An introduction to sustainability for existing and new building projects


With an ever-increasing global population, the impact of this behaviour on our environment is slowly becoming unsustainable, and it’s the same when it comes to building. It is therefore important to weigh up all options before making a decision on whether to renovate or rebuild.

Here are some key points to consider before you decide:

It is important to consider these key points and engage qualified consultants to provide a detailed assessment of the property. Consultants such as a structural engineer, pest inspector and builder should be engaged to provide individual assessments of the structure, which will assist the property owners in determining whether to renovate or rebuild.

Engaging a structural engineer is extremely important as the last thing you want to do is retrofit, only to discover the existing building could not structurally accommodate the adaptions and additions. An engineer will do a visual site inspection and provide a written report. A pest inspector will also do a visual inspection of the dwelling to determine if there has been any recent or past termite activity. It is important to ascertain the extent of any activity and determine the necessary remedial actions that will be required to repair the damage. The pest inspector should have clear access into the roof space as well as underneath the dwelling to provide an accurate assessment of the structure. A builder should then provide an indication of cost for the remedial works.

Once these reports are completed and a cost assessment is provided, it will then be possible to determine whether or not to maintain the existing structure or sections of the structure or whether it would be more cost-effective to do a complete rebuild. Whether the report suggests a renovation or a complete rebuild, reuse of the existing materials is one of the easiest methods of reducing your carbon footprint and creating a sustainable site.

All materials that need to be removed must be done so with care so that they may be reused in the renovation or the new structure, sold as second-hand building materials or sorted and taken to recycling centres for recycling or upcycling. The best part of this process is that almost all building materials can be sold or recycled for cash, which can be invested back into your renovation or rebuild.

Another major contributor to the sustainability of your project is the planning. Expert assessment of land gradients, vehicle accesses, materials storage and even existing powerlines and water conduits will ensure your carbon footprint is reduced. The less disruption, re-engineering or aborted materials delivery, the greater the sustainable outcome of the overall project.

Remember, being sustainable is not just about the products you purchase or the existing ones you re-use. It also involves the recycling of existing materials and the impact those products and materials have on the environment. During the design phase, it is important to think about elements such as surrounding structures for shading and wind to encourage cross-flow ventilation.

Careful planning is essential for maximising the natural environment and minimising carbon footprints. You never know — you might just end up being more sustainable than you think.

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