Buildings make up over 50% of the worlds carbon emissions, and with buildings lasting longer it is becoming more important than ever to improve. There are also great cost savings to be made with eco homes.
‘Eco Homes’ encompasses basically any house that has moved towards more sustainable, low energy systems with an aim of reducing environmental impact. Other terms, like sustainable, green and environmentally friendly are often used. It is all about creating a less environmentally harmful place to live.
Many think an eco-home is just an idea for new builds, but it is important to improve sustainability and reduce emissions from existing homes too. They will still be standing in 50 years!
Different Types of Eco Homes
- Carbon neutral and zero emission homes
- Biophillic homes (incorporating and integrating nature)
- Passivhaus homes (or “Fabric First” – structure for reduced energy consumption)
- Recycled and natural material homes (“Biotecture”)
- Healthy House (natural materials)
Building Eco Homes: Where to Start?
There are many ways to make your self-build, renovation or extension more environmentally friendly along the whole chain. Consider design and construction as well as ongoing use. Remember to think about how you live and what you will need too.
Here’s some sustainable eco home ideas to get you started.
Sustainable Design and Construction
- Sun spaces and passive solar areas
- Good ventilation system with heat recovery (MVHR)
- Reducing north-face windows
- Insulation – including double or triple window glazing
- Sustainable or recycled building materials such as railway sleepers
- Location of materials – local is less damaging
- Using timber and natural materials (look for the FSC mark)
Using natural building materials is also supposed to give a ‘good feel’ to your home.
Ecology & Location
- Aviod west facing locations to balance solar heating
- Recycle old land
- Green rooves and green walls
- “Greening” – especially wildflower meadows (less tarmac/concrete areas)
- Consider local transport – will you need a car?
- Low flush toilets and showers
- LED or low energy lighting
- HVAC systems
- Biomass boilers and stoves
- Extracting energy from water
- Rainwater harvesting and grey water recycling
- Solar panels and mini wind turbines
- Underfloor heating instead of radiators
- Low energy appliances (look for the energy star)
Upgrading an Existing Home
- Improve airtightness – draught excluders and window glazing
- Reduce, reuse, recycle
- Go green – add more wildflowers and meadow areas
- Solar panels
- HVAC systems
- Lighting upgrade – LEDs or low energy bulbs
- Get energy efficient appliances (look for the energy star)
Remember being eco-friendly doesn’t mean living frugally. For example, a Gartec Home Lift is a fantastic style addition to a home, as well as being functional and using less energy than a kettle to run. Just try to pick energy efficient versions of the things you need.
Eco Design in Action
The government have already put in place some eco home zones. Beddington Zero Energy Development (BedZED Project) in Hackbridge, London, is the first large scale community which has been designed specifically to produce zero emissions. This principle has been copied across the UK for projects such as One Brighton. The sustainable design elements of the eco homes include:
- Passive solar heating using glazed spaces
- Highly insulated but ventilated via iconic roof wind cowls
- Concrete construction for increased heat retention
- Local brick and material suppliers – 35 miles max. distance
- Built on old sewage site
- Energy efficient appliances and lighting throughout
- Dual flush toilets and low consumption appliances
- Sustainable water supply & communal boiler
- Car club area
The Brighton site goes further, with rooftop allotments and green rooves, as well as a zero waste policy with a large composter on the eco homes site.