Residential contribution to environmental degradation is often considered a minor issue in relation to industrial and agricultural processes. Whilst these industrial and agricultural processes have a large impact on greenhouse gases and use large quantities of water, the residential sector cannot distance itself from it. Household behaviour is a considerable source of environmental harms and carbon emissions. Every individual in this world lives in a household and therefore contributes his share. In Cape Town the following statistics apply:

  • Households use 60% of total municipality water consumption
  • Households use 38% of total electricity consumption, 6% is for residential lighting

Martina Gluckman, an eco and efficiency consultant assists households with determining their current environmental performance. She provides residential eco audits resulting in the development of a green household management plan. In this article we have asked her to explain the financial benefits and eco achievements that come with greening a home. We have asked her to provide us with an example of her work. She demonstrated the following family home she has worked on in 2010.

The home

The house is a triple storey family home with 3 en-suite bedrooms, 3 bedrooms, extra large open plan living area, medium sized garden with pool and one flatlet.

The objectives

Martina Gluckman conducted a full residential eco audit on the premises with the objective to reduce the overall environmental footprint of the household and at the same time reduce costs on utility bills. The comprehensive audit included all areas of residential resources and operations such energy, water, waste management and elimination of contaminants. Martina Gluckman set out to provide the home owners with the best strategy for reducing water and electricity consumption whilst remaining within the designated budget for retrofits. Since maintaining the current lifestyle is a primary goal, Martina Gluckman makes every effort to avoid any inconvenience and balances financial with behavioural efficiency when suggesting retrofits.

The process

A full residential eco audit of the premises was undertaken. The following eco auditing methodology was applied:

  • Contact with municipality for collection of historical data
  • Visit to premises with interview of the homeowner
  • Walkabout and audit of the house
    • Kitchen
    • Rooms with water connections
    • General rooms and flatlet
    • Garden and pool
  • Post interview
  • Production of detailed report

The data gathered from the above steps was then analysed. Calculations were based on occupational and operational patterns established through the interview. Suitable retrofitting options were proposed and payback periods were calculated. An implementation strategy for each household section was developed so that a minimum environmental footprint could be achieved by means of current technologies available in SA and within allocated budget by the homeowner

The results

[message type=”info”]

Download the full case study here: Residential Eco Consultation case study


Tell us a little about yourself; what are your interests? Do you earn your living in the green Industry?

I have a background in design and I was involved in this field but felt I needed a change and wanted to move into the green industry. I am currently working with a team that runs a Green Website that highlights all the green events, green design and green lifestyle in and around Johannesburg. There is also a site running for Cape Town. I may not have been earning from it but since doing the Residential course with Tina I certainly have been spending some time answering questions and giving advice to family and friends on how they can make their homes more efficient.

You did our Office Eco Manager Course last year. How did you find out about the course?

As I mentioned earlier I had done a Residential course with Tina and she was in contact with her past students and let us know she would be facilitating this course through Terra Firma Academy. I really enjoyed the Residential course with Tina and was excited to hear about the Office Eco course she was facilitating.

Why did you choose the course you did? Did you have a clear idea about what you wanted to learn and gain from the course?

I was eager to add to the skills I had gained during the Residential course and to further my knowledge in the green industry. I wanted to learn about efficiency in an environment different to the Residential environment.

Did you enjoy the course? Did you find it easy to follow and relevant with what you were expecting to come away with?

Yes! I learned so much during the course, there was so much information to absorb! If anything I realised how much there is that I still need to learn about!

Was the Facilitator effective in explaining some of the more complex content? Did you enjoy the hands on practical edge of the course?

Yes! Tina is a fantastic facilitator with a wealth of knowledge! Her experience in the field really comes across and I felt we gained so much additional information that was not necessarily in the course content. I really enjoyed the practical aspect of the course. It is one thing to learn the theory but to actually understand the implementation of the practice is hugely valuable.

I also really enjoyed the interaction with the other participants. The class was small enough that we had plenty of discussions and lots of opportunity to ask Tina questions. I really learned a lot through this.

What has changed for you since you took the course? How are you using what you learned during the course?

I definitely feel more confident since doing the course. I feel I can give advice around efficient behaviour and practices in the office environment and have confidence in the fact that I know what I’m talking about! I feel that completing this course adds credibility to the skills I would like to offer; I now feel I have a qualification rather than just an interest!

I have also found that I now know the right questions to ask! Now that I know what I’m talking about and am confident in my knowledge I am asking the right questions of people, be them engineers or technicians etc. This has resulted in me learning even more!

Do you think this course assists students and their move into the green industry? Will it make a difference in their future Green career?

Yes most definitely. I especially feel that in the instance of the Office environment a lot of the time people will already be a part of an office team and will have been given the go- ahead from management to start new projects and make changes. This course really equips you with the skills you require to make these changes. It gives you confidence and the know-how to implement change and can really pull people up and start them on their green career journey!

Do you have any advice to give any prospective students or people who may be interested in taking one of our courses?

Do it! Enrol in a course! Take this opportunity, ask questions and absorb as much information as you can!

Do you have an opinion on the emerging green economy of our country and its potential for job growth?

I definitely feel that the potential for job growth is there. I do feel there perhaps needs to be a shift in focus from creating new jobs to more of an emphasis on up-skilling and training. I feel the growing green industry holds plenty of opportunity for our country. A lot of the jobs that are emerging don’t require a degree. A lot of the work is hands on and very practical. I think training is going to play an important role!

Terra Firma Academy interviewed residential eco consultant, Martina Gluckman, a thought leader in the field of residential eco-consulting. She has designed and delivered numerous courses in this field. Martina has personally educated hundreds of students who today make up the green professional workforce that is changing the residential landscape for the better.

Terra Firma Academy
How efficient do you think most South African homes are when it comes to electricity use?
Martina Gluckman
Wastefully inefficient. To put a number to it, probably 30-50% can be slashed off the bill quite easily. In SA we have been spoiled by cheap electricity, and that reflects in the way we use appliances, lights cooling and heating systems. In fact, often it reflects in the way our homes were designed and built.
Terra Firma Academy
As parents we are often concerned about using contaminants for cleaning in our homes. How do you recommend we eradicate these?
Martina Gluckman
Quite simply: avoid buying them. As consumers we have a choice what we purchase and then bring into our private space. If all we purchase is biodegradable as well as harmless to us our children or pets even, we won’t have any contaminants or potentially harmful substances in our homes.
Terra Firma Academy
How can one become a Residential Eco-Consultant?
Martina Gluckman
Terra Firma Academy offers a 3 day course which teaches all environmental aspects of the residential environment. After that it is simply a matter of getting some experience in the field. My advice to students is to perform a number of free eco consultations for friends and relatives with various house sizes and lifestyles. That way one is certain to get exposed to different issues and test one’s methodology. At the same time, one can gain references as well.
Terra Firma Academy
What kind of qualifications does one need to be eligible for this course?
Martina Gluckman
There are no definite or must-have qualifications. Common knowledge of mathematics, writing skills and an organisational ability are enough to get started. Being in the field of residential services however can be a great starting point. Interior designers, interior decorators, renovators, small builders, handymen and maintenance service providers can benefit immensely from eco consulting. It would give these professionals a competitive advantage.
Terra Firma Academy
Can you describe what kind of savings a Residential Eco-Consultant can give home owners or renters?
Martina Gluckman
Every household is different, but as a general rule of thumb, at least 30-40% of water and electricity bills can be cut. Some retrofits have such good return on investments – fund managers and banks can only dream of them.
Terra Firma Academy
What are the 5 residential Eco areas where the best savings can be made?
Martina Gluckman
• First and foremost electricity used by the hot water geyser, light bulbs, heating or cooling systems, sometimes appliances such as home computers and entertainment set-ups.
• Secondly, water used for garden, toilets and showering can offer enormous savings.
• An eco consultant will be able to assess which specific area in a particular household will yield the most savings, and how these savings can be achieved and best implemented.
Terra Firma Academy
How many Residential Eco-Consultants have you trained in the last few years and do you know if most of them are working as Residential Eco-Consultants?
Martina Gluckman
I have trained around 80 people with various backgrounds, the youngest was just 19 and the oldest over 70. Unfortunately, I am too busy with my work to afford the luxury of following up with my students. Though, I did come across some web sites and marketing of previous learners. That made me proud.
Terra Firma Academy
How would I charge if I was a residential Eco-Consultant. What formula do you use to calculate your fees?
Martina Gluckman
There is no set rule, and every consultant will have different ideas. What works for me is to take a percentage of the annual utility bill of a household. These bills often reflect both the size and the level of efficiency of a household. The higher the bills, the more inefficiencies and issues are there to audit and assess.
Terra Firma Academy
When is your next course and how much does it cost?
Martina Gluckman
The next course will take place in February next year. The cost is R4,000 excl. VAT

By now, we all have read stacks of environmental articles, received plenty of earth friendly newsletters, joined social green networks, been to numerous gatherings and discussions on green awareness and environmental care. We are informed, we are aware – but how green are we really?

What makes us green? Green is a very wide term and when we look at dictionaries, all we find are explanations relating to the colour green or green foliage. In environmental terms there is no clear definition and the term can be used widely. In household terms, however, we could assume that a house is only termed green when it is managed with as small an ecological footprint as possible. This includes minimal impact upstream (before resources enter a home) and downstream (after resources have left a home). Minimal impact on our environment in all household actions can be achieved through numerous things such as renewable energy and conscious shopping; the main one however is efficiency.

Efficiency is the production of a desired effect with a minimum amount of effort pollution or waste, it is using less to achieve the same result. When “greenness” is being stripped to its core, it means elimination of squandering wastage: Less water, less electricity, less fuel, less non-biodegradable stuff, less consumer goods, less rubbish.

But being green means not that we work in a barely lit room, that we shower once a week, that we sit in a cold unheated home… No, it means we do what we normally do but with less resources. In other words we utilize the same amount of light using less electricity, we shower as usual using less water, we enjoy a warm home causing less pollution. Overall this means that we have to be less wasteful in all actions. That’s it, no magic or fairy dust, just plain that: efficiency. It can be achieved through measuring and improving the environmental performance of an entire home and is categorized into 4 areas: Water, energy, waste and contaminants.

Once inefficiencies in these areas have been identified, appropriate efficiency measures and mechanisms have to be chosen and implemented. The opportunities to be greener are seemingly endless yet do not always suit every household, budget or circumstances.

So, let’s roll up the sleeves and become truly green. Let’s reduce our environmental impact. Let’s get into our home and look at every single corner, every single device, every single water outlet, every single bottle of stuff…. Let’s look at everything in the home, which could possibly have an ecological impact. Then let’s find a solution to lessen our ecological impact on all of the above.

By now, some of you are probably giving off a silent sigh: “oh gosh – not something new I have to learn and do.” Mmh, do you sense a feeling of being overwhelmed? Do you feel modern life is challenging enough? Many of us can barely keep up with our own lives: job, money, home maintenance, shopping, cleaning, washing, kids and schools, sport and health, legal issues and all other problems that might draw on our energy at any given time.

Can we honestly expect people to spend hours researching and investigating green home options? Can we really expect people to take their green awareness and turn it into practical implementation?

  1. Yes, because only we are responsible for our own home.
  2. Yes, because having no time is no excuse. Let’s look at the first point.

The world population growth is expected to reach 7 billion this year. Where on earth do all these people live? In countries? In cities? Along coasts?

If we zoom right in, where does every single person live? In a household. Be that a house, a flat, a hut or a tent, rented or owned, it is nevertheless a household with human needs for cooking, warmth, water and light, all things that have an environmental impact. Our home belongs to us; it is only us who sleep bath eat cook and wash in it. So, it is only us who can minimize the ecological impact and therefore it is only us who are responsible for the household’s environmental performance. Everybody can benefit from seeking better efficiency. Regardless of whether you want to make small, incremental improvements, or grandiose, world-shaking changes, you don’t need to sacrifice your quality of life. Yet you need become skilled at greening your own personal life-style.

In regard to the time issue, there is a very helpful service called Residential Eco Consulting. This service is designed to facilitate green changes in your household and lifestyle, and to advice on how to save water and energy and reduce pollution. A residential eco consultant is trained to thoroughly inspect a home and analyze resource consumption. Then the consultant establishes a detailed strategy and chooses appropriate measures to take this particular home and the occupants’ lifestyle to a more efficient level. A theme you see running through residential eco auditing is the idea of payback – how long it takes for an efficiency investment to saving you money. The result is a comprehensive plan to establish long lasting environmental performance which benefits both the home owner and our planet. If you don’t have the time to address your household’s green issues, if you don’t have the know-how, simply call for help. Residential Eco Consultants are keen to assist you in making a real and tangible difference on our planet Earth. Maybe you would even wish to become one yourself?

I think it is time to walk the talk, together. Either roll up your sleeves and do it yourself– or seek a green service that does it for you: Let’s move on from “hugging trees” to implementing our environmental awareness and thereby create green life-styles that are true and evident.