As energy costs rise and environmental damage mounts, it is essential to find environmentally friendly ways to live and work. One of the easiest ways to have a personal positive impact is to build an eco-friendly garden building. By using a range of environmental products, it’s possible for each individual to reduce environmental damage, respond to weather and climate changes, and reduce energy costs.
One way that garden buildings can be more energy efficient and eco-friendly is through rainwater harvesting. Simply put, rainwater harvesting captures rain that falls on a building’s roof and stores it for later use. The most obvious use for this stored rainwater is to irrigate your garden. You save money by using less water from the mains. Savings can be significant – during dry spells, outdoor watering can account for up to 50 percent of all water usage. Plus, rainwater harvesting saves potable water for more critical uses like drinking and cooking. Rainwater harvesting allows you to adjust to changing weather patterns. If the current trend toward longer dry spells punctuated by heavy rain events continues, harvesting rainwater gives you the flexibility to store water that is received.
The simplest way to implement rainwater harvesting in your eco-friendly garden building is to install a water butt. Depending on your water needs, you may want to connect several together. Plastic water butts can be found at various garden and home suppliers in a wide range of sizes and prices. Installation is as easy as positioning the water butt under your downpipe.
Solar Power, Insulation and Construction Materials
Garden spaces are a great place to implement solar power. Footpaths and gazebos can be illuminated with solar powered lights. Solar powered pumps are available for your garden pond. Solar power lighting for sheds has recently been introduced. Batteries are charged via the solar panel throughout the day, providing up to 10 hours of light on a full charge.
Adequately insulating your eco-friendly garden building is also budget-friendly. By insulating to an absolute minimum of 100mm (optimum is 200mm), you can reduce energy costs for heating. It also helps to use environmentally friendly materials like sheep’s wool or mineral wool insulation. Other eco-friendly insulation is made using recycled plastic bottles.
Maximise the eco-friendliness of your garden building construction by using wood from nearby managed forests. Utilising timber from properly managed forests ensures long-term sustainability and minimal environmental impact. Finding timber from nearby forests reduces the carbon impact of transport. Look for the logo of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) whenever you purchase timber products.
The use of PVCu (or uPVC) in garden buildings has grown in popularity due to its lower cost and lower maintenance needs. Manufacturers argue that PVCu is environmentally friendly because of the energy efficiency it offers, its long service life and the fact that it is recyclable. However, there is concern that the energy costs and carbon footprint of manufacturing PVCu are not balanced by its eco-friendly qualities. To ensure minimum damage to the environment, use of natural construction materials in garden buildings is the clear choice.
One of the most basic ways to recycle is to salvage materials you already have and use them in creative new ways. Building materials, buckets, even car tyres can find new life in container gardens. If you are replacing any garden buildings, consider dismantling them and reusing materials instead of selling and removing them. You can also choose to purchase reclaimed timber from the timber yard.
Here are a few specific tips for your own eco-friendly garden building:
Insulate to a thickness of 200mm using eco-friendly materials.
Build with FSC-certified timber from nearby managed forest.
Add double-glazed windows in wooden frames.
Install solar powered lighting.
Keep the glass clean and joints sealed to fully utilise the sun’s heat.
Consider moving tender plants indoors rather than heating the greenhouse.
Install a solar powered greenhouse heatsink system.
Use water butts to harvest rainwater from the greenhouse roof.
Use FSC-certified timber instead of PVCu. Even better, use reclaimed timber.
Install a rainwater harvesting system to supply your outdoor watering needs.
Use paints and wood treatments with the lowest VOC (volatile organic compounds) content you can find.
Consider a living roof. A green roof of sedum or moss is the sign of a truly eco-friendly garden building.