Climate change is having a huge impact on our daily lives. But with the situation only speculated to get worse, the good news is that market forces are acting on the issue.
Building an eco-friendly home is one of the best ways you can do your bit to combat climate change, and it’s more popular than ever. Aside from the obvious environmental benefits, building a sustainable home will also significantly cut your utility costs and improve your way of life.
But before you start looking for structural engineer services in London, there are some things you need to think about first.
Before you take the first step to turning that pipe dream of an eco-home into a reality, you need to be aware that you will have to abide by certain regulations. This depends on the type of eco-friendly home you want to build, from one that is simply environmentally friendly to one which is rated carbon-zero. So make sure you and your building team know your objectives at the outset.
Once you have that in place, you know whether you need to meet regulations governed by the Code for Sustainable Homes, which takes a broader view of a house’s environmental impact, PassivHaus, an international regulations body which is concerned with low-energy building design, or one of the other national, regional and global standards (this will be outlined in your planning permission).
2. Size and cost
Having an idea of your budget will give you an idea of plot and how big you can go, but unlike regular builds, you may find building an eco-home means spending a little more upfront to equip your home with the most eco-friendly resources and heating solutions.
While it’s only natural that you will want enough room to comfortably house your family and belongings, a common mistake is building your eco-home too big. Not only does additional, unused space mean you need to spend more on building materials, you also need to heat it. Instead, intelligent, sustainable home designs utilise every possible ounce of space, an added benefit for those building an eco-home in London where square footage is limited.
Location is pivotal to building an eco-friendly home. Not only do you need to be able to make full use of the resources available to you but you need to think about how your home will affect the environment, avoiding areas prone to flooding (ask your architect to carry out a flood risk assessment).
Of course, the orientation of your home is key to making the most effective use of energy, and one principle of the PassivHaus Standard is to eliminate high, direct sunlight from coming into your building with the use of architectural constructs such as cantilevers, while permitting low-lying sun entry in winter. Similar green architectural techniques relate to using the elements, such as prevailing wind direction, to cool your home in summer.
Planning for a flat or domed roof with a roof garden complete with flowers and grass can help insulate your home and enable it to better fit in with the local environment while supporting natural ecosystems. It’s also important to consider the distance between your home and workplace or shops, so you can evaluate the impact on your carbon footprint.
4. Building materials
This doesn’t just govern how energy-efficient your building materials are but the environmental impact they have, both at the time of sourcing and while in situ in your home. That means your main construction materials shouldn’t leach chemicals into the surrounding environment, which makes sustainable natural resources a preferred option.
Some of the most insulating materials used in eco-home are cellulose, sheep’s wool, straw and clay. While these are both warm and renewable, other homes have used materials such as concrete (even mixed with hemp or other natural fibres) and recycled plastic or steel. Even if a resource is produced under intensive methods, it may still provide exceptional insulating purposes that means it is covered by your chosen eco standards.
Wood that is FSC certified timber or reclaimed (such as railway sleepers) can also be used in construction or cladding to improve thermal efficiency, while using plenty of strong and sustainable wood such as bamboo within the home’s interior can also keep your eco-home climate controlled.
5. Eco inside and out
Taking a green approach means more than just the materials you use to build it with; it means looking inward too. Instead of wasteful wall radiators, underfloor heating is much more economical and can be powered by solar power and recycled water.
You can also replace all single-glazed windows with double or triple-glazed windows (particularly to meet PassivHaus Standards) and have your windows wood-framed; not only does this have a lower carbon footprint but it is an excellent insulator compared to UPVC and can shrink your bills considerably.
In line with the Code for Sustainable Homes, your architectural designer will be able to look at how water is used in your home, developing clever ways to repurpose surface water run-off in and around your home to eliminate waste and flooding.
6. Energy use
How you will keep your home functioning is a crucial decision. Thankfully, the best options for the environment often have an even better pay off when it comes to your pocket. Government-backed solar power incentives make it easier and cheaper to kit out your home with self-sufficient heating, and if you install them in the best location to maximise sunlight, you can sell any excess back to the National Grid. Other ways to generate energy include utilising wind power and heating or cooling your home with a heat pump.
7. Modern design methods
There are plenty of DIY eco-home build opportunities out there, but to make your home fit for purpose it’s best to enlist the help of professionals who have the traditional and not-so-traditional tools of the trade. Crucial in making the most of your modern sustainable build is Building Information Modelling and Computer-aided Design.
Architectectural Designers can use CAD drawings to give you an accurate idea of your finished home before it’s finalised, so you can make tweaks before work starts and save yourself hassle and money if flaws, miscalculations or inefficiencies are found. Meanwhile, BIM can accurately plan out the full lifecycle of an eco-friendly home from design to build and end-use, calculating the exact quantities of materials required, streamlining use and logistics, and even identifying energy inefficiencies to ensure the build is sustainable.
Invest in the future of home design
Building an eco-home isn’t just an investment in your future, but the future of the planet. Although the effort and money involved in building an eco-friendly home may be more than building a conventional home at first, the realities of enjoying a sustainable lifestyle will actually save you energy and money over time. So, plan and build your eco-home today with AC Design Solutions and enjoy the full benefits. Contact us to discuss everything from building regulations services in London to BIM architecture London wide.