21 Mar, 2017

From garage to granny flat: an eco-friendly renovation


If someone asked you to picture an ‘eco-friendly’ home, what would spring to mind? Good Environmental Choice Australia reports on an inexpensive, sustainable renovation.

Perhaps it’s a stunning marvel of architecture perched in bushland on the side of a hill. It looks a million dollars…and probably cost more than that to build. Or perhaps it’s a perfect, compact house, with carefully designed features that fold away when not in use: great for one occupant, claustrophobic with two.

Eco-friendly living doesn’t have to come at huge expense or at the cost of comfort. It can look like any other DIY home renovation work done by ordinary people on a budget.

Emma and Andrew, like many other Generation Y couples wanting to live in the Sydney metropolitan area, were looking for somewhere to live. With a limited budget, a granny flat on Andrew’s parents' property seemed an affordable option. But the double garage space that would become Emma and Andrew’s apartment needed a lot of work to make it liveable.

Given the luxury of being able to choose what products went into their new home, the couple wanted to use as many eco-friendly building products as possible. “I’m very aware of the environmental, health and social impacts that building and interior products can have,” said Emma. “I wanted to use products that would have a lower impact wherever possible.”

Starting with a bare garage

The starting point was a typical (though larger than average) double garage with no ceiling (the ‘ceiling’ consisted of the underside of the floorboards that formed the floors of the rooms upstairs), bare bricks and a concrete floor. The space had a separate bathroom including toilet and shower, as well as an additional space for a kitchen, but substantial work was needed to make them suitable for a home space.

Knowing the hard research work had already been done for them, the couple turned to GECA certified products for insulation, plasterboard, carpet and paints. The GECA ecolabel provides confidence that a product or service has been rigorously assessed for impact over its life cycle, is environmentally preferable and addresses the impacts on human health.

Most of the renovation work was completed on a DIY basis, with professional tradespeople called in where necessary to install the ceiling, plasterboard, electrical work and bathroom tiling.

Choosing no-VOC paint for their apartment was a no-brainer for Emma and Andrew.

“I knew how much of an impact VOCs could have on indoor air quality and health, so I definitely wanted to minimise that as much as possible in our home. Choosing low- or no-VOC paint is one of the easier ways to avoid them.” - Emma

The overall goal was for a light and neutral colour scheme throughout to make the small space seem larger. The couple preferred slightly warmer tones such as creams and light browns rather than cool colours such as greys to lay the foundation for interior decoration. Bright colours could then be incorporated in smaller details without overwhelming the 65 square metre space.

After picking up some paint chips from their local hardware store, GECA Certified ROCKCOTE EcoStyle Paints were colour matched to the chosen shades. EcoStyle Low Sheen in a creamy off-white was used for the bedroom and living room walls; EcoStyle Satin for the kitchen walls; EcoStyle Gloss for skirtings, architraves and trims in a clean white; and EcoStyle Ceiling White to complete the job. Emma and Andrew reported the paints were easy to work with and had almost no noticeable scent when dry.

A couple of coats later, the space looked almost finished, save for the bare concrete floors.

“The neutral tones are incredibly easy to work with from an interior decoration perspective, and we love how that particular shade of cream looks in our home,” said Emma.

The paint proved highly versatile. Andrew was able to use some of the leftover white paint to revamp some timber furniture for the apartment. “That helped us keep costs down and avoid waste as we were able to take some existing furniture, like shelving and some wooden benches, and turn them into brand new pieces that fit better with the style of the apartment,” said Andrew. “The paint in those containers went a long way!”

Contributed by Good Environmental Choice Australia (GECA)

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