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Brownfield Sites, Meet Industrial Buildings: The Perfect Ecological Solution

Brownfield Sites, Meet Industrial Buildings: The Perfect Ecological Solution

Brownfield sites, land with known or suspected pollution, have always been a bit of an ecological conundrum. It’s not always possible to return them to the environment if they’ve been contaminated by waste, but they’re not an attractive (or safe) place to build a family home, either. So, what is there to do about these unused swathes of land? One ingenious solution is the conversion of industrial buildings to luxury apartments.

Industrial buildings don’t always come with brownfield sites, but the two go hand-in-hand; often, whatever industry was there before was the cause of the polluted land in the first place. However, these barren fields and vacant warehouses are seeing new life in the “warehouse conversion” movement throughout Australia. By returning these fields to the city through converting them into housing, it changes them from a waste of space to a brilliant piece of prime real estate.

The Concept

The warehouse conversion concept has been popular for some time, but its trending rise has spurred a truly eco-friendly reuse of the brownfield sites that the warehouses sometimes sit on. Like we stated above, the sites can’t really be given back to the environment, so the only options are to rebuild or leave what’s already there.

Obviously, if the brownfield site is unsafe for habitation, efforts to remedy that need to be taken first. However, leaving the buildings that already exist on these properties instead of tearing them down both preserves their history and saves money. That’s why the warehouse conversion and the brownfield site go together so well; attractive apartments can be built within the existing infrastructure that’s both cheaper and arguably as in-demand as new construction.

Main Drawbacks

Unfortunately, the idea isn’t perfect. Since the buildings are so large, they’re not particularly eco-friendly, and they often face challenges due to the level of technology they were built with, such as inefficient ducting, plumbing, or wiring, unless these are fixed artificially. The large buildings are also very expensive to heat in the wintertime. In comparison to alternative options, though, the warehouse conversion option is still tough to beat.

Once a brownfield suite is decontaminated, the question often remains what to do with it. However, with the luxury-apartment-warehouse-conversion option, we have a relatively cheap way to repurpose the real estate of the original building, all while preserving its history. While the buildings themselves may be less than perfect to begin with, the repurposing of the land is certainly an environmentally friendly message that many have heard.

If you’re considering a warehouse conversion, or just have an industrial site you want to be more eco-friendly, have a look at Eco Sustainable House’s full range here. With rainwater tanks, venting skylights, solar hot water, green walls and much more, you can really transform any building.

Author

Alicia Rennoll (Environmental Research)

Sustainable Housing: Passive Home, Active Savings

Sustainable Housing: Passive Home, Active Savings

Passive design is the pursuit of a home that can be comfortable year-round without relying on mechanical cooling or heating. The movement began in Germany, where it is a voluntary standard for reducing a building’s carbon footprint by maximising energy efficiency. The initiative has taken off around the world, with many home builders and renovators following the standards and other countries like Sweden establishing their own national equivalent of the certification. While the original concept was developed for a colder European climate with an emphasis on retaining heat, the same standard has also been proven to work in warmer climates, like Australia’s, even without modifications.
Sustainable building diagram
With an emphasis on robust insulation and ventilation, preventing moisture from entering the building, dehumidifying the interior and fixed external shades for windows, passive temperature regulation can be easily achieved in any Queensland building. Whether you’re looking to build an energy efficient home from the ground up or want to make changes to your existing property to reduce your reliance on air conditioning, it’s a worthwhile process. The ideal end result is a lower carbon footprint, and a huge drop in electricity usage.
Here are a few principles to follow for passive building design success.
 
Passive cooling
With one of the most important tenets of the passive house standard being air tightness, the idea of sitting in a sealed room at the height of the Queensland summer seems like madness, but couldn’t be further from the passive house plan. The key here is achieving consistency of temperature, and in fact, passive house standards don’t require windows to be perpetually closed – far from it.
As a country, we’ve already caught on to the core philosophy of passive cooling – look at the humble Queenslander. Characterised by being up on stumps with that distinctive wrap-around verandah, it captures prevailing breezes and is cooled underneath while being shaded from the sun and rain.
  • Building from the ground up? Verandahs or covered sleep-outs are great for all-weather relaxing as they let the breezes in while keeping out the sun and rain during storm season. Nice, wide eaves can also help.
  • Look at each window you’ve noticed you need to close when bad weather hits and see if an awning or external louvres could help you let air in without letting in the rain.
  • Hot air rises, so high ceilings are great, but if you can’t modify your ceiling height, a skylight is the perfect solution to allow hot air up and out. Velux solar powered skylights can even be programmed to automatically ventilate the room at regular intervals. They’re also good for rooms that don’t have many windows and are lacking in natural light.
 skylights in hallway high ceilings
Passive heating
Maintaining a consistent, comfortable temperature within a controlled space is what passive housing is all about, and a lot of the things you do to help cool your home in summer can also serve to help you keep it warm in winter. Heat retention is a major part of passive housing, and where a lot of research has been conducted, but if you don’t have the cash to make your home completely airtight like the certification demands, fear not. There are some smaller-scale things you can do to optimise your home’s thermal retention that will help you rely less on heaters in winter.
  • Homes can gain and lose a substantial amount of heat through their windows, so double glazing can help make that heat transference slower, keeping heat out in summer and in during winter. They can even help with noise reduction, so if you live close to a road or your neighbours it can assist with keeping noise out or in.
  • Insulation is an essential part of any Queensland home. We all know that good insulation is crucial to stop the heat of the sun warming up our homes, but it also helps to keep warmth from escaping during winter. A lot of newer homes focus on insulation in the roof but neglect it elsewhere. So, if you happen to be building from scratch don’t skimp on the insulation in your walls. Similarly, for existing homes, it can’t hurt to increase the insulation in your roof.

There are many things you can do to take the first few steps towards a passive house, with varying levels of invasiveness and expense, but all are worth the investment. As energy bills continue to climb and the weather only gets wilder, future-proofing your home is not only the smart choice, it’s the right thing to do for the environment.

Author
Georgia Logan

The Real Green Screen - Using Plants & Screens for Privacy

The Real Green Screen - Using Plants & Screens for Privacy

 

A new challenge for both urban developers and dwellers is how to achieve a balance between embracing nature and preserving privacy. The simple solution is to combine the two, with screens that allow light and air through and can also act as a structure to train creeping plants. Plants can have a strong visual impact as well as a proven benefit to our health when we spend more time around them, so make even more use of them by cleverly incorporating them into your space. With endless applications, indoors and outdoors, commercial and residential, you can mask unattractive features or make a visual statement almost anywhere. Not only is the result functional, you’re also helping to improve your building’s environmental sustainability..


Where to use them

If you want to mask an area of your backyard such as a hot water tank or an external air conditioning unit a screen with a climbing vine is an instant improvement that will only look better as the plant grows. You can even use this method to add extra height to your fence if your neighbour is a little close or overlooks your property. If you live in an apartment with a balcony it’s a quick way to get a bit more privacy and sound reduction from your immediate neighbour or whatever your balcony may be facing, like a busy road. It’s a quick, easy and cost-effective way to conceal your indoor or outdoor areas from unwanted onlookers or to screen off unappealing sights all while introducing some greenery.

Commercial indoor grow wall

 

Screen with vines or vertical garden?

The main distinction between training a vine on a decorative privacy screen and a full green wall is the number of plants and the complexity of the setup. Because of a higher capacity, you can fit more plants and more variety in a green wall, which may also require an irrigation system to be installed. A screen and a few creeping plants is a comparatively subtle look but also quicker and cheaper to set up. However, with the right drainage system are perfectly suitable for apartment balconies, rooftops and even large indoor settings such as an office foyer.


Which creeper plants to use?

When choosing a creeper for training along your security screen, you need to consider whether you would like to have native plants or something from abroad, flowering or even deciduous. If the idea of more shade in summer but more sunlight in winter sounds like a feature you like, a deciduous creeper like Wisteria could be a good match for you. If you want bold, bright flowers consider the classic Bougainvillea, but remember it does come with thorns. For a perfumed flower, Madagascan Jasmine thrives in tropical climates but prefers a somewhat sheltered spot. Grape vines can come in an ornamental variety that doesn’t bear fruit and it sports striking burgundy, red, orange and yellow foliage in autumn before losing its leaves in winter and growing new, green ones in spring.

Ferry Road markets vines plastic facade

Putting up some privacy screen panels up and training creeping vines along them not only looks fantastic, it can bring nature and privacy to your indoor or outdoor space for a price that won’t break the bank.


Want to get started on creating your very own green wall, click here to see our range of Gro Walls and Facade products from Atlantis, or call us today on (07) 5677 0838.

 

Author

Georgia Logan

Decorating Your Home Sustainably: Ideas to Try in 2019

Decorating Your Home Sustainably: Ideas to Try in 2019

Many of us are making shifts towards living a more sustainable lifestyle — in fact, over 34% of Australians believe it’s important to buy from eco-friendly brands. An important element of sustainable living includes how you decorate the home you live in. Sustainable interior design makes a positive impact on the environment by avoiding the depletion of our planet’s natural resources, while creating a stylish home you love living in. It also ensures a healthier space since you won’t be using products treated with pesticides or harsh chemicals. Here’s a look at the top interior design trends for 2019 that you can try out within your home.

 

Including more sustainable materials

Natural materials, such as wood and natural stone, carry a lower environmental impact than synthetic ones. If a product has a FSC label, it was harvested sustainably. Demand is also increasing for organic materials grown without the use of pesticides which harm the environment, wildlife and human health. In fact, sales of organic products are increasing 10-15% annually each year. Organic cotton bedding, for example, is a healthier choice, particularly if you have allergies or chemical sensitivities. Similarly, natural fibre rugs like hemp, seagrass and jute are biodegradable and recyclable.

 

Water-efficient appliances

Water conservation is an important issue in many parts of Australia. Even despite droughts, Australians are the highest consumers of water per capita in the world. Reducing water use is becoming an increasing necessity, which is why installing water-efficient appliances (such as toilets and faucets) throughout your home is an important switch to make. For example, simply installing a water-efficient shower head in your bathroom saves the average family 2, 900 gallons of water a year. Moreover, since there’s less requirements on the water heater, your electricity bill will also be slashed.

 

Living Green Wall and Living Wall Systems 

Bring the outside in with a living green wall (vertical gardens) — a sustainable trend which is continuing to increase in popularity. Not only do the living green wall look beautiful and help the environment, but they’re also easy to install in your home. You can buy solid living green wall kits (such as gro wall pro, gro wall slim pro, gro wall slim line, gro wall 4.5, gro wall facade), which can easily be attached with screws to any solid wall. Having a plant wall in your home will absorb harmful toxins in the air and purify it — a phenomenon discovered by NASA way back in 1989.

Sustainable interiors don’t have to sacrifice style. With some extra thought, you can create a home that’s environmentally-friendly as well as beautiful. Ultimately, investing in items made for longevity (in terms of both quality and aesthetic) rather than disposable, short-term trends is something we should all aim for.

Author

Alicia Rennoll (Environmental Research)