Green renovation tips for a more sustainable home

Article by Mozo

Renovations are the perfect opportunity to make your home green and sustainable. Creating a sustainable home is no longer just a trend, it's part of our daily lives and crucial to reducing the impact we have on the environment. It doesn’t matter how small or large the renovation is, there’s always an opening to lighten your environmental footprint for short and long term benefits.

Quality, environmental and sustainable design principles will save you thousands of dollars on energy and water bills while creating a more livable and healthier home. So follow our guide on how to incorporate sustainable principle designs into your home renovation. 

How to go green

Environmentally savvy, green pros:

Once you’ve made the conscious decision to renovate a green and sustainable home you need to find the professionals who practise environmentally friendly methods. There are plenty of designers, builders and architects to choose from but you need to take the time to shop around and find the ones who have the same ‘green’ mindset as you. Check the qualifications of the builders or contractors you are hiring and make sure they have proven sustainable design case studies along with being across the green building regulations in your area. The Housing Industry Association in Australia offer GreenSmart certification. So find a building company that has the GreenSmart logo and you will be in good green hands.

Passive design:

A passive design refers to the design of a home that needs little if not any artificial cooling or heating. To implement a passive design, it’s important to understand the seasonal weather patterns of the area where you live. Once this is established the rooms in the house can be structured so they are a comfortable temperature all year round requiring minimal cooling or heating mechanisms. Passive design elements include; orientation, insulation, airflow, double glazing and thermal mass. And the good news is, it costs little or nothing to incorporate passive design into a home.

For example, if you live in a cold climate region you might open up the north side of your living room so the winter sun can hit a wall or floor. This utilises thermal mass and will capture and hold heat so you don’t have to rug up inside and rack up a huge electricity bill caused by one heater.

Material selection:

Here are a few ideas to assist your decision making around materials. These concepts will help create a sustainable home.

1. First off, where possible look at re-using existing building materials to minimise waste. If you knock down a wall, use those bricks for paving or if you pull up your floorboards there’s perfect material to build a fence. Get creative!

2. When purchasing the materials for your home renovation choose environmentally, sustainable friendly products. Always read the label carefully, as ‘natural’ and organic’ products may only contain a small percentage of natural ingredients. Also try and avoid building materials that leak toxic waste such as particular paints and glues.  

3. Look for renewable resources, such as timber from a sustainable managed forest. Also consider the lifespan of these materials. There’s no point going with a material that may only last a year.

Use sustainable building features:

Sustainable building features such as green roofs, facades and walls help create an environmentally sound home as well as a healthier and cleaner environment. They improve the thermal performance of a home by reducing the need for cooling and heating. On a larger scale green roofs, facades and walls can help keep a whole city cool and promote fresh air.

You may not have realised it, but the type of windows you choose for your home renovation can have a huge impact on the sustainability of your place. While windows are a high cost item in your renovation budget they are definitely worth it in the long run, so take your time and research which window configuration best suit you and your needs. Energy efficient windows will significantly reduce your energy bill while creating a more comfortable home.

Insulate, insulate, insulate:

Installing effective insulation is one of the top ways to warrant an environmentally friendly home. Insulation will make life more comfortable at home during summer and winter as it will keep your place cool and warm respectively. Not only does insulation make your home more sustainable but it drastically reduces your electricity bill too.

Minimise construction waste:

Before you start your home renovations it’s important to consider your waste management options. Throughout the renovation process and once it’s been completed there will be bricks, timber, waste rubber, metal and even hazardous material that will need to be cleared by sustainable skip bins and licensed professionals. With up to 40% of all waste coming from building sites it’s in your best interest and the environments to minimise the construction waste from your renovation project.  

It’s all in the water!

When it’s time to take on some green renovations there are changes that can made to your water system that will have a huge, positive impact on the environment. The design you choose for your home water system will depend on how much rainfall you get each year and what your needs are. Here are two main options to investigate:

  • Installing a rainwater tank has many practical advantages. They’re capable of collecting up to 80% of the rainfall that falls on your roof which can be used for the home washing machine, flushing toilets and watering the garden. The water that is used from the tanks can cut a family’s yearly water consumption by up to 20-30%. A rainwater tank will set you back between $2,500 to $4,000.
  • Greywater reuse, provides many benefits on many levels from reducing the amount of fresh water we need to limiting the amount of wastewater entering the sewers. Greywater can be defined as any domestic wastewater produced, excluding sewage. To put greywater to good use, it does need to be treated properly with a recycling tank. The reused water can be used for laundry, toilet flushing and irrigation of plants. A greywater diversion system will cost approximately $2,000 to $3,000.

Government encourages home builders to go green

The Australian Government is supporting home renovators and builders to go green and design sustainable places. They’ve introduced an initiative, Design For Place, which showcases three sustainable, modern design floor plans for a single-story home. It doesn’t matter where you live in Australia, if you implement these sustainable design principles you will significantly save yourself money and cut back on energy consumption. Design For Place is a great resource and guide to building an environmentally sustainable home.

These are some of the main design features:

  • Reverse brick veneer construction to provide high levels of internal thermal mass
  • Quality north facing glass that will deliver plenty of natural light in winter and help warm the place
  • Sun-hoods to west and east windows to assist in control of solar gain in summer
  • A southern courtyard that can be used as a sanctuary in summer and double as cross-ventilation of main living spaces
  • High opening windows over north-facing sliding doors to allow for night-time flushing of hot air
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