May 2015

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We can help you choose the right green home insulation

There is more to green home insulation than meets the eye.

In a new home things like the design of the house and the choice of wall structure and ventilation are the biggest factors in getting the best result. In other words there is more to this than just going for the highest rated fibreglass batts.

Here are some of the options:

  • Concrete with exterior insulation called: Insulated concrete forms (CIF). These offer the ultimate in insulation performance, fire proofing, soundproofing, long term durability and unmatched strength.
  • High thermal mass walls such as mud brick or rammed earth. Old school but low embedded energy and very effective when combined with well designed & effective exterior insulation strategies.
  • Reverse brick veneer. Having the bricks on the inside and insulated from external charging from the outside holds heat in winter and cool in summer.
  • Timber. Recycled low thermal bridge.

Whether you are  renovating your home or building a new one we can help you choose the right green home insulation.

 

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What makes a green builder?

What is green building? What makes a builder a green builder?

You don’t even have to search online to see that there is an avalanche of information out there on “green building’ and more than a few Melbourne builders who position themselves as a “green builder.”

Other sites, of course, are selling sustainable building products. Many of these products are great but how can you tell which ones are right for you and what the alternatives are? A green builder is someone that should know all the options and can advise you on the best way to go for your unique situation.

Great green building – ending up with a beautiful home that is made for you – AND is sustainable is not a simple task. There is a lot more variables to it than just putting in more insulation, having solar hot water and a water tank if you want the best result. The decision to use a green builder is not unaffordable but it does mean there are a lot of choices that need to be evaluated in terms of their effectiveness and value and it helps to have real expert advice.

Anyway here is a small list of some of the things that you might expect a green builder to consider and some of the ways they might consider them in terms of your needs.

  • Green home design principles
  • Understanding of home siting and microclimates etc.
  • Green building materials and the best cost for value options
  • Integration of garden and surrounds with your home design for better liveability and reduction in environmental footprint
  • Insulation options
  • Low or no VOC’s or other toxic compounds in your home
  • Grey water treatment
  • Rainwater harvesting
  • Passive heating and cooling

What is Green home design?

 Green home design combines every factor we have listed above.

There is no single silver bullet that makes a green home successful. Rather it is a balance of many, many factors that your green builder should be able to guide you on. You can have a large and luxurious house or a very small house and both can be significantly green. If your budget is limited a green builder should also be able to advise you on design principles which will allow you to reduce the overall size of your home without compromising on room size, aesthetics or quality of finishes. The right sustainable design can still look roomy even though its overall size is less than might be expected.

 

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Green garden design as part of a green home

A green garden design is great way to add efficiency – and pleasure, to your green home.

In green building the house works hand in hand with the landscaping to make your home more comfortable, more beautiful and cheaper to run. The great advantage is that the right landscaping and plant choices can deliver a whole range of benefits and produce these long term at no or minimal cost.

  • Roof gardens Insulate from cold during winter and heat in summer
  • Creation of microclimates for special plants i.e. to enable those that require sun or heat to be grown in colder climates.
  • Once established, many native plants need minimal irrigation beyond normal rainfall.
  • Gardens watered with grey water or rainwater.
  • Garden design and plant selection to reduce weeds.
  • Green garden design to reduce maintenance.
  • Reduction of reflective heat into home
  • Reduction in wind and wind swirl
  • Providing natural habitat for fauna such as birds & insects
  • Green gardens can either be highly productive or decorative examples might be using a ground cover instead of lawn that requires a lot of maintenance, fertilizer and water, or some fruit trees in-between native shrubs.
  • Native plants have developed their own defences against many pests and diseases. Since most pesticides kill indiscriminately, beneficial insects become secondary targets in the fight against pests. Reducing or eliminating pesticide use lets natural pest control take over and keeps garden toxins out of our creeks and watersheds.
  • Water features can be used to aid in fire protection, water plants, frogs, insect & animals water source.
  • Use of fire retardant tree & grasses species as part of your fire plan
  • Incorporating zones of native bush for protection of biological diversity.
  • Edible gardens to supplement (or even replace) parts of your supermarket shopping
  • Permanent natural fences for security and aesthetic appeal or animal control
  • Use of Permaculture principles such as companion planting to reduce garden maintenance, plant diseases and watering.

As you can see the list of what a green garden can do for your green home is long. We can help you with planning the big picture of this for your home and lifestyle.

We look forward to hearing from you. If you would like to find out more or have any questions contact Anton Engelmayer on 0418 177 380 or email at [email protected]

 

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Property inspections for building and efficiency

Now you can check building quality and have the best comfort and energy efficiency in your home

 

There are many different types of property inspections out there. Working your way through the minefield of which report to get for what and by who can be confusing. There is so much more you can learn from a property inspection, not just what are the major defects and how do I fix them. How about, “If I renovate this property how can it make it work as efficiently as possible so the property is more comfortable and costs less to run?” or “ What type of heating would be best to include here?” , or “How can I keep this part of the home cool?”.   Unlike many property inspections an Efficient Property Inspections Report combines the building structure, resource efficiency and common sense financial guidance on the potential of a home, into one report.

Wouldn’t it be useful to know about any building issues AND how to optimise efficiency!

This is exactly what we do through our Efficient Property Inspection Service.

The Efficient Property Inspection Service combines the know how of a highly reputable green builder – Anton Engelmayer from Calm Living Homes, and sustainability consultant Danielle King from Green Moves. This means you get a comprehensive outline of issues from both a building quality and energy efficiency perspective. Because we can also help you understand the costs and all other implications of the options outlined our report is very actionable and really helps you make the best decisions. This is critical if say, you are trying to assess whether you would be better renovating your existing home or buying a new home.

This service is for those who have or are looking at a property and …

  • Want to know what the options are and what is feasible to do with a current property
  • Are considering a renovation project or new building project
  • Want to know about any issues a property may have in terms of workmanship, design, finish etc
  • Want to know what the potential of a property might be in terms of renovation and resource efficiency.

The Efficient Property Inspection Report will identify…

  • Any major issues or defects with the property (and what to do about it),
  • Any potential maintenance issues and recommendations on solutions,
  • High level estimates for any remedial actions required and the trade to provide it,
  • Ideas for renovation potential and design of the property (or review your plans and comment),
  • Opportunities to maximise the energy and water efficiencies of the property,
  • Comment on features that offer best ‘value for money’,
  • A prioritised list of actions or considerations,
  • Opportunities to maximise the comfort of the property and enhance future value.

The Service …

  • Takes a holistic look at the property including structural, environmental, surroundings and other considerations to maximise the potential and minimise the costs,
  • Is provided by a registered builder and accredited sustainability consultant,
  • Is a fixed price (based on house size) and covers site visit, creation of the report and any post report queries,
  • Provides an easy to read inspection report with prioritised actions (delivered via email),
  • Is fully insured for Public Liability and Professional Indemnity.

If you would like one of us to manage or even be the builder for your renovation project, we can do that too!

 For more information contact Anton Engelmayer on 0418 177 380 or [email protected] 

 

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Asthma friendly and allergy friendly homes

A green home can be an asthma friendly home and an allergy friendly home

Mechanical air ventilation as used in Europe (and increasingly here) not only makes your home more liveable but can also make it more asthma friendly and allergy friendly.

Mechanical ventilation (solar powered) now means you can filter out all outside contaminants so you are breathing fresh air 24/7 from the outside. This includes allergens and pollutants  such as pollen and particulates from fires and diesel fumes for example.

These are filtered out using a carbon filter and the temperature from the stale air is converted into the new internal fresh air using 92 % efficient heat exchange units which can  also heat and cool air with the same unit if needed removing the need for extra temperature control in home.

This mechanical ventilation uses very low wattage power and can be easily powered direct from solar panels so the ongoing cost is negligible.

So if you suffer from asthma, hay fever or other general allergic conditions that can be triggered by airborne  pollutants we can build you a home that will become a refuge  when you need to escape these.

We look forward to hearing from you. If you would like to find out more or have any questions contact Anton Engelmayer on 0418 177 380 or email at [email protected]

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Some green renovation practices you may not be aware of

If you love the home that you are in but would like to undertake a green renovation we can help. Maybe you want to make it bigger, lighter or more comfortable?. If you would also like to save on water and energy costs we can use the best in green building principles to do that – and lessen your impact on the earth by doing it.

If you have a heritage home a green renovation also doesn’t mean you have to change its appearance that you love and that gives its unique character. Many of the changes we make in a green makeover are under the skin so the only thing you’ll notice is a drop (or the total elimination) of your power bills or your hay fever or asthma.

Just as with a  new green home any green renovation we love working with your ideas and  and  can explain the options and costs so you can set the bar where you are comfortable. That can be from a few improvements that make the biggest difference for their cost  to a green renovation with efficiencies equal or better than a new green building.

Just so you understand a bit more about what can be involved in a green home makeover here are some examples of the sustainable building techniques we use:

Airflow and heat and cooling leaks

Pretty well any standard building, even those built in the last 10 years, has a lot of ways that air can enter it in ways that are not desirable. Older houses, especially heritage homes, often have gaps in flooring or behind architraves where cold air running freely around the buildings foundations can get in. When you try and heat a room like this your heat source causes hot air to rise and exit through gaps in your ceiling such as around light sockets between windows and walls to finally reach he outside via the many gaps in your tile roof. As this hot air rises a convection cycle is set up. As the hot air escapes it sucks more cold air in through the gaps below so most of our heat is going to waste so your heat source has to work that much harder to give you a relatively low level of comfort.

In summer the reverse can happen. Your cooling system creates cold air which being heavier than warm air then leaks out through these gaps and in doing so sucks hot air out of the roof cavity and from the hot top of the roof between the many gaps in the roof tiles or eaves. Once more a convection cycle is set up but this time it is making you hotter not colder and your cooling system has to work harder to over come this.

In a situation like this we find that filling the following areas with Eco foam or other low VOC foam makes a big difference:

  • Floorboard gaps (from below)
  • Gaps between floor boards and wall covering (behind architrave)
  • Gaps around windows (behind window surrounds)
  • Gaps around light fittings in ceiling
  • Proper insulation of ceiling (foam is better than fibreglass bats in terms of U and R factor and draft prevention)
  • Filling of gaps under roof tiles

This can be done cost effectively by our suppliers who have specialized equipment to make it cost effective.

All of the above does not mean your green renovation will not “breathe”. In fact our usual objective is to make it breathe better than a conventional home.  However if you want to make your home even more efficient, breathe constantly fresh air, free of pollens that cause Asthma or dust that can cause Asthma attacks there is a further option…

Mechanical ventilation – the ultimate fresh air option for your green home

At first we understand you might feel this sounds strange, maybe even unnatural, but stay with us because the more you look at this the more natural it will seem. Once you experience your green renovation with planned fresh air flows you will feel the difference.

Living in our Machu Picchu we know first hand how great it is to breathe fresh air with every breath and can say for sure that it feels better.

Why? Because the reality is that within a conventional house there are many areas where air is not “fresh”. That is not just because this may be contaminated by the continual off gassing of building materials and furnishings that release VOC’s or (Volatile Organic Compounds) that are not helpful to your health. It is just that in normal house there is inevitably areas where air does not circulate and is stale or polluted or cold.

When we seal the gaps in the house we can deliver total temperature comfort but you really get the icing on the cake when you add 12v mechanical ventilation. Because it is 12 volt its energy can be taken direct from a solar panel when the sun is out and driven at minimal cost when it is not. It advantages are clear:

  • Permitting the ultimate in hot and cold weather comfort through optimal insulation
  • Mixing hot and cold air so that all areas of your home (or which ever ones you choose) are at an even temperature.
  • Allowing filtering out of pollens, dust and other air borne pollutants

It goes without saying that the ability to reduce your hay fever or have a more asthma friendly home or new home renovation is a big thing but many suffers don’t seem to be aware of this option.

Energy efficient glazing

Many people already know about double-glazing but are not aware of the option of argon as a filler gas or of low emissivity glass both of which can be substantially more efficient than older style double-glazing alone.

While it is possible to build double glazed windows to match nearly any conventional window some clients go for low emissivity glass, which is a specially coated single pane of glass that has an invisible coating that prevents heat escaping through the glass to the cold out doors. These low e windows can be more than twice as efficient as older double-glazing that does not have low e coating.

In the case of our own home we have opted for commercial type windows, which need no maintenance and are double-glazed with argon gas filler. The argon gives

For the technically minded, insulated glass can give serious improvements to the efficiency of your windows. This insulation ability is called an R rating. This refers to the materials resistance to heat or insulation value. The higher the R value the better the insulation capability of that material. Fibreglass batts for example are rated in this way. The thicker the batt, the higher the R rating. Here’s a comparison:

Typical old school double glazed window

Air in the cavity and uncoated glass – R-value of 0.35 K·m2/W.

Add argon gas to cavity – R-value of R 3 (about 8.5 times better)

Add low e glass to this same window and you move up to R 4 (More than 11 times better!)

In some situations people opt for triple glazing but the measures above as you can see add significant improvement to your homes energy efficiency – which over the whole life of the home/window really adds up.

Just FYI while there is no doubt energy efficient glazing is a really important contributor to a green home or green renovation in practice we have found  filling around the edges of a window where it fits into the wall has a huge effect. The key is people  put heat loss down to the glass alone where the window surround is also critical.

Low toxicity paints and low VOC materials in your home renovation

Unfortunately many of the materials used in modern homes are toxic or put out toxic fumes which is termed “off gassing”

One of the chief culprits here is what are called VOC’s or Volatile Organic Compounds. These are chemicals, which have a very low boiling point and so spread their molecules continually into the air at room temperature. Formaldehyde for example is (a known carcinogen which is commonly found in conventional paints and adhesives) has a boiling point of only 19 degrees C. In other words at any temperature over that you are breathing it. Studies have shown that prolonged exposure to VOC’s can increase levels of leukemia and lymphoma (1) and these are often responsible for “sick building syndrome”.

At Calm Living Homes we have a whole range of low or no VOC products including paints and floor finishes that we can use to replace your existing finished with the same effect but without the continual leakage of these chemicals into your home environment.

As always we can guide you to the green renovation techniques and sustainable building materials that are going to give you the best value (in the fullest sense of the word) for your money.

Contact Anton Engelmayer for more details on 0418 177380 or [email protected]

Footnote

1. Irigaray P; Newby JA; Clapp R; Hardell L; Howard V; Montagnier L; Epstein S; Belponne D (2007) “Lifestyle related factors and environmental agents causing cancer: An overview” Biomedicine and Pharmacotherapy 61 (10) 640 – 58