8 home energy saving solutions to slash your consumption and curve soaring costs.

Over the past year energy costs have soared and, unfortunately, are predicted to continue to do so. The CBS (National statistical office of the Netherlands) has stated that the average household will be paying 86% more for energy this year than they did in 20211. This severe increase is the cumulative effect of our current turbulent global climate, ranging from the impact of Covid-19 to the sanctions on Russian oil triggered by the invasion of Ukraine in February. All of which has clearly exposed an unhealthy dependence on unrenewable fossil fuels, a source widely recognised to no longer be a viable source of energy if we are to successfully tackle climate change.

We have reached a tipping point with regard to peak global energy prices and pressure on our environment, meaning the moment to collectively slash energy consumption is now. Local governments are recognising this too. Amsterdam exemplifies this critical shift, having this month agreed on the goal to save 15% on gas in the city and the surrounding area within a year- you can find the published report here. Reducing our energy consumption is something we can all do, and now is certainly the time to do it.

Read on to discover 8 energy saving solutions you could introduce in your home to slash your consumption.

water restrictors energy costs

Image Source: AKKA Architects Residential Client

1. Water Flow Restrictors

For conserving the water you use from the main plumbing system in your home, consider fitting flow regulators, such as Tap Aerators, onto your taps, shower, etc. You can also reduce the amount of water by 2 litres per flush through installing a water displacement device in the cistern of a higher flush toilet2. This is a particularly effective solution if you have older fittings.

2. Energy Efficient LED Bulbs

This is one of the simplest and most widely-accessible solutions: replace the standard light bulbs in your home with residential LEDs. LED bulbs have been proven to use at least ‘75% less energy and even last up to 25 times longer than incandescent lighting’3.

3. Annual Boiler Checks

Ensuring you have your boiler regularly checked is not only important for safety but also keeps it working as efficiently as possible and thus reduces its energy consumption costs. Regular servicing prevents the disruptive accumulation of soot within the boilers’ internal components.

4. Programmable Thermostat

If you do not have one already, you should certainly consider having a programmable thermostat paired to your existing HVAC system. This allows you to adjust and automate the heating and cooling of your home to suit your daily schedule, for example eliminating energy wastage when no one is home.

5. Adding Foil Behind Radiators

If your home does not have cavity wall insulation, this might be a particularly relevant solution for you. Placing specialist insulative silver foil down the back of a radiator has the effect of reflecting heat energy into the open space of the room as oppose to permeating through the walls.

Image Source: AKKA Architects Residential Client

6. Window Insulation Kits

Window insulation kits are an affordable solution to limit the draft coming in through your windows, which can significantly cool a room and let heat escape. There are several kinds of insulations kits on the market, such as plastic film, magnetic and reflective foil.

7. Boiling Water Tap

Having a boiling water tap installed is a great alternative for households that routinely boil water multiple times a day, such as for tea. Boiling water via kettles accumulatively wastes a lot of water and energy, however these taps are expensive (approx. €1,500) so are best considered as a long-term investment.

8. Solar panels: Renewable Energy Source

Installing a solar panel on the roof of your building is highly effective solution to offset your energy bills. As solar technology has become more cost effective, the financial returns and environmental benefits can better offset the investment in terms of the installation and the maintenance costs. Some governments even compensate you in return (see here: IamExpat).

energy costs solar panels

If you are looking for more ways to make your home more sustainable, we highly recommend taking a look at our two-part series on the Sustainable Home; Part I: Improving Energy Efficiency & Part II: Improving Your Self-Sufficiency. These articles feature a range from smaller to larger scale solutions, where the more significant adjustments such as replacing your windows with double-glazed would most likely come as part of a renovation project. Although now, with inflation on the rise, might not seem like an ideal time to pursue a home renovation – it is actually more important than ever to ensure your home operates energy efficiently and sustainably. Check out our article on Navigating Construction Costs to discover how you can approach a cost- effective renovation in the current financial climate.

If you need advice about updating energy saving home solutions or you are planning on designing or renovating your home and would like some help, get in touch with us. We would be happy to help with any questions you may have.

3 Easy Home Updates: minimum budget for maximum effect

There are many benefits that have been proven to come as a result of switching up your home environment. If the interior of your home has remained the same for a long period, the atmosphere can begin to feel slightly stagnant and uninteresting. Taking the time to make even the smallest and inexpensive changes to your interior can make a big difference to how you experience your environment. Switching it up can give your space a new sense of life and energy! And the spring season is the perfect time to welcome this sort of change.

Of course you can opt for a more extreme kind of change in the form of an in-depth home renovation project. however, since that is not always possible for everyone, this article will focus on ways to bestow that refreshing sense of life on your interior with changes that require very little to no financial commitment.

Read on to discover 3 simple but effective changes to update your home environment and give it a new lease of life.

home updates

Image Source: AKKA Architects, Residential Client.

1. Painting walls

Colour has a very significant effect over the mood and atmosphere created in any room. The beauty of this solution is that although painting wall(s) has the potential to dramatically transform a space and make a powerful statement, it is low cost and entirely possible to Do It Yourself. Consider these ideas:

  • Accent one wall with colour, choosing a bold statement colour which contrasts the surrounding walls can really transform the energy of a space.
  • Paint the adjacent (joining) walls of a meaningful corner in a room, this could be the vector point of an L-shaped sofa for example.
  • Things to bear in mind when painting walls: take into account how the sun will interact with the colour if the accent wall is opposite a window. Also avoid painting more than two wall surfaces with the accent colour as the bold effect will be lost and the room would be overpowered.

Knowing which colours would best suit you and your given space can be challenging, therefore if you opt for this home update we highly recommend checking out our articles on 2022 Colour Trends and Implementing Colour beforehand.

2. Rearranging existing furniture

Changing the positioning of your furniture can have an unexpectedly significant impact on the dynamic of your living space, especially if it has sported the same arrangement for a long time. Rearranging furniture allows you to experiment with elements such as how you experience the natural light as well as how fluently you manoeuvre within and between your spaces. Improving these aspects can not only help with efficiency in your daily activities but can also grant a fresh perspective. Here are ideas for switching it up without buying anything new:  

  • Flip the room along the vertical or horizontal line axis of the room.
  • Rotate the room along a central point, as if you were turning it like 180 degrees.
  • If there is a central feature of attention in the room, such as a TV, try changing its position and then adjust the surrounding furniture to adapt to this change.
  • Changing the position of mirrors in the space is particularly effectively. If you don’t have any, consider adding in a strategic location. (Ok, maybe buying one thing!)

Image Source: AKKA Architects, Residential Client.

3. Eliminating daily frictions

Eliminating the daily frictions you experience is a small but effective adjustment which can make your life easier and make you fall in love with your home all over again. Try locating the small day-to-day difficulties you frequently encounter in your living environment and eliminate them by introducing a solution to the problem. For example:

  • Don’t have a safe place to put your phone in the bathroom? Add a small shelf exactly where you need to put your phone down.
  • Continually misplacing your house keys? Drill a hook in the wall at an intuitive and unintrusive spot near your front door.

Problems of this nature may seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things but such simple solutions can subtly make your living experience more relaxed and effortless.

The atmosphere in your home environment has a direct influence over the energy of those inhabiting the space, which is what makes it such an important factor in our lives.

If you are looking to make a more significant update to your home interior, check out one of our recent articles on Trendy Interior Design Styles for some inspiration! Beyond the small improvements we discussed here, another key aspect to your home environment being as convenient and stress-free as possible is ensuring home and work life can be effectively separated. This is particularly relevant if you are someone who finds themselves working from home often. Our article on Home Office Solutions offers simple and effective methods to create an ideal working environment in your home, even with constraints on space and budget.

If you need advice about updating your home environment or you are planning on designing or renovating your home and would like some help, get in touch with us. We would be happy to help with any questions you may have.

Long-term home office solutions for remote workers.

Even back in 2019 studies were clearly indicating that remote work was sharply on the rise, with an Upwork annual report predicting that by ‘2028, 73% of all departments are expected to have remote workers’1. There should be no doubt that the upcoming generation is reshaping the workforce and the pandemic appears to have only accelerated this trend towards hybrid work. Many of us experienced this lifestyle in some form or another over the last two years, but what seemed once a temporary solution has become a staple feature of many peoples’ working lives.

Perhaps your home work station involves setting up shop on the kitchen table every morning or manoeuvring a desk somewhere with acceptable zoom lighting and background. Depending on your situation, you may be finding the lack of permanence, comfort and privacy tiring when it comes to solutions like these. If you predict that remote work will be a common feature in your working life in the future, as it will most likely be for many of us, it may be time to consider more long-term home office solutions.

In this article we compare different home office solutions to help you decide which might be most suitable for your living situation.

There are several factors personal to your situation which determine the kind of solution that would be right for you. Deciding whether you will opt for an open or closed office station is the first important step. This choice should be made relative to the type of work you do, where and how many people you are living with, your budget and, of course, your personal preferences.

garden office studio

The 3 levels of change for creating a home office:

1. Structural Changes

These changes refer to large scale projects which involve some degree of demolition and construction, recommended for those who envision a closed plan office with the highest degree of privacy. However this also requires sufficient space and the budget to dedicate to a larger scale project. Demolishing walls and creating new partitions can effectively section off an area within the home which would become an enclosed office space. Depending on the location of the property, there are also options which do not involve disturbing the existing structure of the building. For example, assuming planning permission can be granted, a small studio could be built as an extension on the terrace of as a top floor apartment. Alternatively, if located on the ground floor, perhaps an extension or a little studio at the end of the garden could work well, see here for potential garden office inspiration2.

2. Layout Changes

If you do not wish to make such significant structural changes or would simply prefer an open plan office, adjusting the furniture layout of your current space could be a very effective solution. With regard to layout this might entail rearranging the furniture in a room of your home to clear an appropriate space for a desk. There are several factors that should be taken into account when planning this approach, such as making sure there is enough natural light available in the space whilst also avoiding glare on your computer screen. You might also consider the use of a moveable partition or a plant wall to create an appealing background for video calls and to establish a better separation within a room. Our article on optimising bedroom space suggests a variety of different ways to temporarily convert a bedroom for an alternative function when not in use.

home office bedroom
3. Feature Changes

The main challenges that arise as a result of working with an open-plan office space at home is the potential to clash with surrounding activity within the house. Perhaps you have a family, roommates, or a partner who is also working from home. This situation often leads to sound and visual distractions. If you opt for a workstation in an open plan, you can add to these solutions for those specific distracting moments. Making use of a room with a door offers a good solution here, for those moments when calls overlap for example. You might like to consider incorporating a standing desk in the bedroom designated just for calls, not only would this lessen distractions but standing for periods of time throughout the day is highly beneficial for the health. Acoustic dividers positioned on the main working area could also help if you work alongside others at home. They are made of sound absorbent material like felt for example which can double as a pinboard, bringing more office-like features to your space. Our previous article on home office furniture provides a range of specific furniture suggestions that would elevate your set-up to support the healthiest home working lifestyle possible.

The kind of home office you can create is highly dependent on your current space and the nature of your working life. Architects and interior designers can offer insightful perspectives on how to make the most of small spaces to suit your unique criteria. Upon evaluating your available space, specialists are usually able to come up with creative and cost-effective solutions which may have never considered before, even simply regarding layout adjustments and incorporating new features. Consulting a specialist is particularly recommended if you have found yourself in need of a closed office space but don’t simply have a ‘spare room’ available to convert, or a clear space you can ‘wall-off’.

Whether you opt for the use of a specialist or not, it is so worthwhile to take the time and effort required to create the best possible home office for yourself. Your environment has a direct correlation to your mental state and thus your ability to work happily and productively. With some creativity, aspects like light, sound and your visual frame can be significantly improved at any level of change mentioned above.  

If you need assistance designing a home office or are planning on constructing or renovating your home would like some help, get in touch with us. We would be happy to help with any questions you may have.

Ways to optimise the use of space in your bedroom

The first weeks in January provide a great opportunity to set the tone for the upcoming year ahead. This may come in the form of setting ‘resolutions’ for new positive habits we’d like to acquire to improve our day-to-day lives. Perhaps you find yourself wishing to feel better rested by going to sleep earlier or less stressed in the morning by waking up with plenty of time to spare? To support goals like these it can be very beneficial to make practical adjustments to your physical environment which will help you establish these new habits.

Your bedroom is a very important component of not only your living space, but also your life. The quality of your bedroom space is known to significantly impact the quality of your sleep and thus the way you approach each day. The main issue most people face in their bedrooms is clutter. The sense of disorganisation and mess clutter brings to the room can affect your mental health quite negatively. Clutter is usually the result of inefficient storage solutions or poorly-planned attempts to use the space for multiple functions.

In this article we share some interior design ideas which can be used to optimise your bedroom space. The first part will address how to reduce the overall clutter and the second part how to create a bedroom space which is well-suited for multiple functions.

PART I: Reducing clutter in your bedroom space

Maximising storage space

Whether you prefer to reserve the bedroom space for relaxation only or are interested in having it become a multi-purpose room, it is essential to have good storage options. Traditional wardrobes can be very bulky and occupy a great deal of floor space, therefore for small bedrooms we recommend considering alternative storage options.

  • Bed hutches provide housing for storage baskets underneath the bed whilst also creating a frame for the bed itself.
  • Upholstered storage benches positioned at the end of the bed have a dual use as it offers both seating and lots of storage.
  • Mounted wall shelving is an effective alternative to night stands and make up tables which tend to take up floor space unnecessarily.
bedroom storage

Source: AKKA Architects, residential client

PART II: Creating a bedroom space with multiple functions

1. Easily convertible furniture

Incorporating fold-up furniture is ideal if you would like to be able to regain the entire space when you’re done using one of the functions. This solution is ideal for users who only need to convert the bedroom space occasionally as oppose to permanently and who may need the space for a range of alternative purposes.

  • Murphy beds are a great way to reclaim a lot of square-footage when it is not in use.
  • Foldable desks which can be mounted to the wall and are easily opened and collapsed.
  • Sofa beds are a stylish bedroom addition which also replace the need for a guest room. 
  • Non-fixed partitions which are either foldable or moveable via wheels can provide ideal visual separation of the room, for office work for example.
2. Permanent multi-use space

The adoption of hybrid work at one time appeared to be temporary but for many is now becoming a constant feature of their working lives. This may mean considering more permanent solutions for a home office, removing the need to set-up and dismantle the working environment several times a week. If you decide that your bedroom is the best place to set up your office. Here are some ideas:

  • Loft beds free up the floor space underneath by suspending the bed above, usually made accessible by a ladder or stairs. This creates a perfect area below for an office nook, in which you can fit a desk, shelves and anything else your office may need.
  • Floor-to-ceiling fixed partitions which slide on rails or rotate to open and close are effective in creating separation between the bedroom and office space. The screen provides an ideal background for zoom calls, as it is recommendable for the bed not to be visible in your frame.   
bedroom space home office

People often shy away from the idea of combining their bedroom space with another function, and this concern is not without good reason. If executed thoughtlessly, you run this risk of creating two poorly operating spaces. However, with a well-thought-out design which is suited to the nuances of your space, there is real potential to maximise even the seemingly smallest of spaces.

Combining the bedroom and the home office is a perfect example of optimising your space. It is something we believe will become increasingly more common as remote work continues to grow in popularity amongst employers. Our next article will expand on creating the ideal home office for remote workers and freelancers. In the meantime, we recommend taking a look at our previous articles on Home Office Furniture and the Challenges of Remote Work.

If you need assistance designing your bedroom to optimise space or are planning on constructing or renovating your home would like some help, get in touch with us. We would be happy to help with any questions you may have.

3 ways to implement colour into the interior of your home

Our previous article on 2022 Colour Trends explored some of the leading predictions on which colours will be an important feature of interior design in the upcoming year. The colours you choose for your home have a significant influence over the atmosphere of the environment. The beauty of this is that by making a few simple adjustments with regard to colour, your interior space can be granted an entirely new character. Transitioning into a new year provides the perfect opportunity to consider something new you would like to welcome into your life or, on the other hand, possibly let go of. Introducing some new colour is a great way of ensuring that the atmosphere of your home is aligned with your personal aspirations for the new year.

The way in which you incorporate the colour into your space is critical to achieving your desired atmosphere. As they say, it’s all in the details! In this article we categorise the approaches to colour implementation into three levels. How the colour would best be incorporated is determined by the nature of the existing space you have, as well as the budget available for making these changes.

The 3 levels of implementing colour:

1. Defined Areas

The first and largest-scale way colour can be introduced is by applying it to large surfaces, such as floors, walls, ceilings or any combination of these elements. This approach is an effective way of clearly defining spaces and/or enforcing a strong interior design concept. A singular colour can be used on multiple surfaces throughout the home interior to achieve a monochrome effect, or a combination of complimentary colours can be used to produce striking contrast.

colour interior design

AKKA Architects, Residential project.

2. Accented Elements

The second level draws the colour focus to specific elements of the interior as oppose to large surfaces. Such elements refer for example to kitchen modules, backsplashes, staircases, bathroom appliances, or furniture pieces like couches and wardrobes, among others. By accenting these elements with colour they become the centrepiece of the composition and give unique character to the space. Like at the level of defining areas, this can be done with the use of one common colour shared by different elements, or a range of different complementary hues across the house. This method is a great way to subtly tie different areas of the interior together to create a sense of continuity throughout the house, without the monotony.  

material moodboard

Material mood board, by AKKA Architects created for one of our client’s homes

3. Decoration Items

The third and smallest-scale level of colour implementation is through the smaller decorative items like cushions, rugs, paintings, sculptures, small furniture pieces, etc. This is a very easy and flexible solution which makes some small elements stand out, subtly adding some colour to the main design. Using this approach would be very suitable for those who prefer more neutral overall designs but would like to incorporate small and subtle bursts of colour throughout.

As you can see, selecting the colours you like is one thing, deciding where and how to implement them can be a totally different thing. As a general rule the larger the surface you want to cover in colour, the less saturated the colour needs to be. The smaller the surface or item, the more vibrant, you can go.  That is a general rule, but remember, rules are made to be broken, so feel free to experiment your own way too!

All in all, it may not seem like such a simple task deciding exactly which colours would be complimentary to your current interior and what the best way to practically implement them is. There are also many external factors such as for example the behaviour of natural and artificial light in the space that should be taken into consideration when making colour related choices. Therefore we can highly recommend you find a way to test and experiment before making any final changes. Alternatively, you can always have some form of consultation from a professional if you are planning on making significant changes, particularly concerning bold, statement colours. Having design consultation could also be beneficial for experimenting with colours that are perhaps out of your comfort zone but would work well to achieve the atmosphere you are envisioning.

The fantastic thing about introducing new colours into your home is that even the smallest of adjustments can have a wonderful effect on the space. Whether your budget allows for some colour accenting or a full redesign, colour can really transform the atmosphere. What better way to welcome the new year than by bringing new life into your home?  

If you need assistance with implementing colours or are planning on constructing or renovating your home would like some help, get in touch with us. We would be happy to help with any questions you may have.

Optimising your workplace acoustics

Recent studies have demonstrated that the acoustics of a room have a correlated effect on the well-being of those using the space. Hearing has been found to be one of the most strongly determinative senses of our emotions, health and cognitive function. Hospitals with poor acoustic design for example, are being proven to impede on patient recovery due to sleep deprivation and speech interference between staff [1]. Therefore, architects and interior designers have a critical responsibility to ensure their designs acoustically support the well-being of its users and minimise adverse effects.

The drastic shift in working environment for many throughout the pandemic has made the quality of the workplace experience a timely conversation to be had. Claims of higher levels of productivity and concentration when working from home than in the workplace have ignited debates questioning the suitability of the traditional office for the modern workforce. Research has found that the productivity of workers can plummet up to 66% when exposed to noise disturbances [2]. It is understandable that employees may feel apprehensive about returning to an office with this issue. As an employer, you may be considering acoustic treatment of your office space, read on to discover design adjustments which offer the potential to significantly boost employee productivity and well-being.

If you find yourself working from home more often and would like to improve the acoustic experience of your home office, consider reading our article on How to reduce noise while working from home.

3 effective design features to consider for achieving optimal acoustics in your workplace

top five green building certifications

Royal Institute of the Tropics [KIT], Amsterdam, Netherlands. Designed by AKKA Architects

Despite the fact that the recommended noise level for an office is 45 to 55 decibels, many modern offices operate within the range of 60 to 80 decibels [3]. Exceeding advised limits can have detrimental effects for employees over long-term exposure, such as burnout, disrupted focus and absenteeism.

1. Acoustic Panels

Acoustic panels are designed to reduce background noise in a space. The materials used specifically limit reverberation and echo via the absorption of sound energy. Panels are available in a range of materials and styles dependant on the required function. For example, perforated wood panels can provide additional privacy and a desired aesthetic whereas fabric-wrapped fibreglass panels generally provide the highest degree of sound absorption. There is also great flexibility in regards to their location in the office, panels can be installed against walls, on the ceiling or even act as free-standing dividers of the space.

2. Acoustic Furniture

Furniture which is engineered to absorb sound energy is another effective solution, a particular benefit being that it is highly adaptable within any given space. The market offers stylistic furniture like meeting pods, lamp shades, chairs, stools and sofas. The nature of this solution is low commitment, the furniture can be moved easily to expose an open-plan space when desired. Although all furniture is absorptive to a degree, opting for acoustically designed furniture means less pieces are required to achieve the same effect, thus maintaining a spacious office which is also acoustically appropriate.   

acoustic workplace
3. Retreat Space

One of the greatest contributors to a distractingly noisy office is the prevalence of calls and video conferencing. Now so more than ever since the pandemic, hybrid work involving in person and online communication within a company means there can be a lot of simultaneous discussions in a space. If you are looking to make more significant adjustments in a renovation of your space, a great acoustic solution could be to create a retreat space. Having an acoustically treated room placed into an open space not only provides an ideal area for calls to be made in which sound is contained, but it also reduces the overall reverberation time of the room.

To ensure incorporating these design features into your office has the most cost-effective result possible, we recommend seeking the advice of a professional. The choice of location and type of materials used is highly dependent on the specific context of your space. Acoustic specialists or an architect, for example, would be able to guide you in this respect, ensuring your office space meets workplace acoustic standards in accordance with official building rating systems (for example: BREEAM- Hea 05 Acoustic Performance).

As an employer or business owner, acoustic treatment might not initially seem like the highest priority. However as we have seen, the acoustic experience of a work environment significantly affects how users perform and tend to feel about returning to the office. Acoustic panels and furniture are very simple solutions. They can improve the quality of work by enhancing communication and focus, but also support the overall well-being of employees in offering greater privacy and even unique aesthetic value. For additional ideas on how to make your office space a better place for your employees, check out our article: Four tips to elevate your employees’ well-being.

If you are considering acoustic treatment of your office space and/or are constructing or renovating your workplace altogether and would like some help, get in touch with us. We would be happy to help with any questions you may have.

Part II: Making your home more sustainable; improving your self-sufficiency.

Many people across the world this year may find themselves relieved as the summer begins to draw to a close. The global prevalence of extreme weather conditions which resulted in devastating flash flooding and forest fires could not go unnoticed, particularly by regions with historically very neutral climates. In early August the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report which characterises these significant environmental shifts as the effect of climate change. Although deemed to be a ‘code red for humanity’1 by the UN Secretary-General, this report also provides the evidence which proves there is time to help regulate global temperatures. In other words, there is hope.

News on climate change is incredibly overwhelming, with the sheer scale of the problem leaving many of us thinking what can I do that would actually make a difference? The simplest answer to that question is to reduce your personal carbon footprint. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is currently at a dangerously high and unsustainable level, minimizing your contribution to it in any way possible is valuable.  

In our previous article, we discussed ways to make your home more sustainable by Improving your energy efficiency. Those solutions require a bigger investment in time and money than most may be prepared for and are perhaps best suited to tackle as part of a renovation or new build project, a position which not everyone is in, even though they may wish to improve the sustainability of their home. Even though optimising your home’s heating systems and utilising more sustainable technologies are arguably the most impactful things you can do in terms of scale, they are by no means the only things. Tackling climate change relies on each and every one of us taking responsibility for how we live.

Self-sufficiency is defined as being ‘able to provide for or support oneself without the help of others’1. In environmental terms, this can be understood as reducing the pressure you exert on the earth for the resources you need to survive. In this article we explore home adjustments that the majority of us could make in order to live more self-sufficiently. Each change you can make, no matter how seemingly small, contributes to the overall objective: minimizing your carbon footprint.   

5 things to add to your home that will help you live more self-sufficiently and reduce your carbon footprint.

 Disclaimer: The products featured in this article do not constitute a recommendation or an endorsement. AKKA Architects has no affiliation to any of the suggested brands. We only mention specific products to illustrate our point and help give you examples.   

improving-self-sufficiency-home
1. Growing your own at home

The growth and transportation of foods around the world is responsible for over a third of all man-made greenhouse gases, each person’s intake on average generating 2 tonnes of CO2 emissions annually2. Try growing your own fruits and vegetables such as salad leaves, spring onions, potatoes, tomatoes, peas, onion, garlic, etc, and/or herbs like rosemary, coriander, mint, and chive, just to name a few. Doing so reduces the demand you place on the food industry, which is a key step towards self-sufficiency and lessening your overall carbon footprint.

Many people are discouraged from growing food at home because they lack the physical space required and/or the time to care for the produce. However the increasing availability of technology like LED growth lights and self-watering devices make it possible to grow things even in the most seemingly adverse conditions. You might even end up with a new hobby you love!

2. Composting

In theory, using a compost bin seems like a great idea, perhaps you have even tried having one before, but many of us become off-put by the consequent smell, mess and pests. However new tabletop composting devices like The FoodCycler™ , for example, have been developed to quickly and conveniently transform your food waste into nutrient-rich soil. This accelerated decomposition process is not only beneficial for you as the soil can be used directly to feed your plants but also beneficial for the environment. Recycling food waste yourself means you help to reduce harmful greenhouse gasses like methane that are released during landfill decomposition.

self-sufficient-water-savinf
3. Saving and recycling water

If you use the soil produced by your compost and harvested rain to water your garden, growing your own food can be a highly self-sufficient process. The simplest and most accessible way to collect water naturally is by using a rain barrel, which has possible solutions even for those who live in an apartment, (be sure to check any restrictions on water collection in your area and take the additional weight into consideration if you are using a balcony).

For conserving the water you use from the main plumbing system in your home, consider fitting flow regulators (such as Tap Aerators) onto your taps, shower, etc. This is a particularly effective solution if you have older fittings.

4. Drying clothes

Following the water heater, the washer and dryer are typically the most energy consuming appliances in the home (13%)3. Consciously choosing to hand wash some items and air drying your clothes as often as possible will make a significant difference to your overall energy consumption. However a bulky drying rack can make the home appear unorganised and can result in a stuffiness in the air, especially if you have limited square footage. To maximise your home’s space and aesthetic, opt for a retractable washing line which can be mounted to any wall of your

5. Energy saving technology

Getting things done without the use of fossil-fuel generated power is the number one goal when it comes to self-sufficiency, however this is not always possible. Thankfully there are many technologies available which allow us to significantly reduce our power usage.

  • Opt for energy efficient appliances. When choosing or replacing your dishwasher, dryer, refrigerator, etc, make sure to check and compare the energy rating labels for the appliance size you require. The scale typically ranges from A+++ (most efficient) to G.
  • Use wool dryer balls, they significantly reduce drying machine time by creating space between clothes that tend to get stuck together and are very inexpensive and sustainable.
  • Replace the standard light bulbs in your home with residential LEDs. LED bulbs have been proven to use at least ‘75% less energy and even last up to 25 times longer than incandescent lighting’4.

The suggestions in this article may appear to be minor in the context of your overall energy usage, but that is precisely what makes them easy to implement. In addition, if everyone committed in this way to reducing the pressure they personally exert on the earth’s natural resources, we would see large-scale changes. Part I and Part II of the ‘Making your home more sustainable’ article series demonstrates that everyone can do something. Whether you have the opportunity to fully renovate your home with solar panels or just to invest in a compost bin, you are contributing to the crucial overall goal of reducing your carbon footprint.

If you are considering making your home more self- sufficient, or are constructing or renovating your space altogether and would like some help, get in touch with us. We would be happy to help with any questions you may have.

Part I: Making your home more sustainable; improving your energy efficiency.

Many people across the world this year may find themselves relieved as the summer begins to draw to a close. The global prevalence of extreme weather conditions which resulted in devastating flash flooding and forest fires could not go unnoticed, particularly in regions with historically very neutral climates. In early August the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report which characterises these significant environmental shifts as the effect of climate change. Although deemed to be a ‘code red for humanity’1 by the UN Secretary-General, this report also provides the evidence which proves there is time to help regulate global temperatures. In other words, there is hope.

News on climate change is incredibly overwhelming, with the sheer scale of the problem leaving many of us thinking what can I do that would actually make a difference? The simplest answer to that question is to reduce your personal carbon footprint, and that starts at home. With the overproduction of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases being the core concern of the climate crisis, your goal should be to use as little non-renewable energy in the functioning of your home as possible.

Therefore, if you are currently looking to design a new home or renovate your existing space, why not consider making energy efficiency a top priority? Having a home that consumes minimal non-renewable energy is not only a positive contribution to the climate crisis, but it is also financially beneficial. Additionally, as it appears working from home will become a regular occurrence for many of us, it might be worth considering how this will impact your utility expenses long-term. This article will outline a few technologies that have the potential to transform the energy efficiency of your home.

3 key features that will increase your home’s energy efficiency and reduce its overall carbon footprint.

energy-efficient-carbon-footprint
1. Incorporating a renewable energy source: Solar Panels

A renewable energy source means there is no finite supply, that it will reproduce indefinitely such as in wind, tidal and hydro energy, just to name a few. The commercialisation of solar panels makes solar energy the most accessible renewable form. In the future it is likely all the power for our homes will come from renewable sources, but for now, solar panels allow us to personally make use of the sun’s available energy. In a dense city like Amsterdam, installing a solar panel on the roof of your building would be an ideal solution. This additional energy could contribute to the electrification of your home or the heating of your water for example.

As solar technology has become more cost effective, the financial returns and environmental benefits can better offset the investment in terms of the installation and the maintenance costs. Some governments even compensate you in return. In Amsterdam for example, if you use solar panels to generate electricity for your home, you can deduct your solar energy production from your electricity usage, therefore reducing your energy taxes (see the IamExpat website for more information on this). If you are considering solar panels, remember to consult a solar contractor who can identify important aspects such as the orientation of the panels, site conditions where your building is situated, and the daylight hours and patterns.

2. Temperature optimization: Double-glazed windows

Whether you are in the process of constructing a new home or simply looking for ways to make your home more thermally efficient, we recommend opting for double glazed windows. A double-glazed window has two panes of glass which have either dead air or an inert gas in the space between the two panes which reduces the transfer of energy from outside the house to inside, and vice-versa. Double-glazed windows thus passively help maintain an optimal temperature in your home all year around, keeping it cooler in the summer and conserving heat in the winter. They also provide highly effective sound insulation and can improve the look of your home.  

Although the upfront cost is higher than standard windows, double-glazed windows have been proven to lower the demand on the central heating and air-conditioning systems and increase your home’s value.

Gaasterlandstraat, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Designed by AKKA Architects

3. Main heating system: Heat pumps

The method you choose to be your primary heating source has a significant impact on the overall energy efficiency of your home. Heat pumps are designed to heat or cool a space by using a small amount of electricity to forcibly move heat from a higher to lower temperature, against its natural gradient. They control temperature by simply transferring heat instead of using energy from burning fuels. The small amount of energy they require makes heat pumps not only more sustainable but also cost effective. Again, governments often provide subsidies for the use of these more sustainable heat sources.

There are three overarching types of heat pumps: air, water and geothermal source. It can be difficult to decide which is most suitable, or even feasible for your specific project. Consulting with your architect and/or contractor is crucial to properly accounting for factors like your geographic location/climate, the age of your home, the size of your living area, access to a fuel source, and, of course, your budget. Whichever method you choose, make sure to have your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems tested and cleaned once a year to improve their long-term efficiency.

Ensuring your home is as energy efficient as possible is an effective step to take towards making a positive contribution, or at least minimising your negative impact on our environment. Consider incorporating the features mentioned in this article if you have the opportunity to design/renovate your home, but these are just a few of the solutions available in the ever- innovating market.

Unaffordability is a common misconception when it comes to considering sustainable solutions. Although the cost of features like solar panels and double-glazed windows can seem high initially, they are specifically designed to lower your energy bills in the long term. In addition to this, a 2018 European Commission report found that in general, a 3-8% increase in the price of residential assets could be attributed to energy efficiency home improvements2. Not only do these findings exemplify that the cost effectiveness of these solutions is valued in the market, but they also prove financial return when the time comes to sell or rent your home. 

Designing and maintaining an energy efficient home may seem complicated and or/ time consuming initially. However the systems themselves are designed to be efficient to use, for example many can be controlled remotely, in turn allowing you to easily reduce your energy usage. And in terms of the design process, always remember to consult a good architect and/or an environmental specialist who will be able to tell you what exactly to opt for with regard to the specifics of your space.

There are so many benefits to creating the most energy efficient home possible. You can simultaneously help combat climate change whilst significantly lowering your energy costs, not to mention the increased personal comfort of having a thermally optimal home. We can all make a difference in ways both large and small by choosing to improve our energy efficiency and reducing our carbon footprint.

If you are considering making your existing space more energy efficient, or are constructing or renovating your space altogether and would like some help, get in touch with us. We would be happy to help with any questions you may have.

Key things to keep in mind while renovating your kitchen space.

Due to the simple fact that building or renovating a house gets more expensive over time, functional spaces, kitchens especially, have started to follow the ‘maximising utility with minimum space’ concept. If you are constructing or renovating your new home and find yourself fighting for space, a modular kitchen might be your best bet. The furnishing you choose for your kitchen plays a very important role, its design is essential for creating an uncluttered, spacious and functional home. There are lots of models out on the market for modular kitchens currently, but if you are looking to create your dream kitchen, you need to be able to decide on the perfect one for you.

Apart from opting for kitchen furnishing that is resistant to wear and tear there are more factors you might not have considered.

Read on to find out what makes a kitchen perfectly suited to modern working homes.

kitchen-renovation-AKKA

Deltastraat, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Designed by AKKA Architects

1. Storage

The first and foremost thing to keep in mind whilst constructing your dream kitchen is to maximise storage and accessibility. All your utensils and equipment should be within reach and yet all your workspaces should be uncluttered. Designing a kitchen with efficient storage solutions will give you maximum use of every space possible. In particular try to utilise the space above your countertops, these improve your kitchens’ storage capacity, ensuring you have enough space to use the kitchen freely and with ease. There is a wide variety of fixtures you could go for to achieve this, including drawers, shelves, wall mounted units and base units. You could even add a blend of open and closed cabinets, shelves, and drawers. Another potential option is to install ceiling mounted racks, these could be used to hang herbs, flowerpots, or other utensils.

2. Aesthetics and customisation

When choosing the storage options for your kitchen, opt for sleek and functional designs that maximise every bit of space available in your kitchen. Making this a priority will result in a properly functional kitchen in which there is a room for everything, without making it look overcrowded or cluttered. The range of options available on the market is huge, with modular storage available in a wide variety of themes, shapes, sizes and colours. Opting for a modular kitchen would give you freedom to customize your design whilst not compromising on durability. It is as important that your kitchen’s design suits you as it is that it is functional.

kitchen-example-AKKA

Smitstraat, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Designed by AKKA Architects

3. Convenience

For many people, the kitchen is the space where they could be spending a lot of their time at home. This is why convenience is a primary factor that needs to be considered while designing your kitchen. It should be constructed specifically to be able to adapt to any needs you might have for your space. Modular kitchens could very well be your go-to as they offer sleek and convenient solutions to maximise your space, especially in this day and age where space is often lacking. Their excellent storage options make them a very smart choice when it comes to convenience and organisation. Modular kitchens provide more than enough storage capacity for items like cooking utensils, cutlery, and containers. Avoiding clutter around your kitchen makes surfaces considerably easier to clean on a daily basis. Sleek clear surfaces are not only aesthetically appealing but also offer more comfortable maintenance. Opting for a modular kitchen could help you save time, money, and effort whilst also providing comfort and, of course, style. 

4. Ease of installation

Opt for furniture that combines ease with accessibility. Choose that which can be readily adjusted or disassembled and then easily put together again, these features are beneficial in case of maintenance or when wanting to shift things up in your kitchen. Your furniture should be practical in design, the putting together of the components should be doable if and when required. Opt for furniture that unites convenience, usability, storage, and aesthetics.

Finally, when choosing your kitchen components, opt for a mix of different fixtures and units. Wall mounted units work well in smaller kitchens, maximizing the amount of room available as it utilizes vertical spaces. They allow for easy accessibility and visibility. Base units can be used to store heavier kitchen items under your work surfaces, making good use of the leftover spaces as well. You can even opt for pull out cabinets which is especially effective at the corners of your kitchen spaces. These utilise the negative space that otherwise might have been hard to make use of, a perfect space to store jars and such. Make sure that whatever units you opt for, they are made of durable materials. The kitchen after all, is a space where a great deal of the action in the home takes place.

In addition to the benefits mentioned in the article, opting for kitchen designs that reduce clutter will increase the value of your house due to their flexibility and to being cost effective! Choose those which allow you to customize and personalize, are easy to assemble, easy to use, and lets you alter their design as per your requirements. Pre-fabricated modules can be even more beneficial as they often reduce the transport and installation costs. Looking to change up your kitchen or design a new one, why not opt for a flexible modern modular kitchen?

If you are considering renovating your existing kitchen space or planning on building a new kitchen altogether, and you need help to design one or you simply a second opinion, get in touch with us! We would be happy to help with any questions you may have.

To buy a house pre or post renovation?

Having spent more time at home than ever before in the last year and a half, you might feel like it’s time to move, relocate or upgrade to a new house. In this case, you might be asking yourself if you should go for a new, completely renovated house or instead, opt for a property which needs work and choose to renovate it yourself. What are the pros and cons of each route, and most importantly, which option suits your situation best?

There are several key things you might want to take into consideration whilst weighing up this decision. For example, how specific you are about the house you are looking for, what is available on the market in the area you are searching, budget constraints and timeline limitations. These considerations have to be made according to your specific lifestyle and needs. It is also important to think beyond the present moment, meaning to consider how your needs might change in the future as your situation and lifestyle evolve.

The 3 most important things to consider when making the decision whether to buy a home pre or post renovation.

renovated-house-costs
1. Consider the costs in both options

Provided it is all you want it to be, purchasing a home that’s already renovated, would be an easier choice than purchasing one that needs renovation. This is since buying a house that requires no new work, would involve no extra work from you, no hassle, no risks of things going wrong and no delays or unforeseen costs. However in this case, it is expected to be more expensive outright. Since you are paying not only for all the work that’s been done on the house, but also a premium for the seller, sort of their profit for doing all the renovations.  

Although remodelling or renovating a house can sometimes require you to take on a considerable project, this option does give you more flexibility with what you want to create, and potentially the budget. You gain the freedom to choose what to renovate, which spaces to remodel, therefore saving money on your renovations through making the necessary decisions. Check out our past post called Estimating the cost of renovating your home to help orientate yourself through this process.

It is best to avoid a situation where you are doing both, i.e. having to make changes and renovations on a newly renovated house, because you may not be satisfied with the design of a particular space, even if brand new. For example, if you aren’t happy with the kitchen space, despite it being new, you might decide to get new fittings for the space. In this case, you would be paying extra on top of someone else’s added value or profits to the space in order to change this.

2. Consider the added value you could bring to your house

If you buy an already renovated house, there would be little additional value that you could bring to the house yourself. This means that when you are selling or renting in the future, you are only benefitting from the general real estate price (if they are increasing that is). You are not benefitting from any work you have done that has raised the value of the property from when you bought it.

In the case of buying a house and renovating it yourself, it is possible to renovate in such a way that the value of the property is increased and you can therefore make your money back when you eventually sell or rent out your house. This is the major benefit of creating the added value yourself.

3. Consider the style of the house, and the work required

Buying a house that needs renovation allows you to make the spaces better and more aligned with your personal style and specific needs. It allows you to model the house in a way that it accommodates your lifestyle and that of your family. Unless you find the perfect house that has everything exactly how you would want it, an already renovated house is unlikely to offer you that level of customisation. The design could be a standard one, the flow might not be comfortable for you and the fixtures and fittings could clash with your own taste.

When considering to buy an existing house that you plan to renovate, make sure that before you commit to it, you have checked that the major changes you have in mind are feasible. Some changes could be hindered or not feasible at all due to structural reasons, foundations, fire codes, any protected status the house falls under, permit requirements … etc. Being aware of the age and construction method used to build the house is also crucial as this might involve significant changes needing to be made to the house. Therefore, make your decision while taking into consideration feasibility, budget, timeline and remember to account for a contingency.

renovated-home

While buying a house that is ready to move into could be easy and hassle free, renovating your own home may well give you a significant sense of accomplishment. Whichever option you choose, make sure to assess all the investments (financial, time, efforts…) that would be involved in the project before making any commitments. This means, when deciding whether to renovate or to buy an already renovated house you should consider the costs, timeline, as well as the entire process of both in order to see which suits you better. In the case that you decide to renovate yourself, consider things like the restrictions in place, the local building laws of the location and the time you would have to spend on the project, just to name a few. At the end of the day, what is most important is to make the right choice for you, whichever option that might be. Do your research in depth to fully consider your options. And if you get overwhelmed, get in touch with a friend who might have gone through this experience before, or even a professional!

If you are considering building a new home or renovating your own and need help to decide what is best suited to you and to create your ideal project, get in touch with us. We would be happy to help with any questions you may have.

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“We would like to express our gratitude for the time you invested in helping us get to a clear picture.  Anna and I really appreciated the call we had with you, your responsiveness, and the great empathy that you exhibited throughout – we certainly felt very “well taken care of” when engaging with you.  On the practical side, we especially appreciated that there was the option to obtain robust bottom-up cost estimates for the construction itself (not every design architect offers this).”

-Private Client of AKKA

 

 

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