How to Renovate Sustainably
Want to ensure your next renovation project is as green as possible? Here’s where to start
To help you get started, here are some of the areas to consider, in the first article in our comprehensive Sustainable Renovation Planning guide. It will give you a solid overview of what your options are in everything from materials to responsible waste management to energy efficiency – as well as handy links to in-depth guides on each element.
To ensure you’re spending your money in the right places, question anyone you plan to engage about their approach to sustainable solutions, and whether they’re familiar or affiliated with any organisations promoting environmentally friendly building practices.
Ask, too, if they’re used to sourcing sustainable materials and products, as this sort of experience can make for significant savings.
You could also enlist the services of an eco consultant to assess your property and guide you through your renovation. This should ensure you create a home that’s as sustainable as possible and saves you money on your energy bills.
More: How Can an Eco Consultant Make My Home More Energy Efficient?
This is an area where you can really make significant choices. Here’s our current top 10 of accessible sustainable materials. Check out the story below for more detailed information on each one:
- Reclaimed timber
- Lime plaster
- Recycled, reused and waste materials
If you’re planning a loft conversion, kitchen upgrade or even a top-to-toe refurb, have you thought about what will happen to the building waste?
More and more renovation professionals are keen to reduce what’s discarded, so talk to yours at the outset about ideas for reuse and recycling. How comfortable are they reconfiguring what you have or using reclaimed materials?
Wooden kitchens can often be repainted and successfully reconfigured, for example. (And if this isn’t feasible, could you sell or Freecycle your old one?)
As for rubble and unusable materials, talk to your contractor about who will remove this. For example, some disposal companies now focus on recycling a huge variety of waste and selling it on for reuse.
Finally, invest wisely. Tread carefully with trends and opt for bespoke storage made from solid, long-lasting materials, which are less likely to be scrapped down the line.
More: How to Reduce Waste, Reuse and Recycle During Your Renovation
The embodied energy in building materials contributes significantly towards carbon emissions, so think carefully about where you can potentially reconfigure rather than demolishing and building new.
To unlock your existing space, talk to an architect or interior designer; be clear about your sustainability aims and desire to try to maximise what you have as a first resort.
In looking afresh at your floor plans, consider switching around what each room is used for – especially if, say, a larger room is underused. Or, perhaps, a smaller room could be improved by borrowing space from an adjacent one.
Don’t forget to look up, too – is there space for a mezzanine, perhaps for a child’s bed or den, or even a home office or more storage?
Finally, look at any dead zones as a bonus and opportunity to put wasted space to use and pack in storage wherever you can to keep your home clutter-free, which will make any space feel bigger.
More: How to Create More Useable Space Without Extending or Converting
There are plenty of environmentally friendly measures you can take to both save energy and keep your bills down. There are more details in the link below, but here are the top line things you can do, according to Houzz pros:
- Insulate Improved roof insulation can have a huge impact, but look also at wrapping your hot-water cylinder and pipework better.
- Check your boiler’s efficiency Get specialist advice to see whether an air or ground source heat pump or biomass boiler could be better for your bills.
- Generate your own heat An MVHR (mechanical ventilation with heat recovery) system will harness heat from the energy you expend indoors.
- Deal with draughts The right professional can help you to seal windows, plug gaps and stop breezes around doors.
- Work on your windows Better glazing and window dressings can make a huge difference.
- Shorten shower time It could save you almost £100 per year!
From repurposing old floorboards to upcycling a midcentury cabinet into a vanity unit, there are so many ways to get creative with old furniture.
Consider, too, a characterful feature basin from a reclamation yard or salvaged tiles for a unique splashback.
Most importantly, look at what you already have. With the help of a creative professional, you might be surprised at the number of items that can have a second life.
More: Clever Ways to Reclaim, Restore and Recycle from our Houzz Tours
More of us are going to be looking at ways to keep our homes cool as temperatures rise. And there are lots of areas where small changes can make a big difference, as well as more significant tweaks.
Being able to maximise the available ventilation in your home is one good place to start and sash windows, in particular, are worth repairing to this end, as they do the job particularly well when opened correctly.
Thermal window coverings can help to keep the sun out, while a brise-soleil, awnings or strategically planted trees and climbers can help to provide shade.
And if you’re planning an extension, ensure a cool environment is near the top of your wish list and that you choose an architect who understands how to minimise summer heat through design, especially where glazing is concerned.
More: How to Prepare Your Home for Summer Heat
Have you renovated sustainably? Or would you like to? Share your tips and experiences in the Comments.