durable and demand less maintenance compared to traditional construction materials.

Here are a few things to consider:

General

  • Use cement with fly-ash
  • Source recycled bricks
  • High-performance windows are among the best-known ways to save energy for heating and cooling
  • Install insulation in the walls and attic to prevent heat transfer
  • Take advantage of natural light with well-placed windows, skylights or sun tunnels (strategically placed windows, shades and overhangs to take advantage of the sun's heat)
  • Install energy-efficient lighting (choose CFL or LED light bulbs)
  • Use timers or occupancy sensors on some of your lights
  • Design a rain harvesting system to capture rainwater and re-use it to water your garden
  • Avoid products produced from old growth timber or endangered exotic hardwoods (seek out certified and managed forests, such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), recycled or reclaimed wood)
  • Bamboo or cork are both renewable because they are fast growing
  • Choose linoleum instead of vinyl (vinyl is an environmentally harmful plastic and is made with substances, including dioxin and phthalates, that can contribute to serious health problems; linoleum, made from linseed oil, is a better choice)
  • Use low to no Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) products (VOCs are released as gases from products such as paints, lacquers, paint strippers, building materials, furniture and carpets)
  • Choose a carpet that doesn't emit VOCs and check that their sealants are not toxic

Kitchen

  • Recycling bins - there are local companies that can collect your recycling or simply drop it off at your nearest recycling depot (your local municipality can tell you where these are located).
  • Use low or formaldehyde-free cabinetry to avoid releasing environmental toxins which are harmful to your health; better still, use certified FSC wood or bamboo.
  • Choose countertops with a high recycled content of granite or even paper.
  • Choose Energy Star rated appliances, which will use less energy and are often similar in price, if not the same.
  • Get a water filter installed  - this will save cost from and stop buying bottled water.

Bathrooms

  • Install a solar water heating system or heat pump - you can retrofit a heat pump or solar system to work with an existing conventional storage water heater.
  • Insulate your water heater
  • Lower your water heater temperature to 50C’
  • Replace toilets with low-flow models
  • Install tiles made of recycled content
  • Use flow reducers on the shower and sinks so you're using less water

From cement to paint you can make better choices to benefit the environment. Look at companies that show a genuine environmental drive; if you are unsure check their ‘green’ claims with experts.

Remember to always consider what products could be salvaged and donated to a community project or similar initiative for re-use in your area. No matter how small your step towards sustainability is, it’s a step in the right direction. You don't have to do it alone, there are plenty of experts and organisations that can assist you and make the process easier.

Contact Eco Exhibit for any assistance with making greener choices when renovating or building a home that is good for the environment and good for you. Visit ecoexhibit.co.za for more information and to view their list of suppliers.

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