green spaces | 21st Nov, 2010

Safer, greener renovations

The way a home or renovation is designed can have a massive impact on its sustainability. By being smart you can easily add a whole lot of sustainability features to your home, many at no extra cost. Renovating is also when you can be exposed to toxic chemicals. Use our tips to make your renovation green and safe.

Doing a ‘green renovation’ will not only make your home better for the environment, it will also save on running costs and boost its resale value.

Top tips for renovators

Re-stumping, re-plastering or re-roofing?

This is when insulating your walls, floors and ceilings is extra cheap and easy. Insulation can cut the greenhouse gas emissions from the heating and cooling of your property by 45 percent, and it’s one of the most cost effective ways of increasing its sustainability and market value.

Size matters

Obviously the larger your property is the harder you will have to work to reduce its environmental impact. A small renovation will cost you a lot less and could leave you money for things like rainwater tanks and solar hot water.

Go for dividable spaces

Large multi-function kitchen/dining/recreation spaces are very fashionable at the moment, but smaller spaces are easier to heat and cool. Also consider your future family – babies will be teenagers one day who may appreciate separate living spaces rather than the all-in-one style. Come to think of it, you may appreciate it too!

Central heating

Make sure you can isolate areas so you’re not heating empty rooms. Also think about the positioning of vents – avoid having them near windows for example as the heat will be lost through the glass.

Avoid downlights

Downlights are big energy guzzlers. They also need special covers which you can put your insulation up against, to avoid having a gap in your insulation and reduce the fire hazard. If you already have downlights, try and turn them off as much as possible and use lamps with efficient globes instead, or invest in low energy downlight globes.


Skylights are great for maximising natural light. It’s a good idea to get double glazed ones that can be shaded and opened for cooling in summer.


It’s a shame eaves have gone out of fashion, because they are a smart idea. They shade your house in summer when the sun is high in the sky, and in winter they let the sun in the windows, because it’s much lower and can shine in under the eave. So build some retro-chic into your renovation and help bring them back!

Heating and cooling for free

A really well designed home can stay at the right temperature with virtually no heating and cooling. The Your Home guide has design ideas for staying warm in winter and cool in summer.

Sustainability assessment

Some local councils will advise you on creating a sustainable design or assess an existing design’s sustainability. So it’s worth asking yours.

Avoiding toxic renovations

When you renovate you can introduce all kinds of toxic chemicals into the home, through paints, varnishes, new carpets and even new furniture. Babies, small children and pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to toxic chemicals. The good news is there are plenty of non-toxic alternatives.

There are some great resources to help you choose the healthiest and most environmentally friendly materials and techniques. For example check out Safer Solutions for Safer Renovations: The Essential Guide to Reducing Chemical Impacts from Home Renovations.