Build an eco house

By at home

energy efficiency_house_05_11_12A sustainable design that saves you money while helping to protect the environment is easier than you think. Going green today will help you in the future.

A recent survey by Ecoshelter UK revealed that an incredible 73% of people admitted they would like to live more sustainably. What’s more, it seems they would like to be actively encouraged and assisted in doing this. However, many people feel they don’t have the advice, tools and information they need to make that leap of faith – to build an eco home.

But it is in the domestic, residential accommodation sector that you need to save the most carbon and energy. The UK’s 21 million homes account for 25% of the CO2 emissions and buildings are the fastest-growing source. Despite the increase in the highest A++ rated energy-efficient household appliances, domestic water demand continues to increase and the UK currently uses almost 50% more water than it did 25 years ago, according to the Environment Agency (

There are many sustainable housing and community developments already in place, built by individual ecobuild pioneers and forward-thinking, eco-friendly construction companies, and many more are being planned for the future. The definition of a zero-carbon home is still being debated and its achievability-for-all is disputed. Current definitions include ‘a property with zero net emissions of carbon dioxide from all energy use in the home’ or one that returns to the National Grid as much power as it uses over the course of a year.

Planning ahead

According to government targets set in 2006, all new homes in England should be carbon neutral by 2016. It is planned that this will be achieved by tightening building and planning rules. A star rating system was introduced in May 2008 to show potential buyers a property’s energy efficiency, and those achieving the maximum six-star rating may be exempt from stamp duty. The government hopes such measures will help meet the target of cutting CO2 emissions by at least 60% by 2050.

The big construction companies are now taking an interest in providing homes that are eco friendly, so it’s definitely something that will become increasingly common and important as years go by. The benefits are huge if you try to build your own eco home. You will conserve more energy, and you will also find it easier to sell your home in the future, as housing regulations will become increasingly sustainable and eco-friendly.

Hopefully, one day all homes will be made to minimise their environmental impact. You could spend hours, days or even weeks researching the plethora of information surrounding eco homes, but if you just want a brief overview of what’s involved when it comes to building your home, focus on the following helpful points…

Reduce energy output

The most important factor when building an eco home is ensuring that you cut back on the energy you use in your home so that your carbon footprint is dramatically reduced. There are many ways of achieving this, including the installation of solar panels, solar water heating systems as well as wind turbines. But design of the home aside, you need to bear in mind energy output, too, which means all electrical appliances should be A++ rated.

Conserve water

Doing this is of high importance. The average person in the UK uses 150 litres of water per day, but we should be using much less. You can buy water conservation equipment so you use less when flushing the toilet, for example. Alternatively, put a brick in the cistern so less water is needed to fill it up. An ingenious idea that is cheap to do – and it works.

Eco-friendly insulation

Insulation is probably the most effective way to keep your house warm and to prevent emissions. Your new build will have cavity wall insulation and roof insulation, too and there are green materials that can be used for this. The different types of products on the market that are very effective include one material that is made of hemp and recycled cotton and another that is made from sheep wool. Plant or animal-based, as long as it’s effective, clean, green, and is created ethically, it doesn’t really matter…

Green building materials

When choosing bricks and blocks, consider the levels of energy that go into firing them, as well as the costs of transportation and the fact that cement will be used to assemble them. When considering windows, think about the energy savings that double glazed polyvinyl chloride (PVCu) windows will have against the not-so-green versions.

Plant-friendly paints

When it’s time to decorate and paint your house, choose paints that are made from natural and organic raw materials with no petrochemical fungicides or preservatives. These days, they are so good that they are comparable to conventional paint, without any of the environmental disadvantages.

Use sustainable wood

Of course there will be the need to have wood in your house. For floors, doors, staircases, shelving and wardrobes, you will need to use wood. However, as a lover of the environment, you will naturally be concerned about depleting the world’s resources as the huge demand for this has had a devastating effect on tropical rainforests along with the species that inhabit them.

Money-saving roofs

When eco-proofing your home, don’t forget about the highest part of it Rather than just choosing traditional tiles and slate, there are many different materials that you can use for the roof of your home – it will serve you and the environment well. Opt for an insulating material that allows the house to retain heat better and if you can find a material that has high heat reflectivity, the house will stay cooler in the summer, too. If you’re concerned about natural species, invest in a roof which has soil or grass on top (edible roofs). It will be able to absorb up to an inch of rainwater, protect your home from UV rays and reduce CO2 output.

Sarah says… ‘It’s never too late to green up your home. Even adding secondary glazing on your windows will help – do this. Always draught-proof your windows, it makes all the difference.’

Picture credit: Shutterstock

This article was first published in at home with Sarah Beeny in August 2012. [Read the digital edition here]

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