Green Restorative Actions and Sustainable Solutions chairman and ASEAN architect Lui Daya-Garcia.
How to make the home healthier & greener
WORDSWORTH - Mons Romulo (The Philippine Star) - August 20, 2019 - 12:00am

Most mothers in this fast-paced world today face the challenge of being a mother at home and at work. Architect Lui Daya-Garcia is no stranger to this set up. 

A graduate of BS Architecture from the University of Santo Tomas and a scholar at the Conservation and Management of Historic Buildings in Lund Universitet, Sweden, Lui runs, manages and mothers the green team of architects and allied-professionals, focused on integrating the built and natural environments. As a homemaker and mother to Nigel and Diego, she nurtures a household, ensuring her family’s safety and well-being.

“The heart of any home is also the heart of any green and sustainable project,” says Lui, who heads some organizations like Green Restorative Actions and Sustainable Solutions and Movement for Water Security. She is a member of the Alliance for Safe, Sustainable & Resilient Environment and a specialist at Integrated Sustainable Building Ecology.

Here are some friendly tips on how to make our homes healthier, greener and more sustainable according to Lui.

1. Capture free rainwater. Rainwater tanks are useful additions to any home. These tanks collect rainwater through the gutters of the roof and downspouts. The water is then filtered and siphoned into the rainwater tank. The collected water can then be used to irrigate the garden, wash cars or even have that first wash for the laundry. This method can eventually do wonders for one’s water bill.

2. Save every drop of water. Using water wisely shows our respect for an indispensable resource and assures us that water shortages may possibly (and hopefully!) be a thing of the past. Check household plumbing for repairs and use the correct kinds of plants in one’s garden. By checking your sinks, toilets, faucets and showers for any unwanted leaks, you can safely manage how much water to use to make sure not a single drop is wasted. Replacing faucets, shower heads and toilets with low-flow counterparts is also another way of conserving water.

3. Naturally sanitize your interiors! The sun is a natural sanitary agent because its rays are a natural deterrent to all kinds of nasty things such as germs, mold and mildew. A sad reality nowadays, especially with the commonness of living most of our lives within four walls, is that most homes are designed with people literally boxed in. However, the practice of green emphasizes the importance of sunlight indoors. This practice utilizes bigger windows, open terraces and brighter spaces in order to maximize sunlight. With more sunlight filtering into our homes, germs, mold and mildew growing on our walls, floors and furniture are significantly reduced, if not eliminated.

4. Regenerate your garden into an oasis of edibles. Growing an edible garden in your own backyard is one way of regenerating resources, which is practical and serves as an additional source of food for the family. What I recommend in urban areas is aquaponics, a method of creating a holistic and self-sustaining system of resources.

5. Passively cool your interiors. A common problem today is how to handle heat, especially with the advent of rising temperatures. The usual solution to this is to crank up the aircon to its coolest setting. But this is neither a sustainable nor economical solution, with one’s summer electricity bill as proof. We can use the space we already have in order to maximize nature’s natural cooling effect. One can apply “cross ventilation,” a technique wherein one has an opening on both sides of an adjacent or opposite wall. This causes the wind to enter, exit or cross. Open your windows and doors and let the wind flow in. This is a natural way of flushing stale air and toxins in the rooms, too!

6. ‘Rot’ and roll. Biodegradable kitchen waste can all be collected in a big pot (I usually recommend large clay pots that can also serve as decorative items in the garden). Layer Day 1’s collected biodegradable trash on the bottom of the pot. Add a little amount of garden soil laced with bio-enzymes (which are sold in most gardening or landscaping stores). Mix it with the compost then add about two inches more of soil to cover the first layer. Water and cover the pot. Do the same thing on the succeeding days until the pot is full. With the bio-enzymes in the mix, the items should have decomposed and ready for use in the garden as fertilizers or soil within a month.

7. Replace conventional technology with green innovations. Use LED bulbs to minimize both your carbon footprint and electricity bill. Compared to fluorescent and incandescent lightbulbs, LED bulbs consume up to 75 percent less energy and last around 25 times longer. For appliances, one can look up an appliance’s Energy Efficient Ratio or EER to determine whether or not an appliance consumes energy efficiently. A higher EER means better energy efficiency. Look for appliances that are  labeled with “Energy Star” in order to make sure that it consumes energy efficiently. Check the labels of home products such as paint, fabric and even tile grout, with low to zero VOC labels. Traditional harsh chemicals for general cleaning can be replaced with a mix of water, citrus juices (such as lemon, calamansi or dayap), vinegar and baking soda. Scented aerosols, fragrance gels, plug-in scents and even scented candles may be replaced with food-grade essential oils to replace harmful artificial fragrances. Cut leaves of aromatic plants such as lavender, rosemary, basil, pandan, mint and lemongrass, which can also work as potpourri. Better yet, grow them, nurture some inside the house, as they also drive away mosquitos!

8. Improve your air quality indoors. Sick building syndrome is a phenomenon wherein occupants of a building feel sick, down or lethargic. It is often associated with poor air quality indoors brought about by inferior ventilation, substandard construction materials and mediocre design choices. One can remedy this by replacing household items with ones that harbor less or no VOCs or having plants indoors. The Top 5 plants that I typically include in homes and offices that I design are rapis palm, snake plant, palmera or areca palm, Boston fern and aloe vera. These plants are said to improve indoor air quality as they absorb various pollutants present in interiors.

9. Embrace the alternatives. Solar panels are the most common and accessible way towards alternative energy. These can be installed onto almost any roof in order to cut down dependence on the traditional electric grid, and can be an accessory towards attaining “net-zero.” (“Net-zero” means that the total amount of energy used by the building on an annual basis is roughly equal to the amount of renewable energy created on the site, or nearby.) There is also solar water heaters that store the heat collected from the sun and then use it in order to heat up water. Take advantage of the sun when it’s up. We have its free power 365 days of the year even if it is raining!

10. The home is where the heart is. With green and sustainable architecture, I believe I have arrived at a certain intersection of practice, art and care. Not only do these designs take the environment into consideration, but it also accounts for the experiences we encounter and make. As homemakers, and more importantly, as mothers, we tirelessly put the well-being of our home and our family before ourselves. There is no better time than now to make your home a place to create wonderful memories for yourself, family and friends; a home that you would always want to come home to, which is healthy for everyone. Best of all, a green and sustainable home gives one that pride and honor of being a hero to the society and environment  through responsible choices and sound design decisions.

(We welcome your suggestions and comments.Please e-mail me at me on Instagram @monsromulo.)

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