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Renovating and Refitting

By: James Murray-White - Updated: 10 Sep 2010 | comments*Discuss
Renovation Refitting Construction Shell

Renovating an old house or simply refitting is perhaps the most sustainable means of construction. If the outer shell is kept, and the project needs no major building effort, then the potential environmental damage of sourcing and bringing in new materials and machinery is reduced or is none at all. This is what should be aimed at in the process of renovating and refitting an existing building, as well as using materials and a potential eco-redesign that seeks to make the building more ecologically sustainable.

Renovation might mean gutting a building from top to bottom, or simply replacing some fixtures and fittings, like windows, doors or drainpipes. It might mean moving a doorway to a more accessible part of the property, or finding a solution to ventilation issues. Refitting a building generally just means replacing parts of the internal or external structure – anything from rotten window frames to a complete interior redesign, including carpets, a sink or bath unit, a shower cubicle, or a downstairs toilet.

A Green Audit of the Building
The scale of the renovation or refit can give the chance to look at the building, whether lived in or used as a workplace, and do an ecological or green audit of the property. This gives the owner a chance to examine the ecological impact of their property in the following ways:

  • What features of this property are geared towards sustainability?
  • Which features aren't, and should be changed?
  • Can the energy use within this property be from renewable resources, i.e. wind or solar power?
  • Can other features be introduced, such as products made from sustainable materials?
  • Would this property and its users benefit from any external or internal redesign?
Potential Areas for Renovation and Refitting
If undertaking a major renovation, consider the techniques of passive solar design to see if they could improve the heating and cooling of the building. Look at the condition of the exterior brick, stone or wood, and check how this may impact on internal temperature. If it needs to be replaced, are there local sources?

If any of the external fittings need to be replaced, such as drainpipes, can the most environmentally friendly and longer-lasting materials be found? If wood frames and doors need to be replaced, source wood or materials that are from as local as possible, and that any wood used is certified as from an ethical source.

A Sustainable Renovation Plan
Once the budget for the renovation or refit is decided upon, and the relevant experts consulted, and the planning regulations checked and double-checked, enjoy discovering the range of eco products for the home that are currently on the market. Don't forget to consult with the local Energy Saving Trust (EST) and other local green experts – there may be financial incentives and Government grants available to pay for some of the sustainable renovation, particularly if the buildings energy consumption will be reduced.

Also, don't forget to dispose of waste materials that may be removed from the building, safely, and as environmentally secure as possible. Maybe the old doors could be sold, or given away to someone? Or perhaps recycled into a table, or a tree house? Check if there are any schemes in the local area that will collect building materials.

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