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Easy ways to be greener when renovating

By May 1, 2020August 18th, 2021Design for the future

Is it possible to be green or eco friendly when renovating a property? Try as we might, creating a green home that is energy saving and eco friendly can unfortunately still have some negative impacts on the environment during the home renovation.

The construction industry is a significant contributor to UK Carbon Dioxide emissions, with the different building materials being used or wasted, and the energy it takes to build the renovation. That is not to say that because of this, a renovation to creating a greener home should not go ahead. Whilst construction can be disruptive to the environment, so are energy inefficient houses. When creating an eco home, it is important ensure the necessary steps are taken during the construction to minimise environmental damage and that the new eco home maximises every opportunity to become green and energy efficient.

Green home renovation is quite a complex topic, as each property and renovation situation needs to be individually considered. There is unfortunately no one size fits all when it comes to sustainable design. In some properties we would recommend engaging with an expert to advise on the best solution, and on potential issues which could arise when adopting new fittings or technologies. From making your home more energy efficient, to using sustainable alternatives, here are some tips to consider when improving how energy efficient your home is long-term, whilst also reducing the negative impact of the work.

How to make your home renovation more energy efficient

Creating an energy efficient home benefits the environment, and also help to save you money on your energy bill. When a house is properly insulated, the home is not wasting resources by allowing cooled down air or heat to escape the building through windows or badly insulated walls. With less energy escaping from the house, less resources are need to heat up the building and energy costs are kept low. Here are some of the ways that you can make your home more energy efficient:

Insulate 

Most homes, especially period properties, are very energy inefficient, with draughty windows or poorly insulated roofs. To ensure that you are making the most of your energy when heating and cooling the home, add insulation everywhere possible but especially the exterior walls, the roof, and the ceiling and floor voids. Consider using natural, sustainable materials, rather than synthetic insulation, such as sheep wool (though these can be bulky), or investigate ‘high tech’ slim insulation. This usually more expensive than standard, but useful for areas with a smaller space where you can’t add ‘bulk’.

Windows

Like the insulation in your walls, windows can be a tricky spot in your home for letting out energy through escaping heat or air conditioning. Ensure that you have a professional install your windows correctly, fitting them so that they are as draught proof as possible. Replace old windows with double-glazed glass wherever possible, or fit secondary glazing (inoffensive options are available!), as these are the most eco friendly options.

Lighting

Lighting is an important factor to consider when going green, as we can switch to a more sustainable option with little effect on the quality of the lighting. Aside from switching off the lights when you leave a room, fit energy efficient LED s when replacing your light fittings, to reduce the use of power and save money on your energy bill.

Heating

Begin with replacing elderly boilers with newer, greener upgrades to maximise energy efficiency. Ensure you programme your systems carefully so the house is not being constantly heated up or cooled down in order to stay at the same temperature. Smart thermostats are a good sustainable option, as they can be set to turn off heating and hot water when you are out and about. Consider generating energy from renewable sources that you can install in your home. Air source heat pumps and solar panels may be simpler and more affordable than you think!

energy efficient Smart thermostat by nest
Smart thermostat by nest
Heattherm insulation: an energy efficient building material
Heattherm insulation
Arched-secondary-glazing
Secondary glazing

Sustainable options to consider while creating a green home

Once the house is maximised in its energy efficiency, take a look at how the renovation itself could be more environmentally friendly. There are so many fantastic sustainable options to consider when renovating to create a green home, from swapping in natural materials, to looking at how you update your furniture.

Alusid Tiles made with recycled glass and ceramics
Alusid Tiles made with recycled glass and ceramics
Smile Plastics surfaces from recycled plastics
Smile Plastics surfaces from recycled plastics
eco friendly house plants at home
Eco friendly houseplants at home

Natural and Sustainable Materials

Keep your home free from harmful chemicals and look to use natural materials in your home, beginning with the main structure and the floors and walls. Swap in innovative uses of timber instead of steel or concrete where possible. Look for up-cycled or recycled materials – we like Smile recycled plastic work surfaces & alusid tiles.

Inside the home choose natural materials for finishes and decorating, rather than synthetics. Timber boards, cork or even bamboo, are wonderful alternatives to vinyl. Wool carpets or recycled polyester carpet look great on the living room or bedroom floor instead of synthetic nylon. Natural, organic or recycled fabrics for curtains and upholstery. Use natural timber instead of MDF for fitted furniture.

Growing Houseplants

Growing house plants can have rewarding, eco friendly benefits. Beautiful and decorative, houseplants are a great biophilic option to add to your home. Adding greenery to your home can help your home feel more connected with nature, as well as help reduce atmospheric C02.

Eco Friendly Paints

Environmentally friendly practices can even be applied in the form of paint. Some types of paint can contain harmful chemicals that can cause air pollution. Instead of traditional oil-based paints, look for low VOC/ eco-friendly paints, which are usually water-soluble and coloured using plant dyes or minerals.

Re-use and Up-cycle

Reusing building materials, fittings and finishes in your home is a great way to create a more eco friendly house by saving building materials that might otherwise have gone to waste. Reclaimed wood can be a great alternative flooring material or cabinets, and can also give a home so much more character.

Stunning reclaimed floor tiles + vanity work beautifully with this fresh white bathroom. Renovation by Absolute Project Management.
An interior design project where our home owner used reclaimed tiles and upcycled furniture to create a really unique bathroom design

Reuse old decorations by creating a summer and winter wardrobe of your existing home accessories. Rather than purchasing new items every season, rotate your new wardrobe so you can get the regular buzz of creating a new look without buying new things.

When redecorating or renovating, old bits and bobs from the project can often be discarded, ending up in a landfill. A sustainable way of disposing of unwanted but still functional fittings and furniture is to opt for giving them away instead. We constantly use Freecycle for furniture but also kitchen appliances, old doors, even redundant door handles. Giving these fixtures a second life at a new home, stops them from taking up space in a rubbish tip and wasting away.

If you’re feeling up to some DIY, there are many innovative ways to reuse old fittings and finishes. Try a new location, adding a splash of a new paint colour or new handles to an elderly chest of drawers, for example.

* 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: https://www.designingbuildings.co.uk/wiki/Carbon_dioxide_in_construction

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