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Plan your project to be green

By Richard Gibbs [email protected]

Richard Gibbs has over 30 years’ experience in project and client management. Together with his wife Nicky he created RIMINI Projects, offering a bespoke project management service for property owners in the UK and across the Algarve.

Whatever your personal views on global warming and climate change, the fact is that climate change brought about by man-made emissions of greenhouse gases has been identified as the greatest challenge facing human society for the 21st century. A harrowing thought indeed.

I am approached increasingly more frequently by concerned clients looking for ways to make their home, and often their lifestyle, much greener. I can certainly help them with the first point of changes, not necessarily the latter! So, let’s see…If we go back to the core of the issue; then buildings need to be low carbon, but they should also be sustainably designed too. That means they need to be designed with consideration for the long term environmental, social and economic aspects of sustainability.

The thought of investing in greener systems, however, can put many off course despite their best intentions, and so I will point out (and hopefully reassure) at this stage that you do not have to invest in state-of-the-art systems; even with a modest budget you can make a difference:

1. Energy use –Think about how you intend to use your home, how often you will use it, what areas/rooms will most likely be used and the type of heating, cooling and lighting you prefer. Pre-planning will help minimise carbon dioxide emissions once designers become involved.

2. Form and fabric – design minimises the demand on services such as heating and lighting. Low carbon buildings should exploit useful solar and internal heat gains (from people and equipment) to satisfy heat and, therefore, energy demand. Where the building sits on a plot, i.e. the direction it faces, will all have a significant impact.  

3. Insulation – seek to reduce unwanted heat loss by standards of insulation and air tightness. In modern well-insulated buildings, the hot water demand will be a bigger heat load than the space heating and the internal and solar heat gains will provide more of the heat required than the heating system itself. In older Portuguese properties, for example, there is likely to be only a one block thick external wall – you might want to consider installing an insulated internal partition system to provide a cavity and therefore improve thermal insulation.

4. Building services – widely available technology, controls and metering should be considered for use to facilitate solar and heat gains without overheating the building and using unwanted energy. Implement renewable energy systems wherever possible to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

5. Materials – selecting materials carefully with emphasis on what they are made from and where they come from all has an impact.  Request that all materials should come from a limited local radius from your property (i.e. 80 kms) thus reducing transport costs (carbon footprint).

To give you an idea of how energy flows in a building, I have dug out a very useful Diagram. Take a look and this should hopefully help you take that first step in adding a splash of green to your home. I hasten to add also that it won’t just be the planet that will thank you, but your pocket also – by reducing your carbon footprint, you will also reduce the running costs of your home. Now that’s surely a reason to join the green brigade!