While many people might picture an architectural marvel with hillside views, or perhaps a tiny home on wheels, eco-friendly living doesn’t need to be expensive or difficult. Sustainable building and interior design can also look like any other DIY home renovation work, done by ordinary people on a budget.
Emma and Andrew, two twenty-somethings living in Sydney, chose the affordability of living in a ‘granny flat’ situated on Andrew’s parents’ property. They renovated a large double garage space, turning it into a comfortable studio apartment. Almost all of the work was done by themselves on a budget – and with a goal of using as many sustainable materials as possible.
So what goes into a sustainable home renovation?
Step 1: Insulation
Thanks to a sloping block, the garage was situated underneath the rest of the house that belongs to Andrew’s parents, and the ‘ceiling’ consisted of the underside of the floorboards that formed the floors of the rooms upstairs. The couple needed insulation that would provide soundproofing properties and some thermal insulation as well, especially considering how cold the garage could get in the winter months.
They chose GECA certified Pink Soundbreak Batts from Fletcher Insulation, which use approximately 70% recycled waste glass and avoid using ozone-depleting substances during manufacture. The batts are also free of hazardous substances such as toxic heavy metals and many flame retardants.
Once the insulation was installed and the ceiling board in place, the benefits were obvious: sound from upstairs was substantially reduced, and the apartment stays much warmer on cold winter days, which means less energy spent on heating.
Step 2: Plasterboard
Along with needing a ceiling for their newly renovated apartment, Emma and Andrew needed a range of plasterboard products: ceiling board with soundproofing properties to help complement the insulation and further reduce sound transmission between the flat and upstairs, regular plasterboard to cover the walls in the bedroom and living areas, and plasterboard with some degree of moisture resistance for the walls in the kitchen area.
USG Boral had a solution for every area with a wide range of GECA certified plasterboard products for the ceiling and walls. The couple enlisted the help of a professional plasterboard installer to put the walls and ceiling into place with the help of a panel lifter. USG Boral adhesive, cornice, finishing compounds and joinery products were also used to fix everything into place and have all surfaces and joins looking neat. Once all the joins and coatings were in place, it was simply a matter of sanding down those surfaces to leave them with a smooth finish ready for painting.
Step 3: Paint
Considering the impact volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can have on indoor air quality and health, choosing no-VOC paint for the apartment was a must.
After picking up some paint chips from a well-known range of paints, the couple approached ROCKCOTE Paints and asked for some GECA certified EcoStyle paints to be colour matched to the chosen shades: a creamy off-white for the walls, glossy white paint for the trim, and matte white for the ceiling.
The results were perfect – the paints were easy to work with and had almost no noticeable scent when dry. A couple of coats later, the space looked almost completely finished, save for the bare concrete floors.
Step 4: Flooring
The couple chose to cover up the bare concrete floors with come carpet tiles. As with paints and a plethora of other interior design and construction materials, VOCs can be a problem in carpeting. Substances hazardous to both human health and the environment are also a concern when it comes to the manufacturing process.
GECA certified Shaw Contract Group were able to provide low-VOC carpet tiles for use throughout the apartment. “The team at Shaw were incredibly easy to deal with,” said Emma. “They answered all our questions, helped us with choosing the right product and handled everything from selection to delivery really smoothly.”
Shaw supplied Applied EcoWorx Modular Tile Carpet in ‘Ionized’, a warm light brown that complemented the neutral palette of the apartment. They also supplied LokDots, an adhesive system designed specifically for use with the carpet tiles and which was suitable for applying on a range of surfaces, including concrete.
The tiles were easy to install, with detailed instructions provided on the box, and they proved to be very easy to clean and resistant to wear and tear. If the tiles did sustain any damage from non-toxic sources, Shaw’s environmental take back guarantee means the discarded EcoWorx tiles would be collected, transported and recycled. That means less in landfill as the tiles become raw materials for producing new carpeting and for use in other industries.
STAY TUNED FOR PART 2 AND FOR THE ‘AFTER’ PICTURE!
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