1. PVC windowsSo 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?”
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.
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.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
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: