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Sustainable renovations part 1: 3 tips for your strata unit

By Andrew Bell

Environmental considerations are at the forefront of many Australians' minds today – more than half of us are willing to spend more money to buy products that are environmentally friendly, reports Nielsen.

On the Gold Coast, we're leading the way in Australian sustainability. Our very own Bond University is home to the Institute of Sustainable Development and Architecture, where professors developed the first six-Green Star rated building. The Gold Coast City Council has even committed funding to the Institute in order to help them forge the Gold Coast's reputation as world-leading educators and researchers in sustainable development.

Clearly, sustainability is part and parcel with the Gold Coast's values and lifestyle – so how can you ensure your own Surfers Paradise property is minimising its environmental impact?

1. Insulate for energy efficiency

Not only is energy expensive, it's not always generated from a renewable resource. Many energy providers are starting to look to more sustainable power generation methods such as wind, hydro or solar, however uptake is not universal.

Whether you use green energy or not, you'll contribute less to carbon emissions and save money on your power bill by effectively insulating your home. With proper insulation in your home, heat loss or gain is moderated and you won't need to rely so much on your heat pump.

Depending on the boundaries of your lot, you may be able to install or improve insulation without much involvement of the owners' corporation. However, many strata properties will classify insulation spaces as common property. This does mean you'll need permission.

2. Choose sustainable materials

When it comes time to give your home a facelift, you should make an effort to select only renewable and low-impact materials, particularly in terms of choosing flooring or joinery.

Here are a few things to consider with regards to sustainable materials:

  • Reuse existing joinery: If your kitchen is in need of some TLC, think about reusing existing joinery and only replacing cupboard fronts. Timber veneers should be certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. Meanwhile, any joinery in your bathroom should have a high level of water resistance in order to last longer.
  • Choose environmentally-friendly floor coverings: If you have your heart set on wooden floors, turn to a timber such as bamboo. Bamboo plants mature at a much faster rate than hardwood trees, are easy to maintain and tend to be slightly more water resistant than hardwood. Otherwise, choose natural soft flooring products or Environmental Certification Scheme certified carpets. Soft floorings may contribute somewhat to thermal regulation and have improved sound insulation.
  • Upcycle your furniture: Rather than investing money into new furniture, why not put a little bit of work into turning trash into treasure? By doing up old furniture, you can both save money and use fewer resources.

3. Install energy-efficient fittings and appliances

Household appliances can use an alarming amount of power. Here are some ways you can improve apartment sustainability just by replacing your fittings and whiteware:

  • Look for Window Energy Rating Scheme (WERS) certification: A WERS-rated window will feature a star-rating from one to 10. A 10-star window will offer not only improve thermal regulation, but noise control and light fading as well.
  • Choose energy- and water-efficient products: Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards (WELS), Energy Rating Labels (ERL) and Zoned Energy Rating Labels (ZERL) can all help to inform you of how efficient your home appliances are. These labels also use a star rating, so the more stars featured, the better your appliance is in terms of water and/or energy use. ZERL scores are not yet common, but are a more accurate guide as they relate specifically to the climate you live in.
  • Switch to low-energy lightbulbs: Avoid halogen bulbs at all times. Instead, look for low-energy fluorescent or, better still, LED bulbs. According to Energy Ratings, a halogen bulb providing 500 lumens uses 28 watts of power, compared to 5-8 watts for an LED bulb of the same brightness.

There are plenty of ways you can improve sustainability without addressing major strata building systems. Even minor renovations may require permission from your owners corporation, so simply upgrading your appliances and fittings is a great way to make quick changes to your carbon footprint.

For more information about sustainable real estate on the Gold Coast, get in touch with the Ray White Surfers' Paradise team today. We can't wait to hear from you!

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