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]


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