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Homes Adapting to Climate Change

Zero Emissions Byron delivers resources for home owners

Long before the floods that devastated the Northern Rivers in February and March, ZEB has been promoting and publishing information about improving homes energy efficiency to reduce emissions as an action that directly reduces Byron Shire residents carbon footprints.

In addition to reducing emissions, improving the energy efficiency of your home will not only improve the affordability of your energy bills but also increase the warmth retention in winter and keep summer heat out.  As climate change begins to impact our day to day lives, erratic temperature  extremes, wind events, fires and floods present more reasons than ever to consider what you can do to your home to make it more comfortable for today and more resilient for future weather extremities.

If your home was flooded then your best course of action during the restoration process is to replace contents and building materials that were thrown out with flood resilient alternatives.   Rebuilding your home also presents an opportunity to improve its energy requirements so watching this 9 minute video might provide you with some unexpected opportunities to consider in your rebuild.  Below you can also watch the 2 hour  Rebuild Flood Resilient Tradie Q & A event that was filmed live on June 16 at the Mullumbimby Leagues Club.

Retrofitting your home for Energy Independence - a ZEB short film production

The Zero Emissions Byron Building Working Group recently produced a short film that details the comprehensive retrofitting undertaken by ZEB board member, Robert Goodwill, of his home that luckily was high and dry and not affected by the flooding events earlier this year.

Robert's story is of his planned purchase of a home with specific properties and the implementation of retrofitting elements that resulted in the house being able to generate enough power from the sun to cover the reduced energy required to maintain comfortable temperatures inside the home as well as charge his electric vehicle.  Complete energy independence.

Maybe you will be inspired to follow Robert's lead and seek to buy a home that can be converted or you might find elements in this story that you can apply to your current home.

Retrofitting for Energy Independence

Your home doesn't have to be uncomfortably cold in winter. And you shouldn't need to use huge amounts of energy to keep it warm.

ZEB buildings team member and local energy consultant, Sebastian Crangle, shares some key tips to keeping warm this winter, without the bill shock (and all the while minimising your overall energy consumption!)

Many of us live in cold houses. Even in parts of Australia known for their tropical climate, homes can be ridiculously cold in winter because they were not designed to withstand the cold. Think a “leaky” timber ‘Queenslander’ in Toowoomba or Murwillumbah, or a cheaply constructed project home in Coffs Harbour. And yet, there’s plenty you can do to improve a home’s “thermal performance” after it’s built, and a variety of ways to conserve the heat you generate.

When you’re suffering in a cold house the hard-core amongst us will tell you to “suck it up and put on another jumper”. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are plenty of smart ways to make your house more comfortable, and without necessarily using more electricity / gas in the process.

Here’s a few ideas:

  •   Stop the leaks:  Draughts sap heat from a house like nothing else. Fill any gaps your house has, under doors, in floor boards, around poorly fitting windows. There are many draught-proofing products available for these scenarios available at your hardware store. Or, get in a professional. How can you find the draughts? Shut the house up on a windy day, and move around the perimeter of the house with a stick of incense or a candle and look for movement.

  •   Section your house:  The more rooms you’re trying to heat, the harder it will be (and the more energy you will use).  Think about which rooms you most want to keep warm, and those you don’t need to, and cover the entrances between them. If there isn’t a door, hang a thick curtain. Even if there is a door, put a draught stopper at the bottom of it so heat doesn’t escape under it. If you can stick to heating just one main area your heaters won’t have to work nearly as hard, and are more likely to maintain a comfortable temperature.

  •   Insulate:  Most houses don’t have enough insulation, in ceilings, walls and under floors. Start by having a look in your ceiling cavity (safely) to see how much insulation there is directly above your ceiling. You’d be surprised how many ceilings I see without any insulation, or with a tokenistic this layer (R2 to be technical, about 12 cm thick). Insulation is one of the most cost effective ways to improve the thermal performance of an old house.

  •   Beware of the fan heater!  Sadly, the cheapest heaters generally use the most energy. A small fan or oil heater will often use 2000 Watts, meaning that an hour of use will use 2kW of energy. To put that in context, the average 2-3 person home in northern NSW uses 15 kWh per day in winter,  so using one fan heater for 2 hours (4kWh) would use more than 25% of that average.  If you can afford an efficient reverse cycle air conditioner (or have one you don’t use) it will be in the order of 4 times more efficient than a fan heater in converting electricity to heat.

  •   Use a heated throw:  if it’s costing you too much to heat your home, living area, the most cost effective way of keeping warm is to just warm you. An inexpensive heated throw blanket is incredibly good way at keeping toasty warm, for a couple of cents an hour. (Note, however, that some people are sensitive to covering themselves with an electric circuit. If so, be sure to get one with a thermostat and timer.)

  •   Get help! Believe it or not there are local people with expertise in making homes more energy efficient and temperature resilient, and they love it! If you would like a more thorough home energy consultation (including a personalised home visit and assessment) 

Seb has his own home energy advice service and is the only accredited Residential Scorecard Assessor in Northern NSW.
Check out his informative  Home Energy Facebook Page here.

ZEB & Mullum Cares continue to focus on rebuilding our region's residential properties to be flood resilient

On June 16, over 60 local tradespeople and insurance assessors attended a Tradie Q & A event at the Mullumbimby Leagues Club.  The headline speaker was Winston Churchill fellow, James Davidson from JDA Co in Brisbane.  JDA Co. is the preferred architecture and design practice for governments, councils and private enterprises adapting urban environments to withstand floods, cyclones, bushfires, storm surges and extreme heat.

Whilst the talk does get understandably detailed and best understood by qualified tradespeople, much of the information in this 2 hour video is invaluable for home owners looking for guidance to reduce the chances of going through the trauma cased by flooding  that results in kitchens and bathrooms and floor coverings being ripped out and months of waiting for homes being rebuilt.  We are almost at the 6 month anniversary of the Feb 28 flood and most homes are no where near being ready for residents to move back in.

Rebuild Flood Resilient – A Tradie Q & A event

Sanctuary Magazine Issue 60 coming soon: Flood resilience special

Given the recent devastating floods around the country, it feels fitting that in Sanctuary 60 we focus on the increasingly important topic of designing for flood resilience.

We visit homes from Queensland to Tasmania that incorporate strategies to stay dry or to recover quickly after flooding: there’s a modest secondary dwelling in Newcastle with a services level designed to keep water out, a family home on a Brisbane creek that was reinvented to handle the twin threats of flood and bushfire, and another Queensland home with landscape design that turned an overland flow path into an asset. On our cover, a sustainable Northern Rivers beach house by Refresh Design passed its ultimate test when the waters rose this year, and in Hobart, a cottage inundated once before received a flood-savvy renovation and extension that also delivered light, flexibility and thermal comfort.

We also talk to expert architects in the field, Brisbane-based JDA Co., who explain the basics of flood-resilient design and share their small but effective retrofits helping existing houses in flood-prone areas cope better with high waters. The theme continues in our Outdoors section, with tips on designing your garden to handle stormwater and mitigate the effects of overland flow.

Take a look inside Sanctuary 60

Also in this issue: Elsewhere in our sustainable house profiles, we showcase great projects like the sympathetic renovation of an Adelaide mid-century cottage and a cosy Tassie home for two that has no need for active heating or cooling.

We look at the burgeoning ‘e-changer’ movement – citysiders making the move to the country while holding down city-based jobs – and consider what you need to know to make it work. There is a guide to choosing sustainable tapware for your build, and in On the drawing board, architect Deborah Ascher Barnstone introduces the affordable, bushfire-resilient house design that won top gong in this year’s Solar Decathlon student design competition – plus much more.

Sanctuary 60 will be on its way to subscribers shortly and on sale in newsagents from 25 August. If you haven’t already, subscribe now to get every issue delivered. 

The featured image of this article is from Sanctuary Magazine.

Facebook resources for sharing flood adaptation information and giving and receiving donations

If you use Facebook here are some pages and groups involved with the community flood response:

Mullum Cares has created a group specifically to share information like this blog post and for community to contribute their ideas and experience of flood resilient building materials and furniture:

Rebuild Flood Resilient Northern Rivers

The Library of Stuff is still offering FREE memberships to flood impacted locals and are always keen to receive donations of items in great condition that are helpful to people to borrow for a week or two at a time.   All info can be found on their website libraryofstuff.org.au or Fb:

Library of Stuff Mullumbimby

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