By Danielle King, Green Moves Australia
Creating the ideal home is not just about function, comfort and beauty any more. It’s also about creating an efficient, sustainable space that is healthy to be in. Most of us spend many hours in our homes and it makes sense that we make it the best we can. That means building with materials that are efficient, that do not ‘cost the earth’ (in more ways than one) and that assist in providing healthy indoor air quality to breathe.
Here’s my 10 tips to creating a healthy sustainable indoor environment:
1. Design for the climate you are in and maximise passive solar heating and cooling potential. This not only helps to keep the running costs down, it also provides for using natural ventilation to air the home of any pollutants that may accumulate and help prevent mould or damp issues.
2. Build smaller and use building materials that are non-toxic and sustainably sourced to help reduce Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in the home. This provides for better indoor air quality and lightens the general “footprint” of the building.
3. When looking at mechanical heating and cooling options, choose a system that is the right size for the application, is the most energy efficient model you can afford and if someone in the home has respiratory issues, avoid systems that blow unfiltered air around. Good options for those suffering from asthma or similar respiratory issues include Hydronic Heating and Heat or Energy Recovery Ventilation systems.
4. Remember that new paint smell? That’s the VOC’s and they really can make you sick. Paint and finishes is an area that now has many low/no VOC options to choose from. Ensure you choose a low/no VOC paint or finish for your project.
5. When choosing flooring there is a wide range of options including tiles, sustainably sourced timber and bamboo, natural fibre carpets, and sisal to name a few. Look for products that are sustainably sourced and have low or no VOC’s, that also includes any underlay. Remember to ask about how it is fitted to the floor and if any glues are used, they should also be low/no VOC.
6. Hard furnishings such as MDF or chipboard cabinetry can contain formaldehyde and other chemicals. It is quite common these days to find low/no VOC MDF type of chipboards and cabinetry options around. Look for ‘E0’ types – they are low VOC, easy to find.
7. Soft furnishings includes curtains, sofas, beds and so on. This area is more difficult to find low/no VOC options but they are out there. Many soft furnishings contain a formaldehyde resin which can give off a formaldehyde gas that may trigger respiratory issues. If you can, air the item outside for a few hours before bringing it into the house and keep the windows open when you do bring it in to help dissipate the smell. Any new products such as curtains, bedding, cushions etc that are washable, should be washed before use.
8. Appliances can use a lot of energy in the home, always opt for the right size appliance for the situation, get the most energy and water efficient model you can and opt for quality over price – it will be well worth it in the long run.
9. Indoor plants are a great way to help clean the air in the home. Find some that are suited to indoor environments, that you like and that are easy to care for. They not only look good, they work for you and clean your indoor air.
10. And lastly there’s the cleaning. This area is fraught with chemicals, they are in just about every type of cleaning product you could think of. But there are non-toxic and more natural alternatives available and they are often cheaper. So avoid chemical based products where you can and look for the natural alternatives. Use a damp cloth for cleaning, consider using vinegar and water for windows and mirrors, choose ‘grey water safe’ allergy friendly washing power for clothes and look for ‘non-toxic’ dry cleaners (they are out there)!
If you need any help creating your healthy sustainable home, come and see the experts at the Build & Renovating Expo in July for some free advice and guidance for your project.
We’ll be in The Modern Home feature ready to answer your questions.
For all visitor and ticket information, visit buildexpo.com.au