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Sustainable homes, inside and out

SONIA BROWN

Published: Oct 15, 2013

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A dream home can easily turn into a big financial burden, but the great thing about developing your property in a sustainable way – and it is a process – is you can reduce its impact to the environment, make it a safe place for you and your family, and continuously trim your energy bill.

Let’s start with water because most of us still do not equate water with energy, but energy is required to pump water to you, whether it is coming from the water corporation or it is coming from a pump in your yard.

The biggest waste of water comes from procrastinating over the repair of a leaky faucet or running toilet. You might also want to take advantage of low flow water faucets, showerheads and toilets. Be ever mindful of lawn sprinkling that should be done when the sun is not at its peak and can be kept to a minimum if you landscape with native plants that require limited watering.

It is also good practice to manage the surface run off from your yard so that you are not contributing to the flooding of the street in front of your home.

While there is no full recycling service locally, we can still minimize waste through cutting back on consumption, reducing use of sanitary ware by using dishes, using both sides of paper, upcycling clothes, housewares and toys or passing them on to thrift shops run by the Salvation Army, Cancer Caring Center or local churches.

We can of course make use of “Cans for Kids” recycling sites and donate those beer bottles to the local recycler in your neighborhood, you know the guy who walks around with the trolley full of bottles.

If you are so inclined, backyard composting, worm composting, grasscycling and other methods can help you to significantly reduce the green waste on your property and regenerate poor soils.

Minimize the use of building materials such as insulation, paint, floor coverings and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that give off gases that can be polluting your indoor environment.

Window size, type and location should be selected to maximize sunlight harvesting, so you get the benefit of not needing to use artificial lighting during daytime hours, while minimizing the addition of heat to your home, which encourages use of air-conditioning and fans.

The first step is to take advantage of exterior shading, through roof overhangs, porches, Bahama-style shutters and of course, trees. Indeed you can select windows with a factory tint or have one added. Then internal shading can be used to allow in light but keep out the heat.

I can’t say enough about choosing the right lighting for indoors and out. We need to make use of motion operated lights to eliminate burning power night and day and select fluorescent or LED bulbs to minimize wattage of power used.

Lastly, plug out appliances or use surge protectors to restrict phantom loads generated from these items in standby mode. By now we all know about selecting the most efficient affordable appliances to reduce plug loads.

For more information on how to make your home more sustainable, visit the Bahamas Home and Builder’s Show this month. This is a great opportunity to quiz building professionals without the usual high octane sales pressure.

 

• We would like to hear how this article has helped you. Send questions or comments to sbrown@graphitebahamas.com. Sonia Brown is principal of Graphite Engineering Ltd. and is a registered professional engineer.

 


 
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