While design trends come and go, having an eco friendly home that is stylish, comfortable to live in and costs less to run will never go out of fashion. Here are four trends about the eco-home movement to inspire you only next year, but for a lifetime.
1. EXPOSED TRUSSES AND BEAMSA sunny, natural light-filled home has always been in high demand, however in 2018 we can expect more homeowners looking at other ways beyond windows and skylights to maximise natural sunlight and create a feeling of openness. Pitched roofs with exposed trusses are increasingly popular as they create a feeling of spaciousness, even in homes on the smaller scale. High ceilings and open plan living will typically create a bright, airy feeling, and by eliminating a light-blocking ceiling, you will be able to harness every bit of sunlight possible. Naturally lit environments increase productivity and comfort and, of course, provide you with substantial energy savings.
The look of exposed beams can range from rustic to modern, depending on whether you decide to keep them raw and natural or freshen them up with a coat of crisp, white paint. Metal and cement elements can lend an industrial feel, and creative lighting options are endless. Eco Essence Homes embraces the use of high ceilings with exposed trusses and rafters, which are included in many of their home designs. More than just an architectural feature, they are a key factor in eco-friendly home design due to their ability to harness natural light, channel cool breezes and release hot stale air, therefore reducing the need to rely on artificial lighting and reverse cycle air conditioning throughout the day.
2. GREENERY BEYOND THE GARDEN
With more and more homes being built in urban areas, many homeowners are finding that they don’t necessarily have the space for a sprawling garden. Vertical gardens, balcony gardens and green roofs are all great options for adding some greenery to your home, as is bringing potted plants indoors. Varieties such as a spider plant, peace lily or bamboo palm are great choices for their air-purifying qualities, while big, leafy tropical plants will bring an uplifting energy to your home.
Eco Essence encourages homeowners to create a healthy and ecologically responsible building by considering green roofs and walls in their home design. Not only will they improve thermal performance and stormwater management, they’ll also encourage biodiversity and local food production.
If a green roof or green wall isn’t achievable, we suggest making it about smart design and encourage you to incorporate nature where you can. For example, plant a private garden courtyard off your bathroom, creating a flourishing spa atmosphere. Blur the lines between indoors and outdoors by integrating bi-fold doors and large windows that open onto a courtyard or fish pond. Think about how to use standard building materials in a different way. Sub out a concrete driveway for a permeable grassed driveway, adding a touch of greenery to your home.
3. HEALTHY, HAPPY HOMES
Considering the amount of time we spend in our homes, it makes sense to do everything we can to ensure that it’s a healthy place to be. Good ventilation, indoor plants and a regular cleaning regime can go a long way in improving air quality, however choosing the best materials to use from the very start is key to creating a healthy, eco friendly home and space.
Eco-buildings have a positive impact on your families’ health, both physically and mentally. Pollutants should be minimised by opting for sustainable, non-toxic products. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are one of the worst offenders when it comes to air pollutants, so the team at Eco Essence selects paints, glues, materials and finishes that have no – or low – VOCs to ensure homeowners can enjoy the healthiest air possible.
4. MIXING MATERIALS
Using a combination of materials, both new and recycled, is one of the simplest ways to integrate sustainability into eco friendly home design and create a unique facade. Reclaimed wood in particular is filled with character and each piece tells a story – utilising it in your new home will not only help the environment by saving the material from going to landfill, it will also add a unique look to your home that can’t be replicated. Combine this with the clean, smooth lines of Scyon Stria™ or Scyon Axon™ external wall cladding for a contemporary home that is still filled with character.
Eco Essence recycles and reuses materials wherever possible, whether it be reclaimed flooring, aged timber posts or recycled benches and shelving. The team also reuses, reduces and recycles 80 per cent of its waste so that it can be reused in future manufacturing of building products.
*"4 trends in eco friendly home design for 2018". (Dec. 8, 2017). Eco-Essence Homes. Retrieved from, http://www.ecoessencehomes.com.au/4-trends-eco-friendly-home-design-2018/.
Home heating is probably our single biggest energy expense. Nearly all of us rely on fossil fuels. How can we accomplish more sustainable winter heating?
1. Find and eliminate draftsOn a windy day, take a piece of string and move your hand around every window sill, door jam, vent, pet door, or anywhere else there might be a draft.
If the string continues to hang straight down, all is well. If it starts to blow around, you have found a leak.
Use silicone caulk or a foam sealant for window frames or other sources that don’t move. You can get draft gaskets for outlets or light switches on outside walls.
For leaks around doors or windows, add weather stripping. Single pane windows will probably be drafty and will conduct heat in the wrong direction even if they’re not.
If you’re handy, you can make pelmets, which are decorations something like wooden valences. They also prevent heat loss through convection currents, so you’ll recoup the cost of the plywood. You can also buy pelmets, but they can be expensive.
If you don’t have storm windows, you can get a plastic film to cover the window and then shrink it with a hair dryer. Of course, then you have plastic waste in the spring. If you don’t need light through the window hang heavy curtains or blankets over it.
2. Check your insulationDo you have enough insulation? Department of Energy’s ZIP-Code Insulation Program will estimate how much insulation your house needs. Just enter your ZIP-code and select the kind of fuel you use from a menu.
If you need more insulation, adding it to the attic is easiest. Adding it to the walls is more complicated. It’s also more effective at reducing costs.
What kind of insulation should you use? For sustainable winter heating, go green! Recycled paper, old jeans, and other materials make good insulation. So look for a local company that offers recycled insulation.
3. Use a programmable thermostatIt used to be that the most efficient way to heat or cool a home was to set the thermostat at one desired temperature and leave it there. Nowadays, get a programmable thermostat instead.
You can program it for five degrees lower during the day when everyone is at work or school, and at night while you sleep. And then it will raise the heat before you get up and in time for the first person to come home.
A programmable thermostat knows what day it is, too, so you can set a different schedule for every day of the week.
Some people set their furnaces to a higher temperature in the winter than they set their air conditioners in the summer.
That makes no sense!
Plan to wear thick socks, sweaters, and other suitable winter clothing and turn the thermostat as low as you can without having to wear a hat and gloves in the house.
4. Use a fireplace, or not, depending on what you haveA gas fireplace looks pretty. It doesn’t heat the room very well. It’s actually cheaper to turn up the thermostat and let your central heating warm the room—and the rest of the house. A better idea? If you’re feeling a little chilly, put on warmer clothes or wrap yourself in a blanket.
A wood-burning fireplace, on the other hand, gives off much more heat. It will make the room toasty warm without heating the rest of the house. If you burn scrap wood or wood pellets made from sawdust instead of logs, your fireplace will provide very cost-effective heat.
Just make sure that you watch it carefully and keep it serviced. Careless use of a fireplace can burn your house down.
5. Reverse your ceiling fanYou probably use your ceiling fan mostly in the summer. It rotates counterclockwise.
The circulation of the air doesn’t cool the room, but it makes it feel cooler.
Most ceiling fans have a switch to let them rotate clockwise in the winter.
With that setting, the fan will draw down the heat that has risen to the ceiling. It promotes sustainable winter heating by keeping the heat in the room rather than letting it dissipate through the roof.
6. Use a space heaterIf you spend a lot of time in one of the smaller rooms of your home, consider a space heater. It takes less fuel to use it than increase the temperature the entire home with your furnace. Newer ones are safer and more energy efficient than older ones. Put your heater close to where you’ll be sitting or otherwise spending most of your time. But avoid using an extension cord.
7. Take advantage of sunlightUse passive solar heat. In the summer, you can put solar shades on south or west facing windows, or close curtains, to keep the sun from heating your home.
In the winter, remove the solar shades and keep the curtains open during the day time; heat coming in through the windows is a good thing in winter. Be sure to close the curtains at night to keep heat from escaping through the glass.
8. Your oven and sustainable winter heatingIt’s a bad idea to use the oven to heat a room, but if you’re going to use it for cooking, you might as well leave the oven door open when you turn it off. You’ve already paid for the energy it’s used. Get double duty from it
9. Skip the exhaust fanYou probably have exhaust fans in your bathrooms and above the stove. In the winter time, think of them as drafts you can turn on and off. Don’t turn them on except at extreme need. They’ll suck hot air out of the house, and your furnace will have to work harder.
10. Keep the humidity high enoughIn bitterly cold weather, the air inside your home can get as dry as a desert. Or maybe drier. Indoor humidity ought to be at least 20 percent, up to 40 percent.
Among other dangers of excessive dryness, you’ll feel colder. Turning up the heat will just dry the air more.
A humidifier can help with sustainable winter heating, especially one designed to sit under the air intake and humidify the entire house. Lots of houseplants or an aquarium can help, too.
Don’t overdo it. If ice forms on the inside of your windows, the indoor air is too humid. Like too-dry air, too-humid air can do structural damage to your home and furnishings.
I have mentioned air loss through windows, especially old single pane windows. At some point, you’ll have to replace old windows. And an old furnace. That will be expensive. In the mean time, experiment with these less expensive—or free—ways to reduce energy consumption. Sustainable winter heating is good your finances and the environment.
*"10 Tips for Sustainable Winter Heating". (Dec. 15, 2016). Sustaining Our World. Retrieved from, http://sustainingourworld.com/2016/12/15/10-tips-sustainable-winter-heating/
Clear your walk, keep your car in good shape, and heat your home this season without compromising your green values -- and save on utility bills while you're at it. All it takes is a fresh approach to your cold-winter habits. Many of the ice- and snow-fighting products we've used for years present eco-issues that don't get much attention. Take the rock salt scattered on walkways. It contains cyanide, traces of which will likely end up in your flower beds come spring. Then there's antifreeze, a known poison that rarely gets recycled. Meanwhile, coal-burning power plants, outdated wood stoves, and "warming up the car" threaten respiratory health more this season than any other time of year. With these 10 tips, you'll be on your way to a healthier, greener winter.
Choose Safer Antifreeze
Just 2 ounces of the standard ethylene glycol antifreeze can kill a dog. Propylene glycol offers a much less toxic alternative (although with fossil fuel origins, it's hardly eco-friendly). Since both kinds pick up hazardous heavy metals like lead, cadmium, and chromium during use, recycle spent antifreeze to minimize impact. Ask your repair shop about on-site recycling or find a local collection facility at earth911.org.
Fight Frost Naturally
To prevent ice from covering home and car windows, rub the inside of the glass with a saltwater-soaked sponge; dry with a clean cloth. You won't see it, but a residue from the salt will remain to ward off frost. For extra oomph, spray a solution of three parts white vinegar and one part water on the outside of the glass, then wipe dry.
Use Better De-icers
Steer clear of rock salt (sodium chloride) and urea-based de-icers. Not only can they pollute habitats with plant-killing runoff, but they can also corrode concrete, destroy your lawn (even a snow-covered one), and contaminate water supplies. Better bets? Sand, which provides traction without damaging salt-sensitive landscapes, and calcium chloride, which may still hurt vegetation, but is free of the cyanide present in rock salt.
Start fires with dry kindling to minimize emissions and maximize efficiency. Feed blazes with small loads of hard woods that have aired out ("seasoned") for at least six months. (Well-seasoned hardwood offers a cleaner burn.) Never burn chemical- or pressure-treated wood. Keep flames hot and bright; low, smoldering fires pollute more. When the fireplace is not in use, close the flue to keep warm indoor air from escaping out the chimney.
Don't let your car idle for more than 30 seconds. Beyond wasting fuel, excessive idling strains cylinders, spark plugs, exhaust systems, and engines, which work best in motion -- not in neutral. The best way to warm up the car? Drive it. If your area regularly drops below 20 degrees, consider installing a block heater, which warms essential components without wasting fuel. It can cost a few hundred dollars, but you'll save gas and reduce emissions by up to 60 percent.
Upgrade Your Hearth
EPA-certified wood-burning stoves produce an average of 70 percent less particulate emissions than their old, uncertified counterparts. If your stove is more than 20 years old, it's probably time for an update. Find a certified professional who can install your new stove properly (so you get maximum efficiency and minimal pollution) through the National Fireplace Institute (nficertified.org).
Let the Sunshine In
Even in winter, the sun's rays provide a fair amount of warmth. Take advantage of this free heating by opening blinds and curtains on the windows that receive the most light (usually on the east side). At night, draw heavy insulating drapes to help preserve warmth, or invest in "low-e" Energy Star-certified windows (especially on the north side of the house). Learn more at energystar.gov.
Insulate Your Pipes
To minimize wait time for hot water to come out of the tap in the morning, insulate all accessible hot water pipes. You'll raise the temperature by up to 4 degrees, allowing you to lower the water heater setting (and save energy) without suffering through cold showers. If you don't want to do the whole house, you can still make a big impact by focusing on the 3 feet of piping closest to the water heater.
Lower Your Thermostat
The Department of Energy recommends turning your thermostat down to 68 degrees while you're at home, and setting it even lower at night or when you're gone for the day. If you turn the heat down by 10 degrees for a daily eight-hour stretch, you could reduce your heating bill by as much as 15 percent. According to Energy Star, a programmable thermostat can save up to $150 annually. What if you leave town for a stretch? Set the thermostat no lower than 55 degrees. Drain your water system before lowering it to this temperature to avoid freezing pipes.
Seal Up the Attic
Save on heating by plugging up air leaks that lead from the attic down into the main house. If you have a hatch door, make sure to weather-strip and insulate it. Also assess your attic's overall insulation, which slows the escape of heat from your living areas. For the attic floor, if insulation is at or below the top of the floor joists, you probably need more. Log on to energysavers.gov for more guidance on insulating.
*"Winter Green: Ecofriendly Ways to Stay Healthy this Season". (January, 2007). Whole Living. Retrieved from, http://www.wholeliving.com/133860/winter-green-ecofriendly-ways-stay-healthy-season.
Doing your part to help the environment used to just be a passing interest.
Sure, recycle a few cans here and there. Donate to an eco-friendly charity once in a while. But other than that, most modern households weren’t too concerned with how their actions were affecting the earth.
Nowadays however, it’s absolutely essential that we each do our part because frankly, the planet has never been more fragile than it is today.
But luckily, being eco-friendly doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice style when it comes to your interior design.
Below, we’ve put together nine ways to go green while still staying chic.
Seek out natural bases made of wood or stoneFew design elements scream out “nature lover” like ones that come straight from the earth like stone and wood.
Granite countertops, bamboo ceilings, and reclaimed barn-wood walls not only look amazing, they also cut down on pre-market processing where the bulk of polluting takes place.
Prioritize organic materials for your comfort needsThe same principle as above applies to the not-so-structural elements as well. Natural materials like organic cotton, wool, silk, and other natural fibers are all extremely versatile and can be used in pillows, comforters, mattresses and even floor coverings.
Keeping your distance from synthetic fibers not only takes some of the energy-intensive manufacturing out of the equation, it also reduces the use of the petroleum-based chemicals which can be required to make them.
Take advantage of sunlight as much as you canIf your home is lucky enough to get natural sunlight but you aren’t making use of it, that’s a mistake that could really be holding back your interior design.
Sunlight is bar none the best quality light you can get. It brings out colors, isn’t overwhelming, and, of course, is 100% natural.
What does that mean for your home décor’s carbon footprint? The more natural light you bring into your home, the less you have to spend on artificial lighting.
So go ahead, open up those shades up a bit.
Aim for energy-efficient light bulbsWhen you can’t bring the Sun’s radiance into your space, the next best choice for illumination is undoubtedly LED lighting. These bulbs are 75% more efficient than tradition incandescent bulbs and are even more eco-friendly than compact fluorescents.
And when you consider all the other environmental benefits of modern smart bulbs today, there are few changes you can make around the house that rival the simplicity and effectiveness of smart lighting.
Consider using multi-purpose furnitureFurniture design has changed over the years. And one of the most exciting new developments in the field is multi-purpose design.
Through creativity and ingenuity alone, furniture designers all over the world are creating couches that transform into beds, desks that morph into complete dining sets, and chairs that double as storage.
Besides being incredibly clever, these creations help to take advantage of space and cut down on production materials too.
Read your labels carefullyEnvironmentally friendly production has actually become a selling point for a lot of companies. And that means materials of all sorts will tell you whether their processes are eco-friendly.
Some even come with a VOC (volatile organic compounds) rating right on the packaging so you know if they contain harmful air pollutants.
So next time you’re picking out a new paint shade to add some character to your living room, be on the lookout for eco-friendly choices. You probably won’t have to search too hard.
Pop in a few plantsThis one shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. What’s more pro-environment than plants anyway?
In addition to adding a splash of color to your space, plants help to filter your air by removing fine particulates and absorbing carbon dioxide. If you’re looking for a fresher feel for your interior design, bring mother nature into the equation.
Secondhand furnishings are chic and eco-friendlyThere was a time when brand new furnishings were the peak of elegance. But, as you’ve probably noticed, secondhand objects are starting to take over as the pinnacle of style.
Whether it’s the story behind a driftwood-carved coffee table that was found in a thrift store or the character conveyed by the slightly-off stitching in your family room rug, the charm of secondhand furniture is putting it in first place.
Shop and ship local whenever possible
And finally, try to get as many materials as you can from vendors who source their products locally. The less fuel it takes to bring those products to you, the better.
*"9 Eco-Friendly Interior Design Tips to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint". (July 12, 2017). Flux Smart Lighting. Retrieved from, https://www.fluxsmartlighting.com/blogs/news/9-eco-friendly-interior-design-tips-to-reduce-your-carbon-footprint.
If you're trying to be eco-friendly while building your dream home, you might think there's no way you can compensate for the carbon emissions and resources that you use. However, if you stick to using green companies and you choose your building materials carefully, you could stand to create a truly environmentally friendly home.
Make sure you use materials such as the following:
Bamboo is an incredibly eco-friendly building material that can be used for a variety of building jobs. Whether you choose to go the whole hog and create your entire house out of bamboo (which has been done in China) or you use it to craft certain aspects of your new property, you're sure to enjoy this building material.
Bamboo is incredibly fast-growing, which means it can be replanted and reforested very quickly. It can be grown across the world as well, so you don't need to have it shipped in from across the globe.
2. Reclaimed lumber
If wood is a central aspect of your building plan, you should use reclaimed lumber rather than choosing freshly felled wood from an environmentally unfriendly source. This wood has been reclaimed from demolished structures and products, and has been reworked into new wood. It's just another form of recycling that can help you on your way to sustainability.
3. Recycled metal
Mining has caused many terrible environmental impacts, such as sinkholes, soil contamination and disturbances to natural habitats around the world. Many metals can easily be recycled though, so there's no need to be against the mining industry. Iron, aluminium and copper are the three most recycled metals in the world, meaning you could easily include them in your building design.
4. Dimension stone
Dimension stone is a natural building material that can be sourced with relative ease. It is preferable over certain metals, glass and plastics that can pollute the environment, which often use a lot of resources to create. Dimension stone can also be reclaimed, which could be an even better option for your building.
5. Sheep's wool
When planning the insulation for your property, choosing an eco-friendly option such as sheep's wool is always preferable. It's completely sustainable and natural, and it has better insulating properties than some manmade options. For instance, it is usually thicker than glass wool cellulose and mineral wool insulation, and uses less energy to manufacture.
Choosing eco-friendly building materials is often the first step to creating as green a property as possible. Do you know of any other materials that you could use in a green construction plan?
This article was written by Aurora Johnson on behalf of Flat Pack Houses, a specialist in wood products for building projects.
*Meyers, G.R., (n.d.), Top 5 Eco-Friendly Building Materials. Retrieved from, https://www.smartcitiesdive.com/ex/sustainablecitiescollective/top-5-eco-friendly-building-materials/128721/