Just because you are looking at a vintage home rather than a brand new home built with the latest sustainable building technologies and green additions does not mean you cannot have a home that showcases the latest energy efficiencies and green designs.
In fact, since it is not practical to think that the entire architectural contributions of the 20th century will be removed and replaced (an environmental nightmare too large to even comprehend) retrofitting homes are the fastest way to a greener future.
The Key Areas of a Retrofit
The most important items to look at when considering a retrofit are the overall energy efficiency which is addressed through adequate insulation, proper windows and doors along with energy efficient means to heat and cool the home. While some upgrades that are possible on a new construction are either not possible or impractical on an older home, things like an energy efficient boiler system to replace older models can reduce the carbon footprint and energy costs substantially.
Ensuring there is adequate insulation as well as insulated doors and windows is equally important in hot or cold climates. The more noble additions of solar hot water heaters are often possible even in a retrofit, however, solar panels to generate electricity depend on the pitch of roofs and direction of orientation and may or may not be practical.
If the climate allows use of a heat pump would be a vast improvement over even an upgraded boiler. This provides both heating and cooling with up to 30% less energy than boilers and air conditioners found in the typical older building.
Think Sustainable for Home Improvements
The ideal retrofit would use naturally sustainable building products. Natural wood and stone are not only more beautiful, they have far less environmental impact than Formica or artificial surfaces. Stone driveways lend a more picturesque landscaping than pavement that relies on heavy use of fossil fuels.
There are many natural insulators that can be used instead of fiberglass or poly insulations. If natural is less available or suited to the application than recycled is a close second in environmentally friendly choices.
Lawn and Gardens
By carefully planning landscaping, shade and windbreaks can be matched into the natural beauty of the land around the home. Wild flower gardens can easily make up large tracts of the garden that will provide habitat to small animals, birds and butterflies whilst reducing both the labor involved in upkeep and the need for fertilizers or chemicals to keep non-native species healthy in that area. Paths are easily maintained with paving stones or recycled tires as another earth friendly alternative.
While building a new home completely outfitted with the latest green innovations is admirable, perhaps retrofitting an older home is nobler as it takes the concept of reuse and recycle to heart. In an already overcrowded world with declining lands available for new construction it allows us to make improvements in what is already there to continue to use and enjoy it for many years to come.