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Easy ways to be greener when renovating

Is it possible to be green when renovating? The construction industry is certainly a significant contributor to UK Carbon Dioxide emissions* but so are energy inefficient houses**. Here are things to consider to improve the long-term energy efficiency of your home, while reducing the negative impact of the work.

This is a complex topic – each property and situation should be separately/ pragmatically considered. There’s (unfortunately) no one size fits all with sustainable design – and in some cases we would recommend engaging an expert to advise on the best solution, and on potential issues which could arise when adopting new fittings/ technologies.

Energy efficiency

  • Insulate!  Most homes, especially period properties, are very energy inefficient – draughty windows, poorly insulated roofs, etc.
    • Add insulation everywhere possible but especially exterior walls, roofs and ceiling/ floor voids
    • Consider natural materials such as sheep wool (though these can be bulky)
    • Investigate ‘high tech’ slim insulation – usually more expensive than standard, but useful for areas where you can’t add ‘bulk’
  • Windows…
    • Renovate to ensure they’re as draught proof as possible, or
    • Replace with double-glazed (where possible), or
  • Fit LEDs when replacing light fittings to reduce use of power
  • Ensure your heating systems are effective:
    • Replace elderly boilers to maximise energy efficiency
    • Programme your systems carefully
    • Consider smart thermostats so you can turn off heating/ hot water when you’re not at home
    • Consider generating energy from renewable sources – air source heat pumps and solar panels may be simpler/ more affordable than you think
Smart thermostat by nest
Heattherm insulation
Secondary glazing


  • Use natural materials for structural elements – consider innovative use of timber instead of steel/ concrete where possible
  • Use natural timber instead of MDF for fitted furniture
  • Look for upcycled or recycled materials– we like Smile recycled plastic work surfaces & alusid tiles.
  • Choose natural materials rather than synthetics – timber boards rather than vinyl, mostly wool carpets instead of nylon (unless you can find recycled polyester carpet), natural, organic or recycled fabrics for curtains and upholstery
  • Look for low VOC/ eco-friendly paints
  • Grow house plants – beautiful, decorative, satisfying, biophilic and help reduce atmospheric C02
Alusid Clerkenwell Design Week
Alusid Tiles made with recycled glass and ceramics
Smile Plastics surfaces from recycled plastics


  • Give away unwanted but still functional fittings and furniture – we constantly use Freecycle for furniture but also kitchen appliances, old doors, even redundant door handles…
  • Upcycle – consider innovative ways to reuse fittings & finishes– a new location, paint colour or handles for an elderly chest of drawers, for example
  • Rotate a summer/ winter wardrobe of your existing home accessories so you can get the regular buzz of creating a new look without buying new things every year.

* The UK Green Building Council says that around 10% of the UK’s carbon dioxide emissions are directly associated with construction.

** 80% of emissions associated with the built environment come from buildings in use:

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