There have been many attempts by us humans to keep warm in winter and, by avoiding the debilitation of heat, to remain cool in the hot summer months; this being a very evident fact of seasonal life in Southern Africa. From the simplicity of seeking shade, to architecture designed to take advantage of natural ventilation and winter sun, human history records numerous methods of climate control within the home and workplace.
Yet, in the suburban environments in which we live, virtually all the solutions developed over the past century require electricity to power them. And energy remains very much a prime focus of SA’s ongoing fiscal challenges.
Habitat’s annual FOCUS on the most aesthetic and efficient solutions in the home includes comment from experts.
Duncan Snyman of American Shutters says: ‘Being eco-friendly isn’t a trend or a fad, but rather a lifestyle commitment and making the right choices will help embrace a sustainable lifestyle. Eco-friendly window treatments are identified as being especially ‘green’ based on their material content, recycling potential and functional performance.
‘Material choices for shutters are limited to wood, aluminium, ABS and plastic. Traditionally shutters were manufactured from wood, but over time materials now include plastics to save on cost and ABS products to offer waterproof features. However materials like wood, when sustainably harvested, not only reduce harm on the environment but provide energy saving features due to their natural ability to keep rooms warmer in winter and cooler in summer.
‘The more recent introduction of aluminium, as a material for shutter manufacturing, has become popular for its security and all-weather properties rather than its insulation capabilities; however the fact that aluminium is 100 percent recyclable contributes towards an eco-friendly option. Blinds are much the same as shutters when it comes to material choice, but offer the added options of natural and polyester fabrics. Honeycomb blinds are particularly effective for insulation as the cell-like structure of the material traps air between the window and the blind.’
‘Fenestration is a fundamental element of architectural design, defining both the outside appearance and interior ambiance of a building. The glazed surface percentage area of the overall building envelope is an important factor in a structure’s energy performance and the general quality of the interior space. As such, selecting the correct window frames is a crucial decision,’ so says Cobus Lourens of window and door manufacturer Swartland.
He adds: ‘Today, we can’t make a selection solely based on aesthetics. Electricity is becoming increasingly expensive, so when building or renovating, it’s intelligent to minimise the costs of residential heating / cooling. Choosing energy-efficient fenestration will not only save considerably on energy costs over the windows’ lifespan, but is also the responsible direction to take regarding the environment.’
So, how has technology adapted to climate change and global warming over the last decade and what has been the most notable R&D?
‘Over the past 10 years, environmental laws and standards regulating European fireplace manufacturers has become much stricter, especially pertaining to emission levels and standards of fireplace construction,’ so says Cobus du Plessis of Calore. ‘The latest standard, namely: Eco design 2022, requires that all fireplaces should have a 75 percent efficiency by or before 2022. Most of our closed combustion appliances already adhere to this standard with a wide range of pellet burning appliances with average efficiencies of 90 percent, and this as a carbon neutral fuel source.
‘European factories are strictly regulated by environmental laws in every step of procurement and production. All of our suppliers have streamlined their production processes to align with and overachieve these environmental laws. One of the main objectives has been the efficient use of energy within
Malcolm Sims of Infiniti Fires / Lifestyle Fires largely agrees: ‘People have become more aware of the impact of global warming and are changing their lifestyles to reduce their impact. In terms of home heating this includes such items as better insulation to minimise the heat required to retain warmth in winter: thicker loft insulation, reducing gaps around doors and windows and double glazing; also having the added benefit of keeping the interior cooler in summer.
‘Some years ago we decided to improve on the rather smelly flueless gas fires then available in SA. Most used a tray-like system, to mix the gas / oxygen and pass it through an inert mineral (to prevent burn back); added to this was flame effect of some type. We looked to simplify this combustion method by removing the inert mineral to allow a higher oxygen content to mix with the gas for cleaner combustion. The result is our Flame Dancer™ burner, which provides a dancing flame effect, as well as extremely low emissions.’
There are two main types of closed combustion fireplaces: freestanding and built-in. In general, the freestanding option will not necessitate changes to existing infrastructure and therefore new construction or professional installation. But if an old fireplace is to be replaced with a CCWS, a built-in unit is de rigueur and will require more time, know-how and effort to install.
For the full article see Habitat #265 May / June 2018
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