WHAT INDIVIDUAL HEATING INSULATION WORK IS NEEDED?
Prior to commencing insulation work, it is necessary to fully understand a property’s history, its structure and the way in which it functions in order to arrive at an appropriate diagnosis, otherwise known as an energy audit.
Knowing the year in which the property was built (see the studies of the APUR, the urban planning agency which analyses the thermal performance of Paris housing), identifying heating equipment efficiency and understanding the various elements contributing to thermal comfort in summer and winter are all essential aspects of the energy efficiency planning process. Such information is key to a successful insulation project.
The role of insulation is to oppose the passage of heat, which always moves from hot to cold along three paths of loss: walls, thermal bridges and air circulation. Remember; cold doesn’t enter a property, it's heat which leaves it!
Moisture is also a source of deterioration for a property. The incursion of rainwater, water from the ground, accidental leaks and the humidity produced by human activity all need to be dealt with effectively. A building should be insulated from these factors, especially as water is a better heat conductor than air.
The most common method of insulation and the easiest to carry out during renovations, the insulation of interior walls can be done in several stages, piece by piece, regardless of the weather. There is a wide choice of materials available to improve the thermal performance of a property without changing its external appearance. The porosity, structure and airtightness of a wall must be understood and complied with as though it was a living thing. The benefits of inertia * walls facing south or in contact with the sun's rays winter should also be optimised.
The wet method :
- A fibre insulation coating consists of a binding mixture (lime, plaster or clay) and a fibrous insulating material (hemp straw called chènevotte, flax straw, lavender, wood chips). It adapts to fit and provides well-rounded insulation for old walls and can provide harmonious curves to a completely straight wall. Applied directly to the plaster on the wall it helps to generate a sense of great comfort and a cosy atmosphere. It avoids possible condensation due to air voids between the insulation and the cold wall. Different mixtures include lime/hemp, earth/wood chips, lime/lavender straw, lime/hemp, plaster/hemp.
- A dense fibre insulation includes wood fibre boards, expanded cork, straw held by pegs, insulation coatings on canvas, jute or flax, and can be used on sufficiently straight walls. Cork is recommended in humid locations.
The dry method :
This requires the installation of a wood frame with a semi-rigid insulation along with a vapour barrier and panels of plaster, or fibre, or wooden panels screwed to the frame.
The hangings and wooden panels which traditionally dressed bare stone walls in the past demonstrate that the concept of a warm lining break has been exploited long before the advent of the concept of insulation
The new generation of radiators use the full benefits of radiation for the distribution of heat. They are more expensive to purchase but the lower energy consumption leads to long term cost effectiveness, which more than makes up the initial outlay in time.
The heat storage facility of these radiators accumulates heat energy in a refractory material during the off-peak periods of the energy suppliers. This is then utilised during periods when electricity is at its most expensive.
Radiating floors (or ceilings) use electrical heating elements installed inside a thin screed applied over an insulation layer.
An example of a cost effective radiator is the Beams design from the VASCO collection, which is suitable for low temperature systems. A Beams radiator saves up to 15% energy. The water flows through the core of this radiator, rather than close to the surface. This aluminium radiator builds up heat in a surprisingly short time because it contains much less water than a conventional radiator: 2 litres instead of 10. It radiates heat much more quickly because it conducts four times more heat than a traditional radiator.
Windows can also be a source of heat loss. It is therefore futile to attempt to improve the insulation of a building without also improving the heat retention performance of windows. The thermal coefficient transfer U-factor is the rate at which a window, door, or skylight conducts non-solar heat flow. The lower the U-factor, the more energy efficient and therefore better insulated the window is. A single-glazed 4 mm unit has a U-factor of 5.8, whereas a double glazed reinforced and well-insulated unit may be 1.1. The U-factor coefficient also determines the temperature of the inside of the glass. Under conditions such as -10 ° C outside and 20 ° C inside, the temperature of the inside of a single glazed unit will be less than 2.3 ° C, a classic double-glazed unit will be 9 ° C, that of reinforced insulation double glazing, 15 ° C, and a triple-glazed unit will have a temperature of around 18 ° C. Additionally, thermally efficient windows are also effective sound insulators. For an ecological approach, wood remains the most appropriate material, preferably FSC or PEFC certified.
Example: Windows of mixed wood/aluminium such as Mixtherm, and the traditional styles of the Antik brand are good examples of efficiency and eco-friendliness. The former offers the perfect compromise of 2 materials. The outside is of recycled and recyclable aluminium offered in a multitude of colours and aspects, set by nylon studs to avoid any direct contact with the wood. Natural ventilation is thus created.
With their sleek, angular or rounded forms MIXTHERM windows harmonise perfectly with either old or new homes, offering thermal and acoustic comfort, aesthetics, environmental responsibility and security, as well as hardly any need for maintenance.
Plenty of thought should be given to the purchase of a new boiler, and installation must be undertaken with the assistance of a fully qualified professional. First, it is essential to quantify your exact needs regarding heating to avoid either over- or underestimating the size of your new boiler. In either of those instances, it would prove to be a bad investment because you would not be taking full advantage of its attributes, including energy efficiency. Such a situation would not help you to make cost savings on your heating bills and certainly would not meet your comfort requirements.
The calculation of the required size of boiler takes several parameters into account:
- The energy consumption coefficient of your property.
- The external temperature index of your location.
- The desired average temperature in the rooms to be heated (average 19 ° c).
- The volume of the property in m3.
- The coefficient of thermal losses
Again, properly effective insulation of the walls and windows is beneficial, as it results in a downward revision in the power of your boiler, thereby benefitting you with energy savings in the short, medium and long term.
Low temperature boilers
These deliver water at approximately 50 ° C, consume 15 to 20% less energy than standard systems and are particularly efficient when coupled with underfloor type heating and/or low temperature radiators. A conventional gas boiler works with a high temperature of water leaving the heat generator. As most of the water is at a high temperature, there is the need to burn fuel (gas or oil) to ensure comfort for the occupants. Low temperature boilers operate with a lower temperature of water leaving the heat generator, thus allowing greater savings than are possible with a conventional boiler.
Here the principle of condensation is used to retrieve energy which is usually lost as it escapes as heat in the waste gases issuing from the flue. Condensing boilers condense the water vapour from the combustion gases and recover this heat energy. They therefore consume 20% less energy than standard boilers and reach a maximum level of performance when used in conjunction with low temperature radiators or under floor heating. They are currently considered to be the most economical eco-boilers.
Otherwise known as micro-CHP boilers, micro-cogeneration boilers can use natural gas, wood, oil or biogas as fuel. However, this form of eco-generator, mounted on the wall or on the floor, provides not only your heating and domestic hot water requirements, but also produces its own electricity by collecting waste gases to drive an internal generator. This electricity can then be used for domestic consumption, and any surplus can be eventually resold to ERDF, the French utility company (subject to contract and connection). Moreover, in cases of power failure during winter peaks of consumption, as sometimes occurs in Brittany or the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region, the boiler works in total autonomy. It can be connected to any type of system, but optimal performance is guaranteed with low temperature radiators.
A good thermostat allows you to take full control of the temperature in your property. It takes into account changes in outside temperature along with those within the dwelling caused by the heat produced by various items of domestic equipment (oven, washing machine, electric lamps, audio-visual devices, etc.). For example, it can lower the temperature to 17 ° C at night or during the day if the property is unoccupied. Programme a comfortable temperature of around 19 ° C and if the ambient temperature is less than this, the boiler will be prompted to increase its output. Taking control of the system and heating only when necessary thus ensures optimal temperature management with the result of energy savings between 10 and 25%.
A simple VMC air management installation is strongly recommended, when thermal insulation has been fitted, to improve the exchange of air, especially in winter when it may be inconvenient to open the windows to ventilate the rooms. The principle is simple; ventilation grilles generally installed in the living rooms allow the regular entry of fresh air and air extraction ducts placed in kitchens, bathrooms and laundry rooms ensure the expulsion of humid air and its accompanying odours.
A sensitive VMC regulates the process in accordance with the humidity level inside the property. Moreover, they consume little energy and are low maintenance and highly effective.
Saving water is also a vital aspect of our new responsibilities to reduce waste and protect our planet’s precious resources. Inexpensive solutions exist to reduce our daily water consumption. For example, you can replace your conventional showerhead, which consumes about 12 to 20 litres per minute, with economic models which are capable of reducing this output by up to 6 litres per minute while keeping the same level of power as the conventional type.
Of course, we all want to save money and make our contribution towards our world’s ecology, but we don’t like to sacrifice comfort to do so, which is perfectly normal. The purchase of this type of equipment is therefore the perfect solution.
There are also the options increasingly chosen by hotels, housing associations and communities in agreement with EDF. HQE (High Quality Environment) buildings in France are designed to save energy in various ways. How would you like to try it?
Low energy consumption equipment.
Unfortunately, energy consumption continues to grow. Appliances such as washing machines and tumble dryers can be found in most homes. Computer equipment, televisions, mobile and landline phones, tablets and all the other devices we cannot manage without are proliferating, and many homes have multiples of each. Equipment left on standby settings and illuminated displays all contribute to significant power consumption. This realisation prompted WWF France, supported by the ADEME environment and energy management agency and consumers' association, to launch a guide in 2004 which gives consumers access to information concerning a wide range of high quality appliances whose reduced energy requirements have a low environmental impact.
Check out this Top Ten Guide, website to help you find quality environmentally friendly and energy-efficient products.
An assured and effective ecological gesture. This option offers up to 75% savings on your energy bills, a 10 times longer bulb life, guarantees for several years, no toxic mercury and, by significantly reducing heat emissions, these bulbs offer warm undertones or cool shades coupled with outstanding light quality. Thus, the LED solution has become indispensable.
There are also suitable solutions for shops, offices and maintenance services.
Take advantage of green electricity with ENERCOOP
The Enercoop, cooperative company is a green electricity supplier which deals exclusively with producers of clean energy, including wind, photovoltaic, hydraulic and bio mass. It re-injects the surplus electricity of its customers back into the distribution network. As a result, money paid by consumers to Enerccop is fully reinvested so that all contribute directly to the development of renewable energy.
Choosing Enercoop is a hallmark of responsible citizenship and ethical consumerism.
* Good to know
Eco-Dect is a new technology for fixed landline phones, and is capable of reducing energy consumption by up to 60% as well as lowering the transmission power of the phones of all participating customers. In radiation-free Eco Mode Plus, the transmitting power is turned off 100% when the phone is in standby mode. For example, during an incoming call, the base will emit a signal only at this time and, when not in use, all programmes are interrupted. The Eco Dect phone on standby therefore becomes non emissive, unlike conventional models which continue to broadcast without interruption.
For thousands of years, man has used hemp as a material. Hemp material provides optimum insulation and is an environmentally friendly product which contains no additives capable of harming the environment. During its cultivation, the use of pesticides and insecticides is not necessary and the crop requires relatively little water. In addition, it helps to clean the air because it assimilates CO2 during its growth process. The processing and breaking down of the crop does not constitute a danger to health and, as a renewable raw material it helps to counter the effects of pollution while improving the condition of the soil. After harvesting, it leaves a field of clean soil rich in mineral elements. On a global scale the hemp industry is booming and France is very well positioned as a producer in Europe. Hemp doesn't contain albumin, it does not tend to be attacked by insects, it is rot-proof, efficient in summer and winter alike, breaks simply and cleanly, and although it may be a little dusty, it is kind to the skin, causing no irritation or itching. The good quality of diffusion of air through hemp products provides an automatic adjustment of moisture without heat loss.
Hemp is a very eco-friendly option that will make your home both comfortable and very conducive to good health.
Cork is harvested for commercial use from the bark of the Cork Oak, a tree which has grown in abundance in the Eastern Mediterranean for around 30 million years. It was already in use at the time of the ancient Egyptians, who utilised its impermeable qualities in the manufacture of plugs for amphorae. In ancient Greece, cork was used to form barrel bungs, but its buoyant qualities also made it ideal for fishing net floats. The Romans, clearly ahead of their time, used it to insulate their homes. So, very early in history the mechanical and physical properties of cork were understood, including its lightness, elasticity, resistance to rot and moisture, and poor heat and sound conductivity; all qualities which still make it the best insulation material. We rediscovered it in various regions of France in the 18th century, when it began to be used to close bottles of champagne (Don Pérignon) and wine.
During cultivation, the young Cork Oak is cut so that it grows high and straight. After about 30 years ago it reaches a diameter of approximately 60 cm. The first bark is removed, and the tree takes 9 years to recover. From then on the same operation, called debarking, is performed every 6 to 9 years. The quality and regularity of the cork bark improves each time. The tree can be harvested for 120 years. The harvesting of cork is therefore very ecologically sound and helps to maintain forests, as the tree is not cut down. Cork does not alter with the passage of time and can therefore be recycled. Processing is done either in the country of origin, or in southern Europe.
Please note that it’s best to use a natural wax or hard oil finish and apply it with Latex-based adhesives to preserve the essential useful nature of cork.
The most ancient of materials, clay is back in force. An excellent humidity regulator, natural, non-toxic, infinitely reusable, repairable without visible effect and economical, clay plaster combines these virtues all the more effectively as the result proves very aesthetically pleasing, is impervious to UV, and the colours do not alter with age. It is particularly suited to the renovation and management of existing housing, in which the hygrometric balance can often be disturbed by new materials. A clay coating can contain binding material, some sand for bulk as well as some natural additives such as vegetable fibre, which reinforce the structure and limit shrinkage during the process of drying.
A product derived from recycling and manufactured from waste paper such as unsold newspapers, cellulose wadding does not pollute, does not cause irritation and is non-toxic. It is used for insulation within walls and in the roof space. Cellulose wadding fills 100% of the available space in the wall, perfectly marrying the elements of the structure. Therefore, it provides a continuous insulation and a performance that is comparable or even superior to synthetic materials. In addition, it provides an excellent level of soundproofing. Cellulose wadding currently offers the best performance/cost/ecology ratio.
This material from its production through to its disposal, offers a real ecological answer to the soundproofing and heat insulation requirements in your home. Wood fiber insulation is composed of wood recovered in sawmills (chips, etc.), offers good resistance to ageing, and is fully breathable as it absorbs and releases moisture, thereby providing a safeguard against condensation. Wood fiber panels are fully recyclable (composting, recycling, heat production). They are also easy to install for the effective insulation of your walls and attics.
Flax insulation is similar to hemp but is not yet as well known. It has the same environmental and thermal qualities and the cost is quite similar. It is 100% recyclable, has perfect insulating qualities in summer as well as in winter, requires no protection when it is being used and causes no allergies. The insulation material of the future, flax is very environmentally friendly.
The queen of coatings, lime dates back to ancient times. It produces a sustainable and healthy masonry material, deep colours, and a distinctively attractive appearance. It is bactericidal and capable of regulating moisture, thereby adding to the breathability of walls. It is produced in an eco-friendly way by baking limestone. Lime is also a binding agent in addition to being a basic element of traditional construction. The soft mineral material that is applied is mixed with various aggregates to coat both interior and exterior walls. It is coloured by the addition of sand or pigments. The term coating refers to a material or combination of materials used to protect or finish a surface, and lime ticks all the boxes. Utilitarian or decorative, it is ideal for the homogenisation of surfaces. The functions of a coating fulfils two priority roles:
- Protection and insulation against moisture and water penetration mechanisms such as gravity, capillary action, condensation and frost penetration
- Presentation; giving a fine finish to uneven internal surfaces.
Examples of decorative coatings in the Venetian stucco style include ferré and tadelakt. Various materials contribute to the appearance of the final look, including sand, marble powder, chalk, talc, etc. Note also that lime is flame retardant, simply altering its structure in very high temperatures and thereby absorbing some of the energy of a fire, thus slowing the flames.
Casein paint dates from the 16th century and consists of marble powder, chalk, limestone, kaolin, talc, borax and, of course, milk protein. It is cheap, easy to prepare, very stable for a long time and does not include any toxic substances. It must be stabilised with an alkaline product, either hydrated lime or borax (boron salt). Both lime and boron bring their anti - bacterial properties to the mix. The chalk (or whiting) plays the role of an opacifying agent, making the resultant mix opaque. White and matt casein paint is coloured with natural pigments, ochre and coloured earths. When dry it can be buffed to make a soft and velvety finish. The enthusiasm for old painting methods has sparked a casein resurgence.
Flax and hemp added to the paint help to produce pure and vivid colours.
Hardwood floors help to achieve a more than positive eco balance. This is a living and renewable material offering durability, warmth, and a respect for heritage. Indeed, hardwood displays a range of qualities as wide as the choice available. Laying this flooring directly onto joists is the most ecologically sound approach, but there are various environmentally friendly and natural adhesives available for laying parquet floors. These will ensure that you install your floor without being exposed to noxious fumes arising from VOC (volatile organic compounds). It is necessary to ensure that the wood is clearly labelled as from an FSC * (Forest Stewardship Council) and PEFC *(Pan European Forest Council) approved source. These two seals guarantee than the forest from which the raw material of your wooden floor originated is managed sustainably. Note that exotic wood, available in limited quantities from a source which may not be renewable, should be avoided if you wish to install a floor which is not detrimental to the environment. You will want to choose the most appealing and attractive wood, but it is also essential to learn about its provenance. A wood produced locally is therefore the best choice, as its transportation will have increased the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to a lesser degree than wood obtained over a greater distance.
The thermal treatment process for wood is based on a modification of the chemical structure of the material, rendering it impervious to rot and unattractive to its usual parasites. From a technical point of view, this transformation is obtained by treatment in an inert atmosphere which subjects the wood to high temperatures of around 250 ° C. Any moisture and nutritious components naturally present in the wood are thereby simply eliminated. In short, a kind of sterilisation takes place, using a high temperature treatment without any external toxic agent. In addition, thermally treated wood also gains greater strength and stability, allowing for an increased life expectancy, and will not require further processing. It also becomes highly resistant to weather so that it’s an ideal material for use as outdoor flooring and, of course, it is fully recyclable.
Harder than oak, bamboo is one of the world's fastest growing plants, so the forests from which it is sourced regenerate very quickly. It has a beautiful appearance and incredible resilience, is suitable for humid environments and recommended for kitchens and bathrooms. When appropriately prepared, it is suitable for a heated floor. Bamboo, derived from a plant, rather than a tree, is a virtually inexhaustible natural resource of excellent quality. It is also the only wood not produced within our borders to qualify for a high eco - positive rating.
Coir is a fibrous material that is 100% natural and renewable. It is extracted from the husk of coconuts, being found between the internal shell and the outer layer, and has a wide variety of uses, including as a floor covering. Production of coir uses no fossil fuel energy because the fiber is processed and woven by hand, and it contains no preservatives since it is very dense, naturally protected and resistant to mould and insect attack.
The benefits of coir as a floor covering are numerous. It is especially popular for its high resistance to wear, being well suited to places with a high degree of foot traffic, such as lobbies, hallways or stairways. It offers a superb level of thermal and sound insulation, and is a good regulator of both temperature and humidity. This coconut-derived coating does not absorb dust, is rot-resistant, antistatic and antibacterial. It is available in various natural and aesthetically attractive hues.
It is also very easy to maintain and can be deep cleaned using powdered shampoo. Moreover, coir offers an excellent quality/price ratio.
Seagrass is another vegetable fiber floor covering material. Very resistant to humidity, it is perfectly suited for use in the bathroom.
Sisal is another durable plant fibre which is a perfect humidity regulator and insulation material. It absorbs moisture and releases it when the air dries, and is available in several beautiful shades.
Synonymous with hardiness and resistance to time and wear, timeless terracotta is a material which is as popular as ever. Found throughout the world in various shapes, colours and aspects specific to each place and each manufacturer, it can be endlessly reinvented so that it is almost a mode of artistic expression. Yet at the most basic level, these tiles are still made in the traditional way; from clay, fire and water. The colours are legion, from beige to red through ochre and brown. The clay which forms these tiles is an environmentally friendly material. Terracotta has a capacity for storing heat, as we can feel when we walk on it barefoot and enjoy the pleasant warmth which makes it so welcome in the home.
The art of fire and clay is key to the production of Saint Samson pottery. Ceramics have been produced for generations from the clays of the Pays de Bray natural region of France.
Reportage France 3 Sophie Crimon, Gérard Payen, Julien Cortinovits, Cédric Delangle / July 2013
Genuine linoleum can be distinguished from synthetic "lino" due to its highly ecological character. Composed mainly of oil, wood flour, cork and jute canvas, its production requires little energy. Antibacterial and antiallergenic, it presents many advantages, including soundproofing capabilities and resistance to wear. Moreover, it is simple, easy and convenient to maintain. As pleasant to the touch as to the sight, linoleum is available in all colours and can be found in patterns which imitate perfectly the other floor coverings, such as parquet and tiles.
Slate, burgundy stone, granite, these are virtually indestructible natural stones, cut to shape and treated to make them impervious to liquids. Used in kitchens, bathrooms and in other places where water plays a part, they have an incomparable natural charm. Natural stone is ideal for sinks, washbasins, shower trays, bathtub surrounds, wall tiles, etc...
FOR THE BIOFILTER TREATMENT OF AIR
Vegetation, which plays such an essential role in the ecology of our planet, can also offer major benefits inside the home as a bio-filtration system for the air we breathe, refreshing the atmosphere of a dwelling, lessening temperature differences, balancing the ambient humidity and effectively cleaning indoor air.
A plant is a living being which feeds and interacts with the external environment just as we do in many ways. The leaves, stems and trunks of the plant world absorb and discharge gases and water vapour. The roots reaching into the earth are a key factor in the transfer of minerals, nutrients, air and water from the soil. Plants can remove volatile organic compounds (VOC), generally found in higher concentrations indoors, from our air, and their root associated microbes can convert this material into carbon dioxide, biomass and energy.
In the 1960s, NASA highlighted the purifying and depolluting virtues of these plants. It was discovered that they can neutralise CO2, carbon monoxide and compounds hazardous to human health such as benzene, toluene, xylene, trichloroethylene, solvents, formaldehydes, cigarette smoke and ozone. Since then several countries have begun to legislate to improve air quality, as well as the European Union.
NASA tests showed that plants help to eliminate pollutants by the natural process of photosynthesis. With the energy provided by radiation from the sun, the source of all life, this biochemical process helps plants, algae and some micro-organisms convert water and CO2 into organic material (carbohydrates).
While photosynthesising, plants emit oxygen into the atmosphere. However, the plant breathes and the reverse process occurs during the night when CO2 emissions occur and unlike the process of photosynthesis, which only happens during the day, the plant breathes both day and night. Nonetheless, the balance is very positive since it is estimated that 50% or half of the captured CO2 is not dismissed and is instead used in the processes of plant growth. Obviously, the degree to which this is carried on depends upon the species of plant, and some are more effective as bio-filters in the home environment than others.
It used to be said that there was danger in sleeping in close proximity to green plants, but we must remember that these plants created the atmosphere from which we now benefit. An investment in depolluting plants is therefore strongly recommended for improving indoor air quality.
Examples include Areca Palm, Ficus, Potos, Spatiphyllum, Chlorophytum...
Think about having a plant wall or a wall of water to enhance your interior decoration; a zen atmosphere is guaranteed!
MORE DECO IDEAS
A Feng Shui natural for a soothing atmosphere; aquatic scenery to bathe you in captivating zen tranquillity.
Example: walls of water in black, white or sand shale
Furniture constructed from French solid wood, sourced from sustainably managed forests, finished with hard oils, stains and natural waxes and assembled using non-VOC (volatile organic compound) adhesives. Sofas, chairs, beds and tables of woven water hyacinths for living rooms and bedrooms.
An exceptional natural setting, synonymous with well-being and harmony, participating in the renewal and filtration of your indoor air, plant walls come in small sizes (frame) or larger (wall). They absorb sound waves, help to regulate the temperature of the premises, and are a delightful addition to your living environment.
The copper has a powerful tool against microbes, eliminating in a few minutes all viruses and bacteria, fully recyclable without altering the material’s properties.
Today we are subjected more than ever to electromagnetic waves (4G, Wifi, CEM...), so it is important to limit our exposure. These veil type curtains have a transparent linen gauze, an integrated screen lining and consist of 30% organic cotton, 12% organic linen, 34% Trevira polyester, 22% copper and 2% silver. It’s well worth considering!
For natural sleep, choose bedsteads and mattresses in natural materials, coconut fibre, latex, organic cotton, sheep's wool.
The more we demand organic cotton, the more producers will adapt to such demands, which are, unfortunately, not as widespread as they need to be. Traditional cotton consumption is so important because, in choosing materials derived from organic farming, we are helping to take action for the protection of the environment.
Indeed, the intensive exploitation of conventional cotton agriculture over the decades has been more than alarming. This practice represents 2.5% of the world’s agricultural lands and consumes 25% of all pesticides sold in the world (source: WHO). These pesticides are classified as dangerous and many contain substances prohibited by the WHO (World Health Organization). Each year, 1 million people are contaminated and 22 000 people die because of this pesticide culture (source: WHO). In addition, the use of pesticides and fertilisers account for almost half of the costs involved in the production of traditional cotton (Source: International Cotton Advisory Committee). These pesticides are used to control insect pests deemed likely to destroy plantations and the fertilisers are applied to improve the yields of soils. Farmers are pushed into debt by the need to buy pesticides, which are growing increasingly powerful as the pests they target develop resistance. Moreover, the artificial irrigation required by conventional cotton production reduces the global resources of drinking water. For example, it takes approximately 5,263 litres of water to produce 1 kg of cotton (source : CNRS). Around the Aral Sea (Central Asia), which has shrunk by close to 50% over the last fifty years, the cultivation of cotton has disrupted the ecosystems of vast regions, perhaps irreversibly. Now, the water of the Aral Sea is polluted by fertilisers and pesticides and is too salty for aquatic life. The surrounding cultivated areas are becoming contaminated, too (Source : UNESCO).
Today, most of our clothes are manufactured from cotton. What could be more natural? However, relatively few people understand the production conditions and their consequences on growers and the environment. In the 1950s, the use of about a dozen pesticide treatments per year has today increased to 30 or 40 in some areas. The consequences are serious for the producers, the environment and consumers. Fatal poisoning, malformations at birth, cancers, eczema, allergies, the pollution of groundwater and, indirectly, the livestock, the destruction of water resources, increased soil salinity and a decline in soil fertility constitute the terrible harvest reaped by intensive cultivation.
In addition, traditional cotton harvesting is accomplished by using cheap labour, including children. The threat of contamination continues after the harvest, in the treatment of plants which are loaded with chemicals and heavy metals harmful to the environment and those who handle them.
For all these reasons, it is clear that the use of organic cotton is essential for all our homes. Hemp and flax are also very beautiful alternatives.
For thousands of years, hemp has been used as material by man. It is an environmentally friendly material, since it requires no chemical additives to help the growth of the plant. Hemp defends itself from external aggressors such as insects and fungi. It is rot-proof. Producers do not need to use fertilisers, insecticides, pesticides or fungicides to protect the harvest, as it’s perfectly capable of taking care of itself! As a renewable raw material, hemp assists in countering the effects of pollution and improves the condition of the soil. After the crop is harvested, a clean field is left behind that is rich in mineral elements. It even makes our air more breathable for us because, during growth, it assimilates much CO2. The good quality of diffusion of air through hemp products provides an automatic adjustment of moisture without heat loss.
Ecological excellence ! A genuine carbon sink. A hectare of flax holds 3.7 tonnes of CO2 per year. It is a benefactor to soil quality, biodiversity and landscapes. It also ensures crop rotation by returning to the same plot every 6 years, benefitting the following crops. With sufficient rain, it requires little watering and very little fertiliser. Thus, ecosystems are respected. France cultivates nearly 200 ha organically and the GOTS label is a guarantee. Terre de lin, commited cooperative.
OUR THERMAL COMFORT
Suitable insulation guarantees real energy savings
REMINDER: Thermal exchanges occur through 4 mechanisms, conduction, radiation, convection and evaporation.
Conduction occurs through contact. Think of your hand heating up against a hot cup or your foot cooling on a cold floor. Radiation occurs without direct contact, as demonstrated by the heat you feel heat from an open flame. Convection is based on an exchange between an object and the surrounding air, proportional to their temperature difference and the speed of air movement. This is the heat supplied by a fan heater or the cold caused by a current of air. Evaporation is based on the energy consumption of liquid as it changes to a vapour state. This causes the coolness felt in mists and is the method your body uses to maintain a safe temperature via perspiration.
We all bring our own sensitivity to these heat exchanges; some suffering from heat or cold while others thrive. The perceived temperature is an average of the room temperature and that of the walls, windows, ceiling and floor. Thus, despite an ambient temperature of 22 ° C, if the wall is only 15 ° C, the temperature actually felt is only 18.5 ° C. If we know that a gap of only 2 to 3 ° C between the room temperature and that of the walls is enough to cause discomfort and that radiation is more effective in terms of thermal exchanges than convection, we understand that it is always preferable to give priority to the temperature of the walls.
Clearly, the heating system must not be content simply to heat the air but also the walls, either by being integrated, or because the heat accumulates through inertia* – the ability of a material to store and then return heat. A heating system’s efficiency, and its profitability, are therefore based largely on the effective insulation of walls, floors, ceilings and windows. In the home, the currents of air infiltration we call draughts should be eliminated as a priority. Moisture, additionally, plays an essential role with regard to thermal comfort because the more humid the air, the more air movements are felt. Although not considered a pollutant, excess moisture nevertheless promotes the degradation of materials and the proliferation of microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, mould and insects.
* The inertia of materials: the material is first heated by the sun or other heat source. Its nature making it capable of storing heat, its temperature rises gently. Then comes the conduction, as one of the faces of the material is exposed to radiation, while the other is not. The heat begins a migration to the heart of the material, from the hottest side toward the cooler. As long as the heat source is not interrupted, heat migrates to the opposite side of material, where it can radiate. In the case of under floor heating, radiation is provided by the floor covering. When the heat source is interrupted, as is the case when night falls, the hot side of the material is faced with a drop in outdoor temperature. A large part of the heat stored in the heart of the material then initiates a half - turn (the transfer is always from hot to cold) so that the heat radiation is now emitted from the side with the lower temperature. This is why a stone wall radiates heat at night after being exposed to the sun all day. The first quality of inertia is to cushion the changes in temperature and the second to generate radiation. Such a heat exchange is considered to be the most efficient and most cost-effective when it comes to heating.
Finally, if external insulation is not possible, or is too difficult or expensive to implement, coating the walls on the inside will increase the thermal performance of your property, thereby maximising comfort. However, you must think of a wall as a living thing which needs attention. Therefore, the porosity, structure and airtightness of a wall must be understood and complied with. This is why BIO RENTALS has decided to rely on thermal design specialists to provide our owners with the best possible advice.
OUR ACOUSTIC COMFORT
A wall lining is chosen in accordance with the need to increase the wall’s acoustic and thermal performance, or to improve its interior appearance. These two objectives are, however, compatible. The effects of acoustic insulation efforts are cumulative, unlike those of thermal insulation. It’s a case of the thicker the better with sound insulation. However, this principle has its limits, because it’s actually not always possible to have walls of a 65 cm thickness or more in a city such as Paris, for example. Note that 85% of Parisian homes were built before the appearance of the first thermal regulations in 1975 (see the APUR study). However, it is possible to reduce the sound vibrations, and therefore the sound’s intensity, by multiplying the layers in a 'spring-mass' or 'mass-spring-mass' principle. Separating the existing walls of the partition by adding resilient strips is a solution. Remember that sound travels where air passes.
OUR ELECTRIC COMFORT
Establish an electrical installation that is BIOTIC or BIOCOMPATIBLE.
Electromagnetic pollution is insidious and invisible. All too often we see a policy of misinformation regarding such matters, as with the consequences of the radioactive fallout from Chernobyl or the health effects of asbestos inhalation. The scenario is always the same as scientists, funded directly or indirectly by industrialists, maintain a complicity with the political establishment to keep the public in the dark.
The link between the magnetic fields of high voltage lines and incidences of childhood leukaemia was first highlighted in 1979. The Draper study, made public in June 2005, confirmed the carcinogenic risk of high voltage lines among local residents and especially among children. Recommended limits of exposure to electromagnetic fields were established as early as the 1980s by an international commission of experts: the ICNIRP *(International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection). This is a non-governmental organisation, consisting of doctors and specialists in the study of electromagnetic fields, which is recognised by the WHO. It is this organisation which proposes limits for human exposure to electromagnetic fields, based on an in-depth review of scientific publications on the subject. The first recommended limits of exposure were published in 1988 and confirmed in 1998. Many countries have established their own standards or guidelines based on these recommendations. In Europe, on July 12th, 1999, the Council of the European Union adopted a recommendation to limit the exposure of the general public to electromagnetic fields based on the ICNIRP recommendations. The website www.ICNIRP.org recommends that the member states adopt legislation to ensure compliance with these restrictions. Organisations such as CENELEC (European Committee for Electro-technical Standardisation) in Europe and the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) complement this work at the international level and establish standards to define measurement methods and means of checking compliance with these limits. EMF - electromagnetic fields - induce in living organisms electrical currents which can, under certain conditions, be of the same order of magnitude as the endogenous currents resulting from the natural functioning of the body, and thus cause interference with these, resulting in biological effects within our bodies. European legislation sets lower exposure limits than the thresholds above which adverse effects are demonstrated. These safety margins, between the exposure limit and the threshold of occurrence of harmful effects, are designed to take into account the effects that ongoing studies could potentially reveal. The European standard of July 12th, 1999, is based on these considerations. There is an agreement between the professionals concerned to set the threshold around the following values:
- Electric fields: 5 V/m (or 1V/m for a person who is hypersensitive to EMFs)
- Electromagnetic fields: 0.5 mG (0.1 mG for a person who is hypersensitive to EMFs)
These are figures which are valid for the locating of beds (it is during sleep that we are most sensitive). The intensity of the electric or magnetic field, exposure duration, the time of exposure, the simultaneous presence of the 2 fields and their variations all obviously affect the level of risk.
How to protect yourself
- Use materials that neutralise or reduce strong radiation from electric fields, including clay (raw or fired), stone, lime and hemp. In these cases, the materials themselves are the shield and there is very little or no emission of electric fields. Wood and wood frames shield against electric fields. Shielded wires and cables are recommended.
- Use switched circuit breakers, it’s easier to press a button to disconnect each circuit.
- Use shielded wires as well as the IAC – automatic field switches – that are frequently used for the improvement of existing facilities in old buildings.
- Earth all metal structures emitting electric fields
- Protect all transmitters of electric and electromagnetic fields.
In any case, it is important to have a comprehensive assessment made by a professional who will be able to measure the electric and magnetic fields, verify all earth connections, inform you about the risks and propose solutions to any problems identified.