ARTICLE Persephone Nicholas
Whether you have a low, mid-range or generous budget ($400,000 and up), a successful and sustainable renovation relies on effective planning; developing a design that will stand the test of time; and choosing fixtures and finishes that are repurposed, recycled or renewable wherever possible.
The more money you have to spend the more choices you need to make - and making the right decisions depends on having the facts at your fingertips. So at Refresh Renovations we always advise people to take their time in the researching and planning stages. In our experience, time spent planning is never wasted.
Cutting energy consumption
Reducing the need for heating, cooling and lighting is at the heart of any renovation that aims to make a home more sustainable. If you have a generous budget there is plenty you can do in this area. For example, it’s widely understood that features such as orientation, wide eaves, ventilation and zoning can have a significant impact on a home’s energy requirements.
The power of raw energy
Consider also the fact that Australia’s sunny climate means many homes have sufficient raw energy – from sunlight – to power the home. The key to a successful high-end eco renovation, is harnessing it. Installing solar panels to generate electricity is mainstream these days and is generally considered to be worth the upfront cost. The Eco Council reports that installing a solar hot water system could cut the 25% of a household’s energy requirement needed for heating hot water by more than 80%. The good news about solar power is that you can take what you need and the rest is directed to the main grid. Some electricity companies will provide you with a credit for it.
When you’re generating your own power, you’ll want to use it wisely. The Eco Council’s website says 33% of household energy is used for heating or cooling our homes. The site says good design can eliminate the need to heat or cool except in extreme weather conditions.
Passive design takes into account the orientation of your property as well as the local climate and should be complemented with excellent insulation. This is particularly important for the roof, which is the primary source of heat gain and loss. If you are performing significant renovations, which entail opening external walls, make sure they are fully insulated before re-installing. Around 35% of heat loss occurs through walls, so it’s worth investing in this.
A further 5% of household energy is used on lighting. Well-designed living spaces that receive sufficient natural light during the day can reduce this to a minimum. It’s worth noting that it takes 400% more power to run a standard bulb compared to an LED, so switching to LEDs could save you hundreds of dollars over the lifetime of the bulb, particularly if you have lots of lights in your home. Nevertheless, if you’re installing new lighting try to avoid the common – and wasteful – practice of having more lights than necessary.
Energy efficiency should be your top priority if you’re planning an eco friendly renovation. So it’s worth consulting a renovation specialist, architect, builder or qualified independent energy assessor to find out more.
New windows should be sized, oriented, shaded and draft-proofed appropriately. A home can lose as much as 40% of its heat through windows in winter, while in the summer months as much as 87% of the heat in a home is acquired through them. So ensuring they are shaded (building wide eaves is an effective way of doing this) and draft-proofed makes sense.
You may also want to consider using ‘thermal broken’ double-glazing which cuts the amount of energy lost through windows. This could cost more than $10,000 for a 250 square metre house, but prices should come down as it becomes more widespread.
Cut the need for cooling even further by installing ceiling fans, which are more energy efficient than air conditioning, in living and sleeping spaces. For a luxe option look out for Aeratron’s award-winning ceiling fans which are totally silent and can achieve up to 50% in energy savings.
For more ideas tailored to the climate in your local area, visit Government website: http://www.YourHome.gov.au
If you’re shopping for new appliances, consider the size of your purchase as well as its energy and/or water star label rating. An extra large fridge, for example, even if it has the highest star rating, will probably still use more energy than a smaller model with fewer stars. Try to buy the size you need so you’re not paying for a fridge full of cold air or tempted to run your dishwasher or washing machine with half-loads.
If you’re replacing appliances that are still in good working order, try to find them a new home. Pass them on to a friend or relative, offer them to a not-for-profit or post them on Gumtree or Freecycle,
Our most precious resource
Water efficiency should be your number one priority when it comes to choosing products and appliances. Fortunately that doesn’t mean compromising on style. In fact you may find that some of today’s most elegant fixtures and fittings are also the most water wise.
If in doubt, check a product’s WELS (Australia’s Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards scheme) rating. The higher a product’s star rating (six is the maximum) the more water efficient it is. For more information visit www.waterrating.gov.au
The great outdoors
Strategies for making outdoor areas more sustainable include limiting hard landscaping and using native plant species that will thrive in the local microclimate. Think twice before installing a backyard pool. If you must have one, ensure you have a well fitting pool cover.
Capturing rainwater for irrigation is sensible, so ensure the tank is factored into your landscape design (out of direct sunlight which encourages algae growth) rather than becoming an eyesore.
Award-winning landscape designer Jamie Durie advocates thinking about how the materials you incorporate in your garden design will age. Writing in his book Patio, he says: “I feel very strongly about bringing recycling and sustainability into the residential garden.”
He uses reclaimed materials ranging from salvaged timber to recycled telegraph poles and describes creating gardens where: “Most of the materials were chosen for their ability to engage with natural processes so that rusting, fading, wearing and decay could add their unique charms to the character of metal, stone and timber.”
Find out about sustainability rebates and incentives in your state at: http://yourenergysavings.gov.au/rebates
For information on how to achieve a healthy home with smaller budgets, read our mid-range eco-renovation project estimate or our basic eco-renovation project estimate.
This project estimate article featured on page 96 of Issue 017 of New Zealand Renovate Magazine. New Zealand's first and only magazine solely dedicated to home renovations.
If you would like to discuss eco-friendly options and ideas for your next renovation project, please use the enquiry form on this page to provide us with your contact details. We will get in touch with you at a time that suits you to discuss your project. If you would like to provide us with more information about your project, we have a more comprehensive enquiry form on our "Get in touch" page too.
*Costs are rough estimates and are subject to change. For a fixed-quote accurate to your specific project, please consult your local Refresh Renovations specialist. All Refresh Renovations franchises are independently owned and operated.