03rd Nov 2014/
19th Aug 2014/
One of the critical objectives for Project Zero was to address the issue of air quality and ensure that we will not be exposing our family to unnecessary pollutants. Volatile Organic Compounds or VOC’s are the main offenders when it comes to domestic air pollutants. VOC’s are harmful chemicals that are emitted (off-gassed) by commonly used building materials. In a domestic house paints, sealers, plastics and carpet all emit VOC’s. The amount of off-gassing is extremely high initially and slowly tapers off in time. In fact, many freshly painted hospital rooms cannot be used for a set period of time (often weeks) until the VOC level has reduced to a safe level.
Consumers have become more aware of the harmful effect of VOC’s and commonly used paints are now labelled “Low-VOC”. However, our research has indicated that what we define as ‘Low-VOC” in Australia is actually still quite high when compared to other first world countries. Clearly, using everyday paints was not going to meet our objectives.
We attended an industry engagement event and were lucky enough to meet the director of EColour Paints. These paints are “Zero-VOC” meaning that no harsh chemicals are emitted from them. Also, these paints are made from environmentally friendly water based products, are certified as carbon neutral, comparable in price to commonly used paints and come in a huge range of colours! Clearly we had to look no further.(Refer to our Partners page for contact details for Ecolour Paints.)
Similar decisions had to be made when selecting materials for the joinery. The normal products such as 2-pac, laminate and whiteboard/pre-finished board were not going to meet the strict environmental standards we needed to receive the Enviro Development certification. The most sustainable and environmentally friendly solution for joinery is plywood made from Hoop Pine. Hoop pine is a sustainable resource that is 100% plantation grown. Plywood is a manufactured wood panel made from thin sheets of wood veneer and the layers are glued together to form a composite material. Many forms of plywood use toxic glues and were not suitable for our project. The hoop pine we have sourced has been certified under both FSC & PEFC forestry programs, and is manufactured with Type ‘A’ Phenol Formaldehyde which emits such negligible amounts of Formaldehyde as to be considered almost zero.
We feel we have chosen finishes that will not only complement the sustainable nature of the project, but finishes that will also look great! In the kids bedrooms, their robes will be finished with a clear lacquer. For the kitchen, pantry, laundry and our walk-in-robe the ply will have a stained black finish. For the internal shelving we will be using E0 MDF (Medium Density Fibreboard) made from pine and sourced from certified and sustainable plantations The manufacturing process obtains almost 2/3 of its energy from burning otherwise unusable waste wood fibre, greatly reducing the demand on fossil fuels. . E0 MDF is GreenTag® Gold GreenRate Level A certified very low formaldehyde emission.
We signed off on the design of the laundry and robes this week, so all going well we only have to wait another 2-3 weeks until the joinery starts to go in. Very excited to see the finished product!
22nd Jul 2014/
Reused and Recycled Materials
We recently learned that approximately half of the world’s waste is directly contributed to construction activity, quite an alarming fact. Being exposed to construction sites day-in day-out has allowed me to understand both the difficulties and opportunities in recycling and reusing construction materials and I was keen to implement these on Project Zero where possible. For this blog entry I feel it is important to define the difference between the terms ‘reuse’ and ‘recycle’;
-Recycling occurs when a product is physically changed into a new product. A good example of this is when we put our plastic bottles into the recycling bin so they can be melted down and reshaped.
-Reusing occurs when a product is actually reused in its current physical state with very little (if any) modification to it. A good example of this is when we turn old clothes into rags.
As can be seen from Image 1 – The Waste Management Hierarchy, Reuse is a preferred option over Recycle and thus became an important consideration for us to address.
Project Zero incorporates both of these principles to help minimise the quantity of raw materials utilised in the job and thus lessen the impact on the environment. The elements of the job that encompass recycled or reused materials are as follows:
- Reusing all the existing internal doors (Image 2)
- Building with only recycled bricks
- Installing timber that has come from demolished jobs that has then been re-milled to size
- Ensuring that our concrete suppliers utilise recycled raw materials – water and aggregates
- Using second hand form-work timbers when erecting the form-work
- Reusing the existing internal hardwood floor
- Reuse existing timber frames (Image 3)
- Applying paints and sealers that are made from recycled products
- Installing insulation that has a high recycled material content
We had originally intended on reusing as much of the original house as possible, but as the job progressed we came to realise that this was either not practical or cost prohibitive. Despite these limitations we have ensured that all the building waste that leaves our site is separated and recycled at a waste plant – guaranteeing a minimum of 80-90% recycle rate . We feel that this is a good compromise.
22nd Jul 2014/
01st Jul 2014/
We decided to take advantage of the scaffolding that was up and paint the outside of the house this week. Usually this would be one of the last trades to complete their work on site however it suited our timeline to complete it this week. We had originally chosen a Dulux colour with our architect, however after researching different paints, we decided on Solacoat (http://www.solacoat.com.au/) – a heat reflective paint that reduces solar absorptance. We needed to do this in order to achieve our specific R-value, the measure of thermal resistance, for the existing house. This high performance paint reduces the heat gain of buildings, thereby making them more comfortable to live in. considering that livability is very important to us, this was an obvious choice. The range of colour choices for this brand of paint are very slim, so our options were limited. The colour we selected was white and offered a solar absorptance of 20%. We are really happy with the colour. It is a pretty bright white, but white is white I guess.
We have also been deliberating over the tiles for the bathroom. Our architect, Nick Flutter, from BVN Donovan Hill suggested a white wall tile and black vitrified floor tile from Johnsons Tiles. Donovan Hill work with these tiles a lot, and love them for their simplicity and they are low cost, which is always a good thing. We loved the colour theme chosen for the bathroom, but were a little unsure about using a cheaper tile on the floor. We spent some time investigating a cement tile for the floors. The positives with this option were that it would look incredible and be very easy to lay as it is dead flat. The negatives were that it was 5 times the price of the Johnson Tiles, had a 7 week lead time and came from overseas. As we researched more tiles, we realised there are actually very few tiles that are Australian Made, so distance to travel didn’t end up influencing our decision. In the end it came down to price – budget always seems to sway the decision making – and lead time. At this stage of the project, we cannot afford to wait 7 weeks for materials. So we ended up going with the Johnsons Tiles – Alabaster Gloss for the wall tiles and Waringa Vitrified Black for the floor tiles.
Another decision is complete. We are almost done selecting all of our finishes. Getting closer and closer to completion. Hopefully only 2.5 more months to go.