Otway dining table in a contemporary Australian home setting with black chairs

A table similar to Urban Rhythm's Otway Dining Table.  Photo by Tara Pearce for Altereco via Nordic Design

Today more than ever we’re conscious of the impact our footprint has on the environment. As a result, there has been a dramatic rise in the number of environmentally friendly products and sustainable practices available to renovators. 

No longer is sustainable design considered a “hippy” practice. Architects, builders and homeowners are proving you can renovate without destroying the planet! There’s now a plethora of aesthetically pleasing recycled, local and eco-friendly finishes and energy saving products. More people are conscious of efficient design that improves not only the function of the building, but also the form. 


Here’s our tips on how to renovate without destroying the environment:

Embrace passive design

Large restful two story room with floor to ceiling windows allowing indirect sunlight into the room.
Source: Casa Abril

Passive design plays with the orientation of your home to reduce your need for heating or cooling while remaining comfortable regardless of the season. You’ll need to have a good understanding of the weather patterns of your region as well as the positioning of your home to design in a passive manner. 

Think about which rooms get the most sun, especially if you’re living in cooler areas. Consider which rooms remain cool or are well ventilated. Even thinking about the colour of your roof will impact how much heat is or isn’t absorbed. A dark roof for example will absorb nearly 90% of the sun’s heat. 

Use this information to dictate your layout of the home and incorporate the key passive design elements of orientation, airflow, thermal mass, insulation and double glazing. 


Use sustainable material

Sustainable materials refer to those that can be renewed or replenished, or ones that are recycled or reused. Materials such as chipboard and particleboard which contain toxic glues are out and natural stone, brick, metal, bamboo and recycled timbers are in. A wide range of zero VOC (volatile organic compounds) paints are also available. 

Consider the lifecycle of the material, transportation distance and how long it’s going to last. If you aim for over 100 years you’re making all the right choices to reduce your environmental impact. 


Install eco-friendly features  

Light filled dining room with sky lights

Source: hegeinfrance.com

Budgeting for eco-friendly features may seem daunting at the time, but it will pay off in the long run both financially and environmentally. If you can’t afford to install all these sustainable features now, plan them into the design so you can add them later. 

Elements such as grey-water recycling or a rainwater tank will limit your water wastage. Solar panels can give you the opportunity to live free of energy bills. And skylights will allow natural light to flood into your home, reducing your electricity costs. 

Make sure you check up on any incentives you can take advantage of if you incorporate these sustainable elements into your build. 


Decorate with natural finishes 

Urban Rhythm's Chicago Dining Table made with recycled Messmate timber and Maison dining chairs

Once tools are down, you can still be mindful of your environmental impact by decorating with natural materials. Before you shop, consider what your furniture or fittings are made of, where they’re made, their durability and how they may affect the health of your family long term. 

Rather than partake in today’s disposable lifestyle, think about how long these pieces are going to last. Are you buying a sofa to survive one or two years or are you buying one that will last? Will your dining table be handed down to your kids or will it end up as hard rubbish on the nature strip?

Think about the materiality of your products. Untreated cotton, natural linens, canvas, wool, feathers and timber are all environmentally friendly materials. 

Lastly, when you’ve completed your sustainable renovation it’s time to starting living sustainably. After all, you’ve gone to all that effort to ensure your house doesn’t destroy the planet, now it’s time you don’t!



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