Kevin Royce, owner of green material supplier Eco Building Resource, has seen substantial changes in the demands from homeowners over his 25 years in the eco building industry.
“Initially, building green was primarily about saving energy,” say Royce. “Today we have seen it evolve to a greater demand of non-toxic, sustainable products made from more recycled, recyclable, and plant-based materials.” Royce notes that homeowners are also more likely to renovate and restore their existing homes and cottages to extend their lifespans, often making them more environmentally friendly in the process.
Here are some of the top trends and products that homeowners are embracing in their eco renovations:
Natural cotton insulation
Royce says that one of the first steps homeowners take is improving the energy efficiency of their properties. “With the ‘building envelope’ being a major concern we are finding our insulation growing in popularity,” he says. Unlike fiberglass insulation, cotton doesn’t contain chemical irritants, comes from a renewable resource and does not have a high-energy production cost.
Solvent-free caulking and sealants
Used to reduce drafts around windows, doors and outlets, these products not only increase the energy efficiency of a home, they’re also less toxic than traditional materials. They typically contain zero VOCs, are non-petroleum based, and have no (or low) odor.
Grey water reuse
When you think about it, it doesn’t make much sense to flush fresh water down the drain—even if your toilet is low-flow. Grey water systems allow homeowners to recycle dish or shower water. After being treated, the water is used in toilet cisterns or in outdoor landscaping. The result is making the most use of a precious natural resource.
Gravity water filters
Easy to install, use, and transport, gravity water filters don’t need energy-intensive pumps to filter. Instead, as the name implies, they use gravity and special ceramic filters to remove unwanted bacteria and impurities from drinking water. In addition to saving on electricity, gravity filters also turn lake, pond, river, well, and rain water into safe drinking water—making these filters the perfect solution for many cottage owners.
Eco-friendly flooring solutions
Whether you’re looking to install cork, bamboo, or even wool carpet, Royce says that flooring made from sustainable materials is one of the top trends in eco-renovations. Refinishing existing hardwood floors is another green option; after stripping or sanding, homeowners apply a coating of polywhey urethane. “It’s a very green and durable finish manufactured with whey, a by-product of the dairy industry,” explains Royce.0
Smart glass windows
Traditionally, curtains and blinds are used to cool homes on hot summer days. Smart glass windows operate on the same principle, by adjusting to light levels. In summer, they actively reduce the amount of solar energy entering homes, while in the winter they reflect warmth back in. Many work similar to “transitions” sunglasses and automatically adjust, while others require manual controls.