How to bring sustainability into your home improvements

kitchen with plants
Posted 22/08/2019 by Dee Campling, Interiors Expert

Sustainable living is now the norm for a lot of us, but understanding how this extends into home improvements can be tricky, so we wanted to highlight some big and small changes to your home that are eco and energy efficient. We want to show that sustainability can be stylish and can fit to your day-to-day. My top tips in sustainable renovations highlight some exciting ideas for the bank holiday and beyond. 

Don't forget about the garage

Garages are often an untapped source of space that have the potential to add practical and financial value to your house. It can be more than just a dusty room to store your vehicles in but could double up as an additional room for work, rest or play.

There are several ways that you can upgrade your garage to utilise space which could also make your home more energy efficient and sustainable. 

Firstly, if you are building a new garage, choose the correct material. Green concrete is a great building material to use, it’s partially comprised of waste concrete making it cheaper and more environmentally friendly.

If you are using your garage as an extra room, ensure that it is properly insulated as garages are notorious for being too hot in the summer and freezing cold in the winter. This can be managed with good insulation.

outside living space 

The roof of your garage can present the most opportunity for sustainable changes. Over the last few years solar panel technology has come a long way and there are a range of options to suit different needs and budgets. 

E.ON offers two different kinds of solar panels that can sit on top of a roof or sit flush with roof tiles to blend in with the existing roof. New technology allows the energy generated by the panels to be stored in a sleek battery, approximately the size of a games console allowing you to utilise the power that you have previously generated to power your home rather than drawing from the National Grid. And its innovative battery storage systems let you use 30% more of the electricity generated than with just the panels.

From an interior design point of view, if the garage roof is very visible then it may be worth investing in solar panels that look like part of your roof. You could also consider other sustainable options that improve the look of your garage and draw your eye away from the roof. Options include:

Cladding the garage with beautiful reclaimed materials such as metal or wood panels.

Landscaping the area around the garage with bird and bee friendly plants.

You could also add a wildlife pond with the water pump powered with your solar generated electricity.

Painting the garage in a colour that blends in with the landscape.

Employing a local artist (or the children!) to paint a mural on the garage wall.

Get creative with insulation

A living roof is when the roof of a building is partially covered with vegetation and growing plants over a waterproof membrane. This is just one of many ways that you can help keep your home insulated. Just remember to be careful when working with the roof and check if it is suitable for renovation. 

From a practical point of view, a living roof is an excellent way of insulating a room, reducing its heating requirements. Living roofs can also insulate you from noise - both inside and outside the room - and have a longer lifespan than standard roofs because roof membranes are more protected from heat and sunlight. 

However, a living roof has so many environmental, aesthetic and wellbeing benefits too. From an environmental standpoint, because a living roof absorbs rainwater it helps to offset the problem of rapid rainwater runoff from the impervious surfaces, such as tarmac, and rapid rainwater runoff is a big cause of flooding and erosion.

The grasses, flowers and herbs that you grow on your living roof promotes the habitat of birds, butterflies and insects and if you add herbs and vegetables into the mix you can help to feed your family too.

And there are health benefits too – a living roof, and a general increase in green spaces in a home is now well known to reduce stress and increase feelings of wellbeing at home. Your home is the one place you should always feel happy and relaxed in and so anything that helps facilitate that should be embraced wholeheartedly. 

Finally, a living roof could add value to your home as its natural and sustainable appearance gives it an edge that could be appealing to buyers. 

living room

In addition to this, making sure your home is insulated, and you have an energy-efficient boiler will help use less energy for heat.  Smart thermostats are a great way to manage the temperature of your house and ensure that your energy bills aren’t sky high during unseasonably warm weather. 

They can be controlled remotely via a smartphone and some, like the tado°, synchronise their programming to a weather forecast to heat your space more efficiently. 

By using smart technology to control the temperature of the house you can keep an eye on your energy consumption and adjust habits if you need to.  

Get close to nature

Incorporating more windows into your home improvements will also introduce your home to the principles of biophilic design – a concept within the building industry of designing buildings in such a way that the occupier feels much closer to nature. 

Bathroom with plants

Feeling closer to nature has economic, health and environmental benefits and there are many ways in which you can add this principle to your home improvements and here are just a few: 

Extra natural light from your windows means you can easily grow plants or living walls in your space. Plants, amongst other things, can improve air quality and reduce stress

Cladding your walls in natural wood is a great way of insulating your house as well as adhering to biophilic design principles. Using reclaimed wood such as old scaffold boards is a sustainable option too.

Using colours from nature such as greens, whites and beiges also adheres to biophilic design principles and of course using naturally derived clay paints is the more sustainable option.

Use patterns from nature in your interior design to create a connection with nature – curves, leaf shapes and floral patterns are all part of biophilic design.

Being able to vary the air temperature is also a key part of biophilic design. Choose windows and skylights that you can open to increase airflow.

If you are adding windows, it’s worth thinking about where your radiators are placed to ensure optimum efficiency. Checking you have the right boiler for the size of your home could also make a difference to your lifestyle and heating efficiency.

Dee Campling, Interiors Expert

Dee Campling, Interiors expert

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