D.I.Y, HOW-TO & SUSTAINABLE LIVING — Sustainable Living

RSS
Vertical Gardens: Saving Water, Space & Waste

Vertical Gardens: Saving Water, Space & Waste

Maybe you've been looking at that tight alley running up the side of the house wondering how to get a garden bed and the bins to fit in there. Or perhaps you're tired of looking out the bathroom window to a completely blank timber fence. Either way a vertical garden is going to make those areas look amazing! But that's not all a green wall can do for you and your family.

According to a Monash University study, "Green walls, or vegetated walls, offer multiple benefits in urban areas, such as temperature control, energy savings, increased livability and acoustic dampening, with the addition of space saving, as they are suspended on building walls."

Read on to learn how these eco-friendly, modern systems can do all that!

Green wall in front entrance of home

Water 

Are you on water restrictions from your local council? Or just tired to standing in the yard with the hose? Atlantis Gro-Wall® are the perfect solution for both indoor and outdoor vertical gardens with automated watering. Vertical gardens are created utilising natural soil mixes to retain nutrients. This modular system, as well as geofabric strips in each pot, enables localised moisture retention and access to individual plants.

Because of this useful framework, and the angled planting style, the plant's leaves are exposed to as much sunlight as possible, while the soil remains shaded. This means less water is required to keep the plants healthy, when compared to a comparable sized open garden bed.

Gro wall slimline cut out

Depending on the type of green wall system you are using, it may come with a drainage/excess water collection channel. Otherwise, you can still create a catchment at the base of your wall and actually reuse that water for the same garden, or other areas of your property! In order words, no water is left to evaporate on your outdoor pavers, the deck and so on.

Space

Gro-Wall® modules can be fixed to any structural wall including brick, concrete, wood, sheet metal, drywall and other surfaces. The modules allow for vertical and horizontal expansion and require only standard potting mixes. No framework is required as the structure is self supporting. You can even have your walls back-to-back for a brilliant eye-catching centerpiece in the garden.

The range includes a unique facade-style structure made from the same durable material. It is made up of small individual pieces that connect together without the need for glue or cutting. This makes Gro Wall Facade the perfect framework for green walls that need to fit into a very specific shape or tight space. It's also very cost effective for large areas and can double as fencing with the right framing.

gro wall facade and green wall pots

Waste

Of course, these vertical gardens would be on Eco Sustainable House if they weren't made from eco-friendly materials. In the case of the Atlantis Gro-Wall® products, and our Australian-made Green Wall Pots, they are made from at least 85% recycled polypropylene. This plastic is fully UV stabilised, doesn't react to ground chemicals and won't leech anything into the soil. They have a lifespan of 50 plus years!

The Monash University study mention above was conducted on the pollutant-scrubbing properties of green walls. It found that most such walls produced a significant impact on the pollutants in the air around them. Their research also showed that using grey-water on your green walls didn't affect this ability to offset fossil fuels.

Plant replacement is also greatly reduced, with a 0-5% rate  when using the Gro Wall systems (assuming correct maintenance), compared to an industry standard of around 30%.

Gro wall slimline

Feel free to browse our Vertical Gardens page for more information on individual models of green wall systems or email sales@ecosustainablehouse.com.au with your enquiry.

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)

The Backyard Carpark: How to Prevent Ruts in Your Lawn

The Backyard Carpark: How to Prevent Ruts in Your Lawn

Like buildings, relationships and just about everything in life, lawns need good foundations. Whether its from the family car or some native wildlife, they can take a beating and start looking like the tee off at your local golf course. Protecting the roots when your turf is laid can help you avoid many of the most common types of damage your grass can sustain. This is especially something you should consider your yard is going to be exposed to a lot of traffic from children and pets or vehicles. Even if the grass itself isn’t torn up, the soil can become compacted, making it difficult for water and air to reach the roots, so a system that prevents compaction will serve you well in the long run.

Rather than wasting your week constantly refilling these divots with soil or sand, reinforce your turf a stable grid system. Products such as the Atlantis Turf Cell act as a barrier for grass roots, preventing soil compaction and destruction of the root system. To put it simply, you can drive over the grass all you like and it won’t die off. This is because only the blades of the grass are the above the protective grid, the root ball is sitting untouched inside the plastic cell void. Unlike concrete and other reinforcement options the cells are completely permeable, meaning they wont affect your stormwater requirements.

Turf cell before and after

Sold in square metre sheets of clipped together recycled plastic panels, the turf cell is incredibly easy to install and suits projects of all sizes, from backyards to sports fields. Simply lay the turf cells on top of 100mm of compacted road base, or equivalent growing media, followed by 20mm of sand (if required). Then fill the cells completely with topsoil straight from the truck (you can drive straight over them for unloading!) and water the soil in. Fill to the top of the cells and either seed the soil or roll your turf over the top. If using turf rolls, make sure to hit them to break off excess dirt - this ensures the roots are completely inside the cell, not just sitting on top.

If you’re laying new turf in the backyard or in a rooftop greenspace, you might also want to invest in some drainage cell underneath to help get your garden off to the right start. This eco-friendly product provides modular drainage wherever you need it, to prevent flooding in urban greenspaces as well as a passive irrigation source in landscaped gardens. It also enables you to direct the flow of excess stormwater that would normally flood low-lying areas of your lawn.

example turf cell install

A large component of gardening is preparing for the next season and putting measures in place to make it difficult for pests and diseases to take root, and in Australia’s climate keeping an eye on the weather during different seasons and adjusting watering schedules is as important as spraying for weeds and fertilising. Modern varieties of turf are developed to be tolerant of drought, shade, weeds and pests but as a living thing it still needs care even with the best possible preparations.

drainage cell options

Spring brings a surge of growth for both grass and weeds so feeding the plants you want and inhibiting the growth of those you don’t will be a priority. It’s also the time when pests start laying eggs but they are also often the first food source for nesting birds so keep this in mind when you choose your pesticides.

Toward the end of the year it’s a good idea to let your grass grow longer so as not to encourage weed growth and to prevent the soil from drying out as quickly, especially if you live in areas prone to drought. A wetting agent can also help your soil retain moisture better during the Summer months, so that your grass can go longer between drinks.

turf cell grass carpark

Autumn is a good time to build up your yard’s health before the cold hits, so remember to fertilise before your grass’ growth slows right down while spraying for Winter weeds before they emerge.

While you should always remain vigilant of pests and weeds, your lawn can require mercifully little maintenance over Winter, provided it has been adequately cared for in previous months. Growth will be slow, so mowing will be infrequent, and weeds will also be taking it easy, but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep an eye out. If you have any varieties of trees that drop leaves make sure to keep them under control to prevent die-back, too. 

Proper ground preparation before your turf is even laid is one of the most important things you can do to ensure you have a level, lush lawn for years to come, so laying drainage cell or a stable grid under your new turf can safeguard against compaction which leads to ruts and die-off. After all, prevention is the best cure. Once you’ve made this initial investment, follow it up with proper lawn care and you’ll have an enviable garden year-round.  

 

Want to get a price on the Atlantis turf cell or drainage products? Simple give Eco Sustainable House a call and our friendly team will get you a quote in no time.

Author

Georgia Logan

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