Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Easy Tips to Adopt a Greener Approach Towards Your Home

Choosing to go green is a simple decision and thankfully, simple steps follow it too. The only thing people get scared by is the cost, but that too gets recovered in a few years and then you experience no costs, only benefits. The benefits of living a green lifestyle are obvious and many. A planned and legally regulated green lifestyle is the ultimate savior for the sorry state of our planet. There are many things you can do toward this approach, some of which can be accomplished using home remedies too. Here are some easy and useful tips that you can adopt to make your house and lifestyle greener and increase the worth of your house too -

* Whenever you clean your home, make sure you use cleaners that are multipurpose, so that the one in the kitchen can also be used for the surfaces of your bathroom. This immediately reduces the use of chemicals in your house which also makes the environment a healthy place to live in. Use natural cleaners, like Vinegar and Baking Soda. Add lemon to vinegar to get rid of the strong smell. There are many green products in the market too that can replace your harmful antibacterial products and toxic cleaners.

* In a world where people love free stuff, it is hard to understand why more people have not yet installed solar panels. These would generate power for you out of a free energy source; the sun. Reduction of power usage can be achieved through the usage of electronic appliances that consume less energy.

* Location really is everything. Your house must be located and designed in a way that it receives the utmost amount of sunlight and does not have to depend on electricity for light.

* Paint your house with carbon-absorbing and eco-friendly paint, renew its look and keep it young for a much longer time than with the usage of regular toxic paints. Use a paint that is low on or has no Volatile Organic Compounds. These are bad news for your environment and also for women expecting a baby.

* Your floors can look better with bamboo rather than hardwood. Also they come in different shades, look just as beautiful and last longer too. Bamboo also has the stunning quality that helps it to grow two inches in an hour, which is a strong contrast to hardwood trees that take decades for their growth. People who love environment and are practical, clearly know which one to choose.

* Make a simple and beautiful garden and decorate your house. With this you can literally make it greener and grow healthy vegetables for your own consumption.

Make the greatest use of your environment without harming it or making any adverse impact on it. You must be able to save thirty percent of the energy to be called a green home. Start now and you will see the results instantly and the profits in a few years too.

Buying Property in Rural Portugal - An Off Grid Adventure

Manter a Calma (stay cool)

First of all, allow plenty of time for your property search, and organise your time well so that you can see as many properties as possible. I worked on farms as a volunteer on the WOOFING program, and was lucky enough to spend months living in the country before purchasing my property. This gave me ample opportunity to get the feel of the place and learn from other peoples experiences. You probably have a vision of Portugal in your mind's eye, I know I did, but there is really no substitute for actually living there for a while and feeling the December sun on your face while gardening in your summer clothes, then experiencing the surprisingly cold winter evenings creeping in through the caravan door.

Make a List

It's a very good idea to keep a list of your priorities with you when you are looking at properties; tick off the relevant boxes at each viewing and refer back to it. Also take a camera and take photographs of each property, it's very easy to forget important details when you are seeing ten or more prospective plots in a day. You will be inundated with new things to think about such as; water supply, the extent of the building project, access to the property, mobile connection and electrical power supply to name but a few. It's all very exiting and very easy to get carried away when you see a house that you love. There is a lot of real estate for sale in Portugal and many factors to consider before making a purchase. Your head will be spinning after a day or two of driving around with the estate agent, so try to remain tranquilo as the locals say, and don't get rushed into making a deal. The fact is that people often end up buying something completely different to what they had first imagined.

Stone Ruins

Rebuilding an old stone ruin is a labour of love that cannot not be taken lightly. So although it looks beautiful and may seem like quite a straight forward project, take the time to really consider what you are letting yourself in for. Repairing stone walls is a skilled job and also very labour intensive. I know because I have done it, and being covered in filth carrying large stones around in the searing heat is not an experience I care to repeat. Putting them back together is not easy either and demands a great deal of patience and skill. I have seen large cracks appear in newly repaired houses that eager self builders have been working on. Heartbreaking. There are however skilled local stone workers available if you ask around.

Would I Recommend It?

Yes, yes, and unequivocally yes. If you are thinking seriously about buying a property in Portugal then I do highly recommend it. My years there have changed my life in many positive ways, and afforded me experiences that would not have been possible in the UK. I wanted to live in the forest and be away from civilisation and all its trappings for a while. I had a very small budget and was almost always working alone. I chose to build my house using ecological and re-claimed materials where possible and lived off grid for five years. That was my way, and I loved it for the most part, but there are also many foreigners living there doing it very differently; some with young families and much greater budgets than mine; others much older and living out their autumn years. Thats what makes it such a fascinating place to visit, there is great variety of people, and a lot of opportunity to try new things that would not be possible in many other countries. The last word has to go to the very tolerant and kind Portuguese people, if you learn to speak Portuguese your life there will be greatly enhanced, especially in the more rural areas. You would be surprised at the amount of foreigners that don't bother to get past the most basic language skills even after many years of living there. Also if you do learn to speak the lingo (not easy) you could save yourself a lot of money when bargaining your price. Quanto custa?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Get a Plot and Make It Green

One little portion of land can make your imagination run high. Most people these days buy some land for future investments or for selling it at higher prices to make a nice profit. Think creatively, a little out of the box. You will realize there are many ways to turn it into a highly productive piece of valuable land that is of use to not only you, but others as well. In this day and age, when people have outdone themselves when it comes to their love for concrete, there are many who lose out. Some people who can't afford their love for spacious lands and wide green expanses or have simply run out of options, miss one thing the most; gardening. They wish to grow beautiful rows of vegetables, flowers, herbs and fruits but cannot find the space for it. There is a happy solution though.

A little search and effort, and you will find a plot to rent or buy that is your preferred size, near your place and offers the exact conditions that are suitable for your gardening needs. Tomatoes, carrots or whatever little delicious treats you wish to raise from that soil, just choose the best selection of seeds and fertilizers, pick up a shovel and start with your hobby! Remember to check the quality of plot before getting it. Levels of lead, similar nutrients and clay need to be checked with a soil test.

A garden could really uplift the spirits of a plain and morose area. It adds to the life and freshness of the living conditions of all the neighboring people. Besides that, gardening makes you happy. It is proven and people who like to do gardening stay relaxed and mentally healthy. It is a great way to dig out all negativity from your mind and focus on productivity and well-being. The plants that you will cultivate are going to be much healthier for you to eat and will cost you far less than the ones you get from your grocery stores.

It is saddening to know that people are so much into buying properties and creating new ones that land has become an elusive commodity for the passionate gardeners. That is why; there are entire gardening programs which are made to provide you with your desired plot. It whiles away your time in a healthy, rejuvenating way and nurtures friendships among fellow gardeners too. All that hard work makes you physically fit too. Organic gardening is the best type of gardening nowadays because everyone wants to stay away from pesticides. Also, there are some who get a garden plot just to donate the produce that they grow in their gardens.

Renting or buying a plot for gardening purposes is a great solution for many. You may not have a garden area, or it may not be receiving enough light, or maybe you simply wish to indulge in your hobby in peace and isolation. However crowded and congested it may become due to the phenomenal rise in concrete areas, you can always balance it out by having your very own plot of greenery. Nature really does find a way.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Timber Buildings Do Best - Modern Log Cabins

Used for centuries in various countries around the world, but especially Northern Europe and Northern America, log cabin construction has been used in buildings of many types throughout history. Timber is one of the oldest and most trusted construction materials around, and it is also an entirely Renewable Natural Resource. In today's construction market, where there is such focus on sustainability, it is only fitting that the log cabin should be brought up to date to meet current needs whilst retaining all the benefits of this old construction style.

Old benefits of traditional log building;

  • Sustainable timbers from renewable forestry
  • Timber is a natural product providing healthy living/learning environment
  • High levels of in-built natural insulation helping keep the building warm in winter and cool in summer
  • Low maintenance inside and out
  • Economical build system
  • Rapid construction
  • Ability to regulate humidity and non-retention of electro-static charge. This is proven to offer health benefits particularly to allergy sufferers.
  • That wonderful smell and feel of wood
For these reasons and many more, the log cabin has been a popular choice for self build homes throughout the centuries and the reason why timber has been such a major part of construction for so many different purposes. Even today it is the only truly Natural, Renewable and Proven construction material. The science behind the benefits of wood have led to greater use of timber: architectural design through use of glulam beams and a variety of different timber species such as Siberian Larch and Western Red Cedar cladding materials.

New Benefits of Modern log building;

  • Choice of external cladding types to blend in with the environment and protect the structural log to ensure even greater longevity.
  • High levels of insulation: in excess of current UK Building Regulation Standards, ensuring minimal loss of energy. This allows the log building to be used for a far wider range of commercial purposes including Schools and Nurseries.
  • Variety of roof finishes to suit purpose of the building including sedum for those who want all the advantages of a green timber building
  • Streamlined edges/finishing details bring the appearance up to date
  • Modern pre finished, double glazed windows and doors to ensure energy efficiency
  • Energy efficient heating/lighting systems with renewable options
  • Opportunity for high level natural lighting through roof lights and sun tunnels or even split roof designs to maximise natural daylight and minimise energy use.
  • Precision engineered timbers providing all the advantages of a modern method of construction and reducing construction time further.
  • Arrival on site in packs which enables construction even on sites with restricted access.
  • Potential for Zero Carbon or Carbon Positive status during use ie can produce more energy using a solar array on the roof than the building actually needs to heat/light it.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Why PassivHaus Is the Cornerstone of Eco-Friendly Building

Eco-friendly and sustainable building is growing in popularity to help reduce carbon emissions and save energy.

One of the original movements towards a sustainable way of building and living is PassivHaus. PassivHaus is a voluntary building standard and concept that was developed in Germany in the 1990's and is a high standard implemented to build low-energy homes around the world. It enables energy efficiency in the home and keeps energy costs to a minimum as well as reducing carbon emissions.

PassivHaus is based on the principle that reducing heat loss to a minimum is the most effective way of achieving a low carbon and green building and this standard used in a variety of buildings including homes, offices and schools.

There are six main criteria for building a PassivHaus which are:

• Super insulation with optimum heat retention within the building

• Maximum draught proofing

• Ventilation combined with heat recovery

• Solar panels to harness the sun's heat

• Renewable energy sources for instance using solar photovoltaic panels that convert solar radiation into electricity

• Energy efficient appliances which reduce energy consumption.

A PassivHaus is built to be completely airtight and is essentially a constructed shell with the optimum level of insulation that conserves heat and therefore requires little or no additional heating inside the building. Insulation includes high performance thermal windows and doors with double and triple glazing, an insulated roof and floor and insulation fitted in exterior walls.

The PassivHaus philosophy of optimum insulation is also combined with the use of a mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR) system which provides ventilation and captures and re-uses that ventilated air for heat which would otherwise be lost through draught gaps in the home. The MVHR system continually purifies the air, expelling stale air and drawing pure air from the outside of the building as well as recovering the air in the building to use for heat. Up to 94.4% heat recovery can be achieved with MVHR systems. Outside air is pulled into the heat exchanger within the system which warms the air and when warmed it is distributed evenly around the building.

A MVHR system is also the method used for cooling a building when the climate is warm so that warm air is actually cooled instead of heated and distributed evenly around the building. Shades on the building are also used to minimise the amount of heat that a building is exposed to and keeps the building cool in warm climates.

Solar panels are placed on the roof to capture the sun's radiation and to use this natural source of energy to generate electricity.

The energy savings in a PassivHaus achieved compared to typical Northern European properties is 90% and compared to new build homes over 75%.

Where a PassivHaus building is located and if it is facing North, South, East and West can determine the building design and where the coolant shades and solar panels are situated. PassivHaus can be used both at the point of constructing a new building or incorporated into a renovation or refit of an existing building.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

How to Make Your Home Eco-Friendly?

"Green" is actually the buzzword at present. Unlike a few years back, today people have really become a lot more conscious about the impact that they leave on environment. There are many popular production companies that are focusing on creating eco-friendly products. Along with the efforts of big companies, the general public is also ready to take the responsibility of making the planet a safe place to live. People are looking for different ways to make their home eco-friendly.

The very first step to go green is the simplest of all and emphasizes on saving wherever possible. This implies cutting back on usage of things, like electricity and water. You can conserve energy by using energy-efficient LED lights, disconnecting the phone chargers and switching off the lights if they are not being used. It is also important to buy domestic appliances that can offer high energy efficiency. Simple actions as such are not only economical but also quite potent to protect the environment.

For any property to be regarded as green or eco-friendly, it must have minimum impact on environment by making use of resources which the environment offers. Things like wind and sunlight are one of the most important sources of energy which would never get exhausted. Thus, a good amount of research is being done on how to use these elements in different ways. To lower down the utility bills, installing solar panels and wind turbine generators are already gaining popularity.

Being an environment friendly home buyer, you must thoroughly consider the size, as well as location, of your new house. Choose a location where your home would have the least harmful impact on environment. Usually, it is considered better if you build upwards rather than expanding on ground. Besides, the design of the house also plays a significant role in making a property green. It is advisable to get all the windows strategically installed, so that maximum natural light and heat can enter into the house. For hot water, solar panels can be used which are a popular means to generate energy. Likewise, when it comes to materials and technologies to be used in a house, the options that you can have to go green are endless. The materials used must be easily reusable, renewable and recycled.

Use of sustainable products, like bamboo and other recyclable products for flooring, makes an excellent choice. Landscaping with native plants is also a good option to reduce the requirement for fertilizing and watering. Besides, it is also viable to look for houses that are created with low quality paint products. Products that contain toxins, chemicals and off-gassing are not only harmful for the environment but also for your health. Especially people, who are seriously sensitive to such chemicals, must avoid buying houses painted with highly dangerous paint materials. These small modifications can considerably reduce your energy bills, decrease water usage, bring down your building's total carbon footprint and improve the air quality inside your house.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Green Up Your Workplace and Save the Environment

Going green refers to an approach towards the environment and focuses on the sound use of natural resources and preservation of natural elements. Even in the everyday life, people can do their bit towards safeguarding the environment through some simple activities, like turning off the lights when not being used, using recyclable paper bags rather than the plastic ones and many more. While, for environmentalists going green might be a campaign, it has copious tangible benefits for average citizens as well. Apart from being implemented in homes, the approach of going green can also do wonders when applied in an office setting.

Creating a soothing and environmentally sound office can drastically boost up the appeal of a company, leaving a good impression on both your employees as well as clients. Due to the growing environment concerns, a lot of people support the "green movement". A green workplace can help in gaining the approval and confidence of individuals supporting this cause. Another benefit of creating a greener office space is that it helps in reducing the company's expenses by improving efficiency, through the use of natural energy resources. Using the natural lighting, using recyclable paper, turning off computer monitors when not in use etc, are some of the things which could lead to expenditure reduction.

Such as these, there are several green practices that can be implemented to make an office space eco-friendly. Improving a building's efficiency calls for judicious use of the energy-consuming appliances, water and lighting. Talking about appliances, well today most of them, such as computer monitors, televisions, air-conditioning units etc, have energy-saving features which automatically shut them off if not used by anyone for a particular time period. By upgrading your older appliances and opting for the new ones that are available today, you can save a great amount of energy. If you do not want to purchase new machines, then the best way to save energy is by turning off the appliances when they are not being used.

Besides, lighting is also one of the most crucial elements in an office space. If you aim to have a green office space, then it is advisable to use CFL bulbs rather than ordinary light bulbs, as they are more energy-efficient and can save a great deal of your money. If your office is outfitted with large windows, then you can use the natural lighting as well. Using natural light, along with the artificial light can provide you right intensity to work, whilst decreasing the energy consumption at the same time. Apart from the lighting, you can also improve the water efficiency at your workplace by using low-flow toilets, water-less urinals and auto shut-off taps for sinks. Though these upgrades do have high initial costs, but in the long time this action would be financially beneficial for your company by significantly reducing your water bill. So, go ahead and implement all the office changes mentioned above and head towards saving the environment.