why sustainable retro-fit consultations are my favourite kind of work / by megan norgate

The owners of this inner north Victorian weatherboard have installed insulation, solar hot water, photovoltaic panels, rainwater tanks, efficient heating and ceiling fans since having a home sustainability consultation with Brave New Eco.

The owners of this inner north Victorian weatherboard have installed insulation, solar hot water, photovoltaic panels, rainwater tanks, efficient heating and ceiling fans since having a home sustainability consultation with Brave New Eco.

The majority of Australians live in housing stock that was built with little or no consideration of energy efficiency. The average home over 10 years old would rate at between ZERO to TWO stars. What? I hear you cry! Yes that is what I said.
In a rating system that now says new buildings should be a minimum of 6 stars you can see our existing housing stock is in a sad state, and is going to become increasingly expensive  and uncomfortable to live in as energy prices and temperatures continue to rise.

Despite this, I personally have a big soft spot for older homes, they have lots of benefits more than an inherent aesthetic appeal. Victorian, Edwardian, Californian bungalows and 50, 60′s, and 70's homes are typically built from longer lasting materials and with a more care and craftsmanship than a new home. With the right updating and retrofitting they can be brought up to their full potential and be very comfortable and economical to live in.

The complexity of this task is that there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution as all houses are different and are often made up of a variety of materials, A ecologically sustainable retrofit consultation takes the confusion and guess work out of where to start, what to do, what to use and in what order. The consultation begins with an inspection of the home and property to gather important information about the orientation, existing technologies, current thermal and insulative qualities, lighting, passive heating and cooling potential.
We then spend time discussing the way you live, taking into consideration plans for future renovations, how long the occupants intend to live in the house, increasing comfort and health in the house, and what human and economic resources are available. with this information we   outline  the potential of your home from a sustainability perspective, but also what is going to be relevant, practical, feasible and effective for your particular situation. 

WHAT WE LOOK AT:

  • Passive solar design - potential for passive heating and cooling
  • Zoning
  • Draft proofing and retro fitting insulation
  • Auxiliary heating and cooling
  • Hot water heating
  • Renewable energy
  • Rainwater harvesting and grey water use
  • Energy efficient appliances
  • Lighting, power saving technology
  • Cross flow and passive stack ventilation
  • Adapting spaces to facilitate sustainable lifestyle
  • High performance windows and coverings
  • Energy efficient Appliances
  • Non-toxic materials

Now why are sustainability assessments to exisiting homes my favourite kind of work?
Because from an environmental perspective this is the best service I can offer to the community. Retro-fits of existing spaces may not have the glamour and excitement of new sustainable buildings or stylish eco renovations, but they have more positive impact on our environmental footprint than either of those things. This is simply because they already exist!
It it the biggest gift you can give your home, to transform it for living in the 21st century. I like to think of it as up-cycling our housing stock into a new, more efficient product.
On top of that, once you properly insulate your home and upgrade your technologies, your comfort and enjoyment of that space will increase exponentially. So many of the retrofit changes are simple, and so effective and many of my clients cannot believe they have not done them sooner. Positive changes that can be made on any budget.  Retrofit investments will be reflected in the value of your home in the future. As electricity, gas and water prices rise renters and home owners are becoming increasingly focused on the real cost of living in a potential house.
The most important factor about seeking expert advice about your home, is that it is impartial. If you do your research by talking to the suppliers of green products, they are likely to say your house needs their hotwater/ solar/ rainwater/ ventilation/ shading/ insulation system. A sustainability consultant will identify what investments are truly appropriate and will have the most satisfying impact on an environmental, economic and comfort level.