9 eco-friendly tips to green your home

23 October 2016 - 02:00 By Roberta Thatcher

Time - and money - spent on eco-friendly design and appropriate green technology pays off in the long run.

When Jane Troughton and her family finally found the perfect site in Durban North for their new home, they drew up a list of goals to help them achieve the ultimate green project. After an eight-year journey, a classic 1946 home was transformed into a modern, sleek and utterly sustainable home.

Her stylish home, dubbed Gorgeous Green House, is now one of the winners in the 2016 SAIA/AfriSam awards, which celebrates sustainable architecture and innovation.

Jane shares her advice on how to create an eco-friendly house:

1) Reduce, reuse, repurpose, recycle

"One of the least green aspects of building or renovating is the waste that is created," says Jane. Her solution was to save everything useful from the demolition and use it in her new home.

"The cavity in the floor was filled with the rubble from the demolished walls, the original brick and slasto paving was used to make pathways.

"I saved items such as doors, stainless steel sinks, balustrading, metal gates, curtain rails and so on to put into the new house. And lastly, the easiest and most fun part of green demo is donating the multitudes of materials that don't have much resale value but are desirable to many.

"On demolition day people were walking in off the street asking what they might have. So no excuses, South Africans. We can massively reduce our contribution to landfill and help out a few people at the same time."


2) Incorporate passive green design

"Building a green home means building in harmony with the natural environment, and co-operating rather than fighting with the regional climate," says Jane. Together with Sagnelli Associate Architects, they took great care in designing elements such as the roof and windows to allow for climate control.

The most significant aspect of passive green design was the installation of floor-level windows next to the pond. Cool air is drawn into the house over the water and pulled up through the centre of the building by whirly birds in the roof.

3) Install green technology

While it may require higher initial costs, Jane strongly recommends technology such as solar panels. "If you do the sums, and work out how much you are currently spending on electricity, you may be surprised at your return-on-investment time frame. Ours will be somewhere between four and five years.

"We plan to be in our house for many years, so relatively soon we will be scoring financially and using electricity in a way that serves our concern for the health of the planet."

Jane adds that you can always start small and expand your solar system as your means allow.

She also strongly recommends investing in water harvesting and water recycling technology. "If those of us who are able to harvest our own water do so, it means more municipal water is available for those who cannot. We will ensure our own clean supply and save money in the long run. In other words it is a no-brainer green thing to do if you can!"


4) Use green building materials

"There is a plethora of new products on the market, and items such as bricks, roofing, insulation, pipe lagging and so on should be carefully considered." She explains that many of the materials will have associated energy related numbers, but warns that we always need to be wary of "green washing". "Look for SABS approval and other relevant ratings and registrations."

5) Grow more food

"One of the main constraints in urban living is space to grow food, which is why finding a spacious plot for our new home was an important part of the process. We now have a substantial veggie patch, as well as a worm farm, a compost heap and bees and chickens."

6) Plant a green roof

This can be very effective in reducing a building's energy demands. "A conventional roof absorbs solar radiation during the day, creating a high daily energy demand for cooling internal air spaces. A study undertaken by Canadian researchers found that in contrast, the growing medium and plants of a green roof habitat reduce the heat flow through the roof by providing shade, insulation, and evaporative cooling. This can reduce a home's daily energy demand for cooling by a whopping 95%."

7) Convert your pool to an eco-pool

For Jane there are few things better than "the holistic, sensory benefits of water that is bursting with life and colour, buzzing with dragonflies and other insects and soothing to the soul". By mimicking natural healthy water systems we can avoid the toxic effects of chlorine, and instead "nourish our skin and hair while benefiting the environment".


8) Create a vertical garden

Vertical gardens have a host of eco-benefits, such as helping with climate control, providing a sound-proofing barrier if you are in an urban area, creating habitats for birds and beneficial insects, increasing biodiversity and filtering air.

9) Inspire and motivate others

Jane keeps a blog that she regularly updated throughout the building process and on which she continues to share tips and advice for living a greener life. Read about her journey at gorgeousgreenhouse.wordpress.com