How to Create a Smarter, Sustainable Renovation

how to undertake a sustainable renovation

Are you planning a renovation at your place and wondering how you can best implement sustainable changes as part of the process? It can be hard to pull all the information together. Government agency Sustainability Victoria launched its new Smarter Renovations program this  month – a free online renovation planning resource here.

The program provides home renovators of all experiences with interactive tools, information and independent advice on how to improve and maximise the energy efficiency of any home or size of project.

 Key features of the program include:

–              The Smarter Renovations Planner – an online tool that calculates accurate cost savings that can be achieved by making energy efficiency improvements to your home.

–              ‘Your Guide to a Smarter Renovation’ – a consumer guide with comprehensive information and practical advice for novice and experienced renovators on how to incorporate energy efficiency improvements during a home renovation.

–              A series of Renovation Profiles, detailing the experiences of several individuals during their home renovation projects, sharing their successes and challenges.

Sarah Fiess, Architect and Smarter Renovations Project Lead, has trained in both Australia and Vienna and the experience has built her passion for improving the energy efficiency of Australia’s homes. She specialises in helping people construct sustainable and energy efficient renovations and I am having a chat with her today about how to create a smarter, sustainable renovation.

1. How important is sustainability in renovating your home?
Most people underestimate the importance of energy saving when renovating. In fact, a home renovation is one of the best opportunities to improve comfort, save money and add value to a home. A renovation provides a rare opportunity to access the existing structure of the house making it the perfect time to install energy efficiency measures to make the whole home comfortable all year round.

Renovators are often pressured by budgets and timelines and good intentions can be compromised. It’s important to remember that additional costs and challenges in the short term will actually result in a lifetime of savings and benefits.

2. What are your 5 top things people can do in a renovation at home to make a difference?

When planning your renovation some of the top things you should consider include:
1. Insulation – Ceilings, roof, floor and walls should all be insulated where possible. Insulating can save you up to 45% on the energy cost of your home. Insulation should be added to the new extension and retrofitted to the existing shell – topped up in the ceiling and added to walls and floors.
2. Draught proofing– One of the most cost effective improvements that can be made to an existing house, and should be a critical part of a renovation. Sealing gaps and cracks around doors, windows, skirting boards, in between floorboards, above fans and in fireplaces can save up to 25% on heating costs during winter.
3. Energy efficient lighting – The right lighting – such as fluorescent lamps or LEDs – makes a big difference to your power bills (saving up to 80% on your lighting costs).
4. Energy efficient windows – The opportunity to replace and upgrade windows occurs only every 30 years or more, so it is important to think long term and choose the best option for the house. If replacing your whole house is too expensive, consider prioritising to replace windows over time, and installing secondary glazing or soft furnishings such as curtains and pelmets.
5. Energy efficient appliances – Energy efficient homes rely less on heating and cooling systems to be comfortable. When upgrading your heating, cooling and hot water systems, consider purchasing an appliance with a higher star rating. Energy efficient appliances save money over the lifetime of the appliance compared to standard models. The higher the star rating, the cheaper it will be to run. Whitegoods are some of the hardest working appliances in the house. Every extra star will reduce your running costs by up to 20%..

Sustainability Victoria has more information here

3. What would you say has the biggest impact when it comes to sustainability at home, if you could make only one change?
Draught proofing is one of the most cost effective improvements you can make to a house in order to improve energy efficiency. Without proper draught proofing, households can lose more than $295 each year from wasted energy. There are professional companies who can draught proof your home, or you can do it yourself with weather strips and door seals, which are available from most hardware stores. Consider sealing gaps around external doors and windows, air vents and between timber floorboards.

4. Does it have to be expensive to make your home more sustainable?
Recent research by Sustainability Victoria demonstrates that energy efficiency actions you can plan for in your renovation will provide a return on investment after about five to 10 years. For example, renovators who make an up-front investment of about $1,550 on draught proofing, can expect to save $295 or more every year on energy bills. Therefore receiving a return on investment after about five years.

5. Can you tell us about what you did in your own home project?
One of the most important improvements we made in our own home renovation was installing insulation into our weatherboard external walls. We also topped up our existing ceiling insulation to R5 and added insulation under our metal roof sheets. We decided to keep the existing timber windows and chose to have secondary glazing installed instead. This product makes our existing windows perform like double glazing. We also draught proofed the external doors, including the door connecting to the garage. With all these improvements we have noticed a huge difference in our comfort levels over summer and winter.

6. Do you have any favourite products or companies in the building industry you would recommend when choosing materials for kitchen and bathroom renovations?
Renovators looking to make ‘smarter choices’ when purchasing new appliances, hardware and lighting should check out Sustainability Victoria’s list of Smarter Choice retailers. There’s information available in over 500 partnering stores to help you compare the running costs and environmental performance of the products you’re looking to buy.

7. What would you classify as a “Smart” renovation?
A smarter renovation includes energy saving from the start, as part of the planning process. This is because energy saving measures need to be incorporated throughout the project, to both the existing structure as well as new parts of the home. Most measures, especially those to the older parts of a house, will affect timelines and budgets. Planning for them saves time and money.

If you are planning a renovation, hop over to visit Sustainability Victoria’s new Smarter Renovations Planner, an online tool that can calculate accurate cost savings that can be achieved by making different energy efficiency improvements such as improving insulation, windows or lighting, draught-proofing and upgrading appliances. It works by assessing the type of house, current energy needs and use, together with the renovation work being planned.

So what do you think? Have you renovated recently, or have some plans underway? And have you considered these aspects of sustainability? Would love to hear, and also if you have any questions add them below and we will undertake to get you some information.



Leave a Comment