All building materials have some environmental impact. And poor home design can also lock you into years of wasteful energy and water consumption. Instead, use eco-friendly and salvaged building materials and design your home to be energy- and water-efficient so it needs less heating, cooling and water. You’ll reduce energy bills, make your home more comfortable and increase its resale value.
building & renovation: key steps
- Make sure your home is adequately insulated. Good insulation is the most cost-effective way to reduce your home’s energy use.
- Use passive solar design. Good building design uses natural heat, light and shade to make your home more comfortable and will cut your future energy bills by reducing the need for heating, lighting and air-conditioning.
- Install composting toilets. Dry composting toilets use no water and produce great compost for your garden. And no, they don’t smell. (They have a small extractor fan.)
Use natural paints/varnishes. Standard paint is petrol-based and emits toxic gases. Instead, paint interior walls with plant-based paints. Using light colours reduces the need for lighting.
- Use sustainable timber. Choose Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) cer tified or recycled timber.
Use salvaged building materials. Discarded building materials make up a large proportion of landfill.
- Flooring. Avoid nylon carpets. Nylon is a petrol derivative. Instead opt for tiles, sustainably sourced timber, bamboo or natural flooring such as sisal. Cork is another sustainable option, although it is imported from Europe. If you really want carpet, then choose 100 per cent wool with natural fibre backing such as hemp and no brominated flame retardant, but note all carpets shelter allergy-causing dust mites. Use carpet tiles so you can just replace worn or damaged tiles rather than throwing out the whole carpet.
want to do more?
♦ See if your home is suitable for solar panels (you need an area of north-facing roof) or a small wind turbine.
♦ Consider eco-friendly building materials such as mud-brick, rammed earth or strawbale.