Sustainable renovations are not just a fad. They are fundamental works for any house that has not been built recently. Their objective is to adapt them to the new recommendations in ecological matters. At Mobile Diseño today we want to review the 10 fundamental aspects that must govern the construction of bioclimatic houses.
But what are sustainable renovations?
Sustainable or bioclimatic renovations are housing rehabilitation works. They aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These are responsible for the climate change that our planet has been experiencing for several decades.
You may think that your house itself does not produce any emissions. However, this is not the case. Every time you switch on an appliance, turn on the heating or simply flick the light switch, you consume energy. And while it often comes from sustainable sources, sometimes it does not. In addition, the manufacture of these devices also involves pollution and waste.
Sustainable renovations aim to minimise energy consumption through the choice of materials and the use of environmentally friendly techniques. This also saves on energy bills and provides a return on investment.
Energy class certificates
They play a key role. Above all, when it comes to choosing the materials and devices with which to undertake sustainable renovations.
These are the ones you should take into account:
FSC seal. It is issued by the Forest Stewardship Council. Obviously, it refers to products made from wood. This certification system has very demanding requirements for manufacturing companies. Its aim is to ensure that the material is managed in a viable, socially beneficial and environmentally friendly way. From the moment of felling to delivery to the end consumer. It does not matter whether it is a question of construction products or furniture parts.
European ECO label. This is awarded by the certifying bodies of the European Union. It is only awarded to products that avoid or at least reduce the environmental impact of their manufacture and use. From the moment the raw materials from which they are made are obtained until they are consumed. Also in their production and distribution.
Fair trade certificate. This is awarded by the WFTO (World Fair Trade Organization). It refers to the guarantee of the rights of producers and workers. These rights are particularly violated in the countries of the southern region of the world. It is therefore not only synonymous with sustainable development and environmental protection. It also aims to eradicate poverty.
Energy class. There are two aspects to this. The first relates to household appliances and electronic equipment in general. According to this certificate, it is possible to know how energy-efficient they are. It does not matter whether it is an oven, an air-conditioning system or a television. The other covers the house as a whole. This seal is nowadays indispensable, for example, when buying or selling a house.
GBCe certification (Green Building Council Spain). This is a reference body for sustainable building. Its aim is to move the real estate market towards more environmentally friendly standards. It presents a scale of six different levels according to the amount of impact avoided through the integral reform.
LEED (Leader in Energy Efficiency and Sustainable Design) Certification. This is a voluntary system but adds value to sustainable renovations. Its system has been developed by the US GBC (US Green Building Council). It monitors the implementation of sustainable strategies to improve energy efficiency. Depending on the parameters met, it awards Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum seals.
10 key points to consider when carrying out sustainable renovations
Now we have made clear the most important preliminary aspects in the field of sustainable renovations. So the time has come to talk to you about the aspects to consider when undertaking one. At Mobile Diseño we consider these to be the following.
The envelope in sustainable reforms
When we refer to the envelope of integral reforms we are talking about the exterior of the dwelling or building. That is to say, those elements that remain permanently in contact with the exterior. To guarantee the energy efficiency of the building, it is essential to use an external thermal insulation system (SATE).
But what is an EIFS? It is a second wall that creates an air chamber between it and the façade of the building. Inside it, it is possible to insert insulating elements. These can, for example, reduce heat loss and serve as sound insulation.
There is no problem with sustainable renovations in single-family houses. The reason? These are those in which the entire building is owned by a single owner. At least, beyond the logical loss of interior space. However, if we are talking about a flat, things change. In this case, the works must be approved by a general meeting of neighbours by majority vote. They are also more expensive. This makes it unfeasible in many cases.
You can apply a SATE system inside your home even with the refusal of the neighbours. However, only in the interior and assuming the loss of some square metres. You will not reach the maximum efficiency levels either. The most common option for this is plasterboard. This is a thin sheet of plaster that is installed on rails. It is quick and easy to install.
Along with the envelope, the windows are the other element that remains in direct and constant contact with the outside of the home. For this reason, their importance is also crucial when carrying out integral sustainable renovations. It is also an essential element for dissipating cold and heat.
You may think that the only solution to make this aspect more efficient is to replace it. Something that you probably don’t feel like doing if, for example, you changed them a few years ago and they are in good condition.
There are alternatives:
Fitting insulating gaskets. These are usually fitted in the silicone strips that join the glass to the frame. It is also possible to fit them in shutter boxes and on the edges of windows. Their purpose is to prevent unwanted air infiltration. The hinges should also be checked and repaired at this point.
Change the glass without modifying the frames. The glass is where the greatest energy losses occur. That is why, if the frames are in good condition, it is possible to replace the glass with more efficient glass. Today, there are highly efficient ATR glass panes available. This is also an excellent solution when the frame does not allow the installation of double glazing.
But what if these alternatives are not viable? Then you will have to replace the windows in your home. However, when it comes to choosing, reject those made from petroleum derivatives such as PVC. Choose wood or thermally broken aluminium instead. On the other hand, if you have enough space, opt for hinged or tilt and turn doors. Sliding doors are not as airtight as these.
Currently, many autonomous communities offer grants and subsidies for sustainable reforms. This can help you to reduce the cost of the work substantially.
The final finish of the walls is also of great importance when carrying out sustainable reforms. In this sense, the primary objective is to reflect as much sunlight as possible. In this way it is possible to better control the interior temperature.
To achieve this, it is necessary to take a close look at the composition of the paint. There are environmentally friendly acrylic paints that are produced in an environmentally friendly way. They fulfil this function in the same way as synthetic paints.
The current electricity demand in homes is nothing like what it was a few years ago. As a result, many old installations are not able to cope with today’s power requirements. This is especially the case when comprehensive sustainable renovations are to be carried out and the aim is to use the least polluting energy sources possible (mainly electricity).
A few years ago, it was common to install hobs, ovens and water boilers using natural gas or butane. Nowadays, the preference is for induction hobs, water heaters and electric ovens. Electricity, because it does not come from the combustion of oil, is a much cleaner energy source than those mentioned above.
That is why most sustainable renovations involve replacing the electrical installation. But there is more: changing the electrical installation also means greater safety for the residents in the home. The reason for this is that it eliminates, for example, wiring that is in poor condition and sockets that do not have an earth connection.
This also includes the choice of lighting fixtures. Since 1 September 2018, halogen lamps have been banned (EU Directive 2015/1428). The most efficient solution is to opt for LED lights. They consume very little energy and, although they are somewhat more expensive, they have an extremely long service life. So much so that they can stay on for 8 hours a day for 15 years without losing their qualities. For this choice of lamps you can find in our online shop MuebleDiseño.es
There was a time when they were made of lead. This material can be dangerous for your health. It is also very polluting, although it can be recycled to make, for example, fishing equipment or car batteries.
Later, lead pipes were replaced by iron pipes. The problem with these is that, although they are a more health and environmentally friendly material, they are not immune to corrosion. This has led to a multitude of leaks and breakdowns that have resulted in the loss of large quantities of water.
Finally, copper came along. This metal solved the problems of lead and iron. However, its price is quite high. Moreover, to mould it and work it, large amounts of energy are needed. It is also not the most efficient at maintaining water temperature. It often requires the use of an insulating layer on the outside to achieve this.
Nowadays, trends in sustainable renovation are moving towards the use of other materials. This is the case of stainless steel and ceramics. They are the most suitable for gaining energy efficiency. Polypropylene and polyethylene are also good alternatives. But only if installation is impossible or very costly. They are more environmentally friendly plastics than PVC and offer similar performance.
Other important plumbing elements in sustainable integral renovations
A dripping tap or cistern doesn’t just mean a considerable increase in your water bill. It also has a very high environmental impact. Especially in a country like Spain. Its water resources are limited and it is often affected by significant periods of drought.
Obviously, it is advisable to repair these elements as soon as water loss is detected. But it is also wise to opt for modern systems when carrying out sustainable renovations. The installation of flow restrictors on taps and water-saving systems on cisterns (double push-buttons) is also essential.
In winter, heating is usually the biggest energy user in the home. This is especially true for those located in indoor areas characterised by low temperatures. This is why the choice of fuel is of vital importance.
Without a doubt, the most polluting heating systems are those that use type C diesel and natural gas. These are two fuels that generate CO2 and a multitude of other greenhouse gas emissions. The high heating capacity they offer does not compensate for this. Neither does the risk involved in storing such fuel in the home.
Wood and pellet fireplaces (compressed sawdust from the wood industry) are the best alternatives. They make use of readily available natural resources and generate usable waste. For example, they can be used to produce fertiliser or nutritional supplements for animals. This is because they are rich in potassium and calcium.
The lower the better. The reason is simple. This reduces the vertical space in the house. This means that the air conditioning and heating systems require less effort to air-condition the house.
Many older houses have ceilings 3 metres high or more. However, 2.40 to 2.50 metres is sufficient in the vast majority of cases. In a 100 square metre house, this reduction in ceiling height means between 60 and 50 cubic metres less air to air-condition.
The choice of electrical appliances
The last step before finishing the sustainable renovation. It is essential to choose A+++ appliances, which is currently the highest level. To give you an idea, a class A appliance consumes 50% less energy than a type C appliance. A very important saving if we are talking about appliances that spend many hours in operation, such as, for example, the refrigerator or the washing machine.
In short, sustainable renovations make it possible to enjoy a comfortable and environmentally friendly home. There are many measures that can be put into practice to achieve this, and even a little overwhelming, but don’t worry, at Mobile Diseño we are here to help you to resolve all your doubts and to convert your reforms into sustainable ones.