Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Green garden offices

The last time we talked about 'greenwashing' on Shedworking, there was a very healthy debate about the enivronmental values of garden office suppliers. Now Lynn Fotheringham from InsideOut Buildings (whose models are pictured above and below) has put together a personal guide to choosing an eco-friendly shed with a seven-point plan for choosing sustainable materials. It's quite long, but well worth a read:
1. PVC windows
Problem: People think that double-glazing is eco-friendly because it saves energy, which is true. But look further and you discover that the amount of energy used to manufacture UPVC is enormous. Also PVC frames are bigger and wider than wood and so reduce the amount of light coming through a window.
Solution: Buy locally from a joinery manufacturer and check the wood comes from renewable forests, ideally in Britain or Western Europe.

2. Wooden cladding and flooring
Problem: This is often used on garden buildings and around the house. The assumption that wood = eco-friendly is simplistic. Many cladding and flooring products are pressure treated and imported, both of which use unnecessary energy. So while wood is better than manmade claddings and floorings, it can still be energy-expensive.
Solution: Choose untreated British or European wood from well managed local forests. Our beautiful larch cladding, for instance, is grown in Scotland, then cut and planed by our local timber merchant, with no treatments or preservatives.

3. Insulation
Problem: Insulating your home or garden room properly will help the environment, again by saving energy. To do the job properly, you have to use a lot of insulation material. In garden offices, for instance, all surfaces should be insulated to an absolute minimum of 100mm. We use UK manufactured insulation materials, either sheepswool or Rockwool, from firms who have an excellent environmental policy in their factory. Which means we can insulate our buildings’ walls to a generous 200mm for maximum insulation efficiency while remaining environmentally responsible.
Solution: Look at the manufacturing process before choosing an insulation material. Can it be recycled? Has it been imported? Does the manufacturer run their factory processes sustainably?

4. Green and living roofs
These are undoubtedly eco-friendly and can be highly effective on larger buildings. But there are drawbacks. You need at least 600mm of soil to achieve a practical level of insulation. The insulating properties are reduced when the soil is dry. In summer you have to irrigate and weed your roof. You have to use several different layers of plastic for waterproofing and containing the soil. On the other hand when insulation isn’t so important, say for a garage or shed, a green roof is a great way to conceal an eyesore, add interest to your garden and provide an important space for wildlife.

5. Wind turbines
Wind turbines simply don’t hit the mark unless you live in a rural area with very strong winds. Current technology means that a small urban turbine will probably generate less energy than it takes to make. Instead, use low energy light bulbs, don’t leave equipment on standby and insulate your home properly.

6. Recyclable materials
Even the word ’recyclable’ can be misleading. Thousands of products claim to be recyclable but, in all honesty, so what? Are you really going to re-use a load of exhausted plastic insulation in 15 years’ time, or is anyone else? We recommend a common sense approach. Our buildings are designed to last for a very long time, not to fall apart after just a few years. We think this is the best approach. If you build for life rather than for the short term, the need to recycle becomes less relevant.

7. Paints and wood stains
These are the ingredients to avoid in paints and stains: Solvents and white spirit, turpentine, terpenes, ethereal oils, and acrylics. Ingredients to look for:- Water, binders , non-toxic pigments, mineral fillers and waxes.
So have InsideOut Buildings found a truly green solution to all their garden building challenges? “No, it is an ongoing process as more affordable, sensible, sustainable products become available” says Lynn. “For example we use untreated cedar shingle roofing which is imported. We’ve been looking for a UK wood shingling manufacturer for some time. Is there anybody out there?”

19 comments:

  1. Wooden double glazing
    A lot of people don't realise that you can get double glazing with wooden frames from quite a few suppliers.

    Locally sourced!
    You mention it in the text indirectly but if your materials aren't transported as far then less energy is used, think "shed miles"

    ReplyDelete
  2. "2. Wooden cladding and flooring"

    W/regard to wood cladding, the most commonly recycled product in the world is steel. Argues to me that when your shed bites the dust (hopefully long after you have), its cladding can be recycled most readily if it's steel -- with aluminum coming in 2nd. Also eliminates the issue of treating and painting.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Well done Lynne a very well reasoned set of arguments for improving the greenness of our sheds. The one point I would pick up on is Item 4 Green roofs.

    The type of green roof you are talking about is the Intensive green roof, which does indeed have the disadvantage of large depth of soil, irrigation requirements and weeding.

    There is another type of green roof however that is very much suited to sheds and garden buildings it is the extensive green roof. The extensive green roof typically has a depth of soil of only 100mm and is grown with plants such as sedum, semper-vivum and other succulent, drought resistant plants. These types of plants are used to harsh dry and exposed habitats and so thrive in a thin layer of growing medium. There is no problem with irrigation as the plants are drought resistant and the habitat is too harsh for common weeds to establish. The roof members do need to be a bit stronger than normal to cope with the extra load and an extra root barrier and filter membrane are required. The roof does not provide the same insulation as the sheeps wool or rockwool but does go some way to reducing cooling requirements in summer and heating in winter even if it is only by adding a bit of thermal mass. The wildlife benefits are that you would have a new habitat in the garden and sedum in particular is very effective at attracting butterflies and bees. The roof garden in effect replaces the area taken up by the shed. On a large scale green roofs also have the benefit of reducing urban runoff and the load imposed by sudden thunder storms on the drainage systems, but that really applies to developments a lot larger than the average shed! See more at www.livingroofs.org
    I would recommend the extensive green roof to shed builders.
    John
    Secrets of shed building.com

    ReplyDelete
  4. 4. Green and living roofs
    Understand that in the UK there is a much larger need for insulating the roof, but what about using a regular, insulated colourbond steel roof and capturing run-off for grey water projects around your home?

    ReplyDelete
  5. Nice summary Lynne. This is the sort of discussion I'd like to see more of here on Shedworking.

    I'm intrigued by your cedar shingle dilemma. From where do you have to import the shingles now?

    Regards.....Bill Kratz

    ReplyDelete
  6. About point 6. Recyclable materials are nice, but it's far more important to used recycled materials where possible, such as glass wool insulation made from recycled glass.

    ReplyDelete
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