If you are planning to renovate or remodel your home, go green. A home renovation is often the best opportunity to make your house more efficient and sustainable and will help you save money in the long run too.
With climate change accelerating and the planet getting hotter and hotter, being environmentally mindful is exactly what the world needs right now. With Singapore moving towards more sustainable living, eco-conscious homeowners can do their part to reduce their environmental footprint too.
Here are five renovation practices to consider and feel good about your home.
1. Use Sustainable Wood
If you truly appreciate the beauty and luxury of exotic wood such as mahogany and rosewood, keep them out of the home as logging puts them at risk of extinction. Heading straight for low-cost wood is not ideal either.
This is because our growing demand quickens the pace of conversion of natural forests with high conservation value into commercial forests. This creates undue social and environmental consequences.
A comfortable, functional and sustainable home begins with making sustainable choices in your flooring, walls and furniture. When designing cabinets or built-in wardrobes with your interior designer, choose wood that is constructed out of sustainable forest management practices.
Bamboo, for instance, is easy to grow and is considered a renewable resource. Besides being eco-friendly, bamboo veneer is safe, durable and versatile.
For the lowest environmental impact, choose reclaimed, salvaged or upcycled wood, which is more environmentally friendly than newly cut wood. When refinished, their natural colour variations will exude an authentic, rustic charm.
You can also request for wood that is made from sustainably sourced materials. For instance, choose laminates that are crafted using paper-based materials. Wood made from recycled materials such as vanilla husks and coffee beans also befits the ‘reduce, reuse and recycle’ movement.
2. Create An Eco-Friendly Kitchen
There are three main materials for kitchen countertops: natural materials, manufactured materials and recycled materials. If you are considering laminates or concrete, take note of their environmental impact: Laminates have a relatively shorter life span and cannot be recycled, while the manufacturing of concrete results in pollution.
On the other hand, natural materials such as granite and marble do not require further processing. However, you may wish to consider the impact of resource extraction and transportation on the environment.
To renovate sustainably, create an eco-friendly kitchen out of recycled materials. There are suppliers that offer recycled glass, recycled porcelain, bamboo or paper-based counters and material options. You may also consider wood salvaged from older warehouses and commercial buildings to transform your dining area into a rustic bar, or to complete your home’s industrial look.
3. Devise A Water-Efficient Bathroom
If your bathroom is due for an upgrade, choosing the right faucets and fixtures can significantly reduce the amount of water used in your home – as well as save on your water bills in the long run. For instance, a single-flush toilet bowl typically uses up to 9 litres per full flush. By installing a dual-flush toilet, you can save up to 5 litres or more per flush.
Similarly, a regular shower head uses up to 15 litres of water a minute, while a low-flow one reduces that by up to two-thirds. You can also save more water a day by using smart shower devices, which provide real-time feedback on your water consumption.
The Water Efficiency Labelling Scheme (WELS) by PUB can help you choose taps, cisterns and urinals more wisely. The more ticks, the more water-efficient a product is:
One Tick: 7 - 9L/min
Two Ticks: 5 - 7L/min
Three Ticks: Less than 5L/min
4. Construct Green Roofs And Walls
Besides the weather, heat is created in Singapore due to human activities, vehicles and industrial facilities. In order to moderate this heat island effect, those who live in private housing may install a green roof or rooftop garden to remove or absorb heat from the air. This reduces the need for air-conditioning in the home as well as lowers building energy usage.
Cool metal roofing is your next best alternative, as it also keeps heat from entering your home. Unlike asphalt, steel roofing will be recyclable at the end of its functional life.
Besides adding aesthetic value to your property, green walls are a great way to save on energy bills. The evapotranspiration of vegetation will reduce ambient temperatures and cool the home. At the same time, it will help improve the quality of indoor air.
5. Choose Non-Toxic Paints And Adhesives
Paints and adhesives are known to leak toxic airborne substances when dry. These substances, known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), are harmful to the environment and cause ozone depletion. Exposure to formaldehyde and other VOCs may also harm us, cause discomforts such as throat irritation, rashes, headaches, even nervous system and organ damage.
To stay sustainable, opt for non-toxic and biodegradable construction materials for your renovation project. Where necessary, brief your contractor or interior designer about using only zero-VOC or near-zero-VOC products, which are increasingly available in the market.
Water-based paints, for instance, are usually made with reduced VOC content compared to oil-based paints.
Related article: 5 Eco-Friendly Home Improvement Ideas For Your New Home
Sustainable Home Renovation Practices in Singapore
While a completely sustainable renovation is not always possible due to product availability and budget constraints, adopting at least one or more sustainable renovation practices will put you on the path to an eco-friendly future.
Sustainable renovation practices to adopt
Renovation practices to avoid
Select sustainable building materials by checking where they are from and how they were manufactured
Buy furniture made with illegally logged wood, or endangered hardwood species
Choose water-saving or water-efficient taps, cisterns and appliances to reduce water usage and save on monthly utilities
Import natural materials such as marble and granite, which require high resource extraction and transportation costs
Reduce air-conditioning by installing green roofs and walls to reduce ambient temperatures
Use toxic construction materials, paints and adhesives that release volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
If you’re unsure of where or how to start, the simplest way would be to engage a renovation contractor or interior designer.
An interior designer will inject sustainability ideas and recommendations as they design your home’s interior while consulting you on the type of materials to use. If you wish to supervise the renovation, an experienced renovation contractor will be able to smoothly execute your plans.
Should you decide to replace your flooring or hack a wall, ensure that you work with your contractor to apply for the relevant renovation permits. It’s also a good idea to familiarise yourself with the relevant guidelines and approval processes before beginning your renovation project. If you need more inspiration, check out our Renovation and Home Design Guides.
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This article was written by Audrey A.. She can’t wait to move into her own place so she can finally get a cat (or two) and an espresso machine to fuel her love for flat whites. For now, she’s saving up and dreaming of her next trip.