Environmental Aspects of Ecological Renovation

Summary

What is ecological renovation?

Ecological renovation in practice

Preparing your ecological renovation project

Ecological renovation makes it possible to improve comfort, reduce costs and take environmental issues into account, notably by avoiding the 2,000 kWh of primary energy per square meter of new construction due mainly to the structure’s construction. The ecological renovation preserves and enhances the local heritage and safeguards agricultural land by avoiding urbanization. But how can it be done? Where to start? What are the right questions to ask, the mistakes most often made? Where to find objective information? Read more below!

What is ecological renovation?

The ecological renovation consists of renovating one’s home while considering different and multiple environmental issues, as described below.

Climate change caused by the increased emission of greenhouse gases (CO2, methane, nitrous oxide, fluorinated gases, etc.) has very worrying environmental and social consequences.

The depletion of various resources available on earth today is also worrying. These resources are in limited quantity (primary energy source, raw materials). Their quality is threatened by our lifestyles: arable land whose fertility is compromised by intensive agriculture, water, and air whose quality depends on local pollution.

Human health and biodiversity are also an important issue to which ecological renovation must respond. The objective is to limit local, global, and distant pollution and health risks (oil spills or nuclear accidents, for example).

Energy renovation

For each of these issues, the consumption of non-renewable energy has a significant impact. An ecological renovation, therefore, requires, in particular, an energy renovation, and thus a drastic reduction in power for heating and cooling. Indeed, heating is, by far, an essential item at home.

Ecological renovation in practice

Bioclimatic architecture

Initially, the principles of bioclimatic architecture should be used as much as possible:

  • Think of a compact house (more living space for less surface area giving onto the outside).
  • Plan an opening to the south to benefit from free solar gain in winter.
  • Protect yourself from prevailing winds.
  • Use inertia and solar protection, and above all, optimize insulation.

Eco-materials

An ecological material is above all a material that meets a given need: insulation, water tightness, mechanical strength, water vapor permeability, for example. It must also be free of health risks: beware of toxic chemical compounds in paints.

Finally, an environmentally friendly material must have a reduced impact on the environment. It is preferable to use materials manufactured as close as possible to where they will be used (to avoid transport pollution) and coming from a recycling process (cellulose wadding, recycled textiles, etc.). However, transport pollution is inevitable when the material is of plant origin (wood fiber, hemp, flax) or animal origin (sheep’s wool).

Good to know: often, the original materials (oak frame, a stone wall, for example) have interesting properties and save material, energy, and water for the manufacture of new materials. This is one of the advantages of renovation over new construction.

Preparing your ecological renovation project

The right questions

Above all, it’s about asking the right questions, getting the correct answers, adapted to your home. For example:

  • What are my needs (living space, number of bedrooms)?
  • Does the building have humidity problems?
  • Is the architectural quality to be preserved?
  • What elements need to be changed: the condition of the roof, electricity, heating system?
  • What are the elements to keep?
  • What materials and energy sources can I find nearby?

Two structures can provide you with advice in your ecological renovation project: the EPA’s GreenCheck and the Society for Ecological Restoration. You will also need to involve competent professionals in architecture and energy performance.

How Do You Recognize an Eco-Constructor?

Eco-construction is in fashion whether it is through the wooden house, the timber-frame house, or bio-climatic architecture. When you build your own house, self-construction often rhymes with Eco-construction, but there are also professionals who can advise you in this sense: Eco-constructors.

Is your contractor an Eco-builder in construction or renovation?

The notion of ecology in construction and/or renovation aims at maximum performance in the various fields impacting the environment during the design, construction, and occupation of a property. Thus, Eco-construction has multiple goals to achieve in relation to:

– the environment: preservation of energy and water resources, the fight against climate change, environmental and health quality of construction products, waste reduction;

– to people: reduction of pollution-induced by housing, health, and comfort of the occupants by preserving IAQ (indoor air quality), thermal and sound insulation, etc.

An Eco-builder is therefore an individual or a professional with the desire to achieve these goals at each stage of the construction and then use of a building, in order to obtain a building with the least negative impact on the environment while preserving the health and comfort of its occupants.

If any individual who is a self-builder of his house is able at all levels to apply its principles of Eco-construction, professionals must, to be qualified as Eco-constructors, apply reference frames and standards.

Principles of Eco-construction by professionals

In order to be able to design, build, renovate, fit-out and equip an Eco-built building, the whole of a sustainable approach is to apply principles and methods to different actors, professionals, and trades during the construction process:

The study of the project

Integration of the building in its environment: location, bio-climatic architecture taking into account the reduction of heating and cooling needs by optimizing free inputs (solar, geothermal, rainwater, etc.).

Its design

Reduction of GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions while favoring resources in the choice of construction materials and exploiting renewable energies (rainwater recovery, energy production by the building, ventilation management, etc.).

Its realization

Reduction of nuisances from the construction site and then from the building in operation: limitation of atmospheric emissions, sorting, and recovery of waste, reduction of noise levels.

How to recognize an Eco-constructor?

If at present there is no professional certification of Eco-builder yet, we can qualify the various major actors of construction having satisfied one of the 3 following certifications as Eco-construction aware:

BREEAM;

– HQE;

– LEED.

It is therefore first of all through their commitment to respect the environment during the study (architects, design offices, etc.), design (design offices, energy specialists, renewable energy professionals, heating engineers, etc.) and construction (builders, masons, electricians, plumbers, heating engineers, etc.) of the building that Eco-constructors can be selected. It is good that each of these professionals can attest to at least one achievement having obtained one of the certifications of sustainable building, and if possible the HQE certification.

In fact, an Eco-builder is not more expensive than a conventional builder, but the materials, techniques, etc. may represent an additional cost.

Good to know: the professional license « Project management in Eco-construction and Eco-materials » aims to train autonomous senior technicians in project management and construction and manufacturing management in the field of Eco-construction and Eco-materials with direct professional integration at the end of the license year.

Hope the above helps you out in finding the right Eco-builder for your Eco-project. Should you be looking for more info, please do not hesitate to write down your comments in the section below. We will find out as much information as possible and get back to you within hours.