The term Eco-shed is frequently used by shed building companies to describe what they consider to be a shed which has a low environmental impact.
What are the factors that you should use to judge which design is 'greener' than another? The purpose of this article is not to lay down rules as to what is green and what is not, because as you will see this very much depends on your location and proposed use. Hopefully this article will help you to identify the key factors that you should consider when developing your own design and help you decide whether the Eco-shed you are about to purchase is truly Green or just a case of 'Green-wash'!
All sheds should provide the following features:
Health and comfort to its users.
Provide value and durability.
In addition an Eco-shed should
Minimize its impact on the planet and its resources.
When you start planning out your eco-shed, here are some things that you may wish to consider including to make it not only more functional, but more environmentally friendly.
Timber is the main component of many sheds and more so for eco sheds. Timber is arguably the most eco-friendly construction material. Timber is naturally growing and requires minimal energy to convert from its natural state to a usable form (in contrast to steel, brick, concrete and glass).
The main things to look for in a source of timber are that it comes from sustainably managed forests and that it is locally sourced.
The Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) provides a timber verification standard to ensure that timber does in fact come from a sustainable plantation and replanting takes place after harvesting.
Using a local source of timber eliminates 'wood miles'. 'Wood miles' is a term I coined for the energy that is used to transport the timber from where it is grown to where it is used. I have seen sheds sold in the UK that are made from FSC timber that was grown in China!
Using recycled timber is a great way to go, it does not use any additional forestry resource and saves some thing that would otherwise be burnt or sent to landfill. A great solution here is the pallet shed. Probably best suited to garden/storage sheds these use recycled shipping pallets to form the main structure.
Many commonly used timbers such as Oak, Douglas fir and Western Red Cedar are naturally durable and require no preservative treatment for external use (note; special requirements are needed however when they are in contact with the ground).
Most softwood timber when used in external environments require some form of preservative treatment. The range and type of treatments are beyond the scope of this article but range from the innocuous to highly toxic.
How are you planning on lighting your shed? The most environmentally friendly way to get light into your eco-shed is to let in natural light through windows and skylights.
If you only need additional artificial lighting so that you can easily find things in your shed at night, you can add solar powered lights.
If you need lights on all day and need electric power for heating, power tools or office equipment then connection to mains electricity is probably best.
If you intend heating your eco-shed make sure that it is insulated to the best standard you can afford so that the heat from the eco-heating system that you have so carefully selected doesn't immediately disappear through the walls and roof!
The most eco-friendly insulations are thought to be Sheep wool and Straw bales. However sheeps wool insulation is not widely available and straw bales do end up with a very thick wall amongst other peculiarities.
Other types of commonly used insulation are Rockwool. Also a type of panel known as SIP (Structural Insulated Panel) is often used due to their strength, minimal use of material and very low heat loss.
Also remember that under-floor insulation is required and the roof timbers require at least a 50mm air gap to allow ventilation and prevent condensation.
Walls - For a really green shed choose paints that have a low content of VOCs.
Floors - Additionally, try to limit your use of PVC in your flooring construction. Using timber boards, cork tiles or bamboo flooring is durable feels good on the feet if you will be standing in your eco-shed for any length of time.
Collect rainwater that runs off of the roof of your shed all year round and use it to water your garden instead of the tap water from your hose.
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Green roofs - Green roofs do require additional membranes and a strengthened roof in their construction. The insulation capacity of an extensive green roof is also quite low, so no great benefit there. However by planting drought resistant plants such as sedum on the roof a new habitat for bees, butterflies and pollinating insects can be created to replace the ground space taken up by the shed.
A great feature of using a shed as an office is that it can eliminate the daily commute. A consideration of the fuel saving that you make may enable you to spend more making it green giving a double benefit to the environment.
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