Home Renewal | Green Living

As more and more attention is paid to climate change, homeowners around the country are looking for ways to be more eco-friendly in their homes. The good news is that there are lots of simple things homeowners can do to help the environment and save some money in the process.



When planning a home garden, Niki Epstein, a licensed landscape horticulturalist, said it is important to rely on plants native to the New Orleans area. If it is a naturally-occurring plant, it has adapted to the local environment and will need less water, less fertilizer and no chemical assistance to survive.

Epstein recommends the website audubon.org as a resource for people searching for plants native to their area. If people fail to do their homework on the subject, even a well-intentioned person can cause harm to their environment.

Rain barrels are another simple way to make your home and yard more eco-friendly. By collecting rainfall, people can use natural, chemical-free water in their gardens. This also saves money. Instead of hooking up a hose to water your plants and running up your water bill, you can make use of the prodigious rainfall New Orleans receives every year.

While there are many different things people can do in their homes and yards to promote sustainable practices, it’s important to not try to do too much too quickly.

“It can seem kind of overwhelming,” Epstein said. “Don’t be afraid to start with baby steps.”


Inside Your House

The LSU College of Agriculture (lsuagcenter.com) has a list of helpful tips for sustainable house design. There are too many tips on the website to list in a brief article. But one of them is to build a garage or carport on the west or east side of the house. This will block the sun and reduce the heat in your home, thus reducing the amount of time you need to use your air conditioner in a warm climate like Louisiana’s.

During the milder months, it helps to position windows in your house in a manner that facilitates effective cross ventilation. If the weather is mild enough that open windows can keep you from turning on your air conditioner, take advantage of it with strategic window placement.
When you do have to use your air conditioner, make sure there is a continuous air barrier around the air conditioned space. Everything needs to be sealed and airtight.


Adaptive Reuse

Principles of sustainability encourage people to make use of things that are already there. Adaptive reuse takes an old building and finds a new use for it instead of tearing it down and building a new structure from scratch. For example, the former Hurwitz Mintz building at 211 Royal St. in the French Quarter is being repurposed to include retail, an event space, residences and two newly-constructed penthouses with rooftop decks.

“We love restoring buildings and keeping their history intact as much we can,” said Julie Babin, a partner and architect with studioWTA, architects on the 211 Royal project.

During adaptive reuse, some changes are inevitably made to the existing structure. But it still requires fewer new building materials than new construction does. It limits further depletion of the planet’s resources.

Not only does adaptive reuse preserve natural resources, it lets new projects keep a sense of history and authenticity. Builders embarking on entirely new construction sometimes have a hard time affording materials like brick and instead opt for faux finishes. But adaptive reuse lets architects keep at least some of the original materials.

Ross Karsen, a senior associate and architect with studioWTA, said adaptive reuse is also a way to renew America’s urban areas.

“It’s about restoring and putting new value in our cities,” said Karsen. “We need to continue to find ways to make use of what we already have.”