Sustainable and Eco Friendly Housing

publication date: Sep 23, 2008
author/source: Kate Faulkner

Sustainable and Eco Friendly Housing
The future of our energy resources is clearly an issue. Unfortunately it's our past and current usage that is going to ensure that our future costs will only increase, whether it is electricity or gas. Unless somebody invents or discovers a new, renewable, energy source that we can all access.

We've all seen the new electric cars and we've even seen programmes about running trains on the remains of cow's intestines, yes you did read it right! However what is possible now is to keep our homes warm and powered without relying on finite gas, electric and oil supplies. It can be cheaper and will definitely have a positive impact on the environment.

This factsheet highlights all the places that you can visit to help understand how you can either build an eco friendly or sustainable home from scratch, buy one already made or make changes to your current home. We have summarised some of the information below and then detailed where you can go and get further help from for your particular project.

Is There a Difference Between Eco Friendly and Sustainable?
Trying to find definitions of eco friendly and sustainable housing isn't too easy! It appears that they mean different things to different people/organisations. However, from anything we have found, sustainable housing is a more long term, larger project aim.

For a good example of this, it's worth looking at Sherwood Energy Village. This is not just about one property, but about building a whole area that positively impacts on the environment. It has been so successful that it has won many awards including, 'Enterprising Britain' Award. Another project to have a look at is in Beddington, Sutton in the Home Counties, called 'BedZED'.

In comparison to 'sustainable housing', eco friendly is more of a term that seems to describe an individual's property.

Click here for a list of organisations that give practical help for sustainable/eco friendly housing.
Building a Sustainable and Eco Friendly Home
It isn't that hard to build a property that is environmentally friendly. Essentially you need to follow three rules of thumb:-

1. Use materials that don't use up finite resources.
2. Make sure you insulate your property, reducing the need for artificial heating.
3. Utililise new and old technology to provide the heating/power/water that you need.

For more information, the Association for the Environment  give ten pointers towards more sustainable buildings which stress the importance of insulation, choice of appliances and renewables. They also point out the importance of not just having a sustainable home, but also taking care of your consumption/use of food, transport and water.

The type of materials that are considered green are ones which don't affect the environment such as concrete which, in its production, causes huge amounts of CO2 to be added to the atmosphere. However, products such as timber, straw and sheep’s wool are all environmentally friendly and can be used to build or insulate a home.

Environmentally Friendly Products
There are companies that specialise in sourcing all sorts of green products to build with such as Natural Building and Construction Resources. The most well known green utility providers are solar energy, rain harvesting resources and of course simply burning wood rather than gas or electricity to keep warm.  However there are many more that you can consider. Below we have listed sites by utility type that will hopefully help to think through which is right for you.

Solar Heating
For information about solar heating have a look at the International Energy Saving Association website.

Sunpowered Energy Systems
Simplee Solar

Rain Harvesting
By carefully recycling or collecting water for yourself, then you could save up to 50% of your water consumption (reference Rain harvesting). Here are some sites which offer help and guidance on how to harvest the rain:-

Envrionment Agency
Rain Harvesting

Seminars, Training and Information Resources
Other information resources that cover eco friendly or sustainable homes are the Self Build Magazines and the Self Build Shows. Another company that provides helpful detailed information, especially for historic and eco friendly homes is Wormersleys. They also run good value training courses for under £100 which can help in selecting products, building an eco friendly home and working with straw bales. They also have a really good 'Frequently Asked Questions' section and you can email them for help.

A further site to look at is Greener Homes and Buildings which has a list of events and information to help with your build.

If you are looking at financing your self build you could try the Ecology Building Society or specialist mortgage lender to the self build market, Buildstore.

Buying a Sustainable and Eco Friendly Home
Many new build companies sell their homes based on the reduced utility costs, and indeed a new home is typically better built to reduce the need for heat. However, many of the materials and the build process itself often means that unless they have been built to strict environmental criteria, that they cannot be called sustainable or eco friendly. For more information on how new homes help to reduce heating bills visit the New Homes website.

There is a useful article on 'Find a Property' website about eco homes builder Greener Living.

There are however some builders and developments that specialise in environmentally friendly homes. It is important to make sure that you discuss with any builder exactly how the property has or is going to be built. There is no real regulation in this market to ensure that the property meets any specific standards.

Newhall Project
This is a fantastic new project in Harlow that is producing not just eco friendly homes, but a whole eco friendly community. They have won many awards for this development including What House Awards and the RIBA Adobe aware for design.

Jones Nash
This company will plan your new building, be it a chalet or a garden office, an extension or a new house. They only use selected products which are renewable, recycled or carbon neutral, whenever possible. They provide further eco friendly products to make the whole transition to ‘off grid’ renewable energy, as straight forward as possible. This includes wood, solar and wind heating as well as rain harvesting collection.

Sherwood Energy Village
Sherwood Energy Village is a unique initiative that has transformed a 91-acre former colliery into an environmental enterprise.  The site comprises industry, commerce, housing, education, recreation, tourism and leisure. As site owners and concept developers, Sherwood Energy Village will be constructing 186 dwellings. All houses will be designed and built to meet high energy efficient and best practice standards, cutting energy bills for householders.

The Beddington Zero Energy Development, is an environmentally friendly, energy efficient mix of housing and work space in Beddington, Sutton. BedZED will only use energy from renewable sources generated on site. They have a brochure that you can download.

Oaksey Park
These are essentially 'second' properties for people wanting to buy into a gorgeous location in the Cotswolds. The properties are built on a 'self build' basis, albeit that you buy the plot and then contract for the build, so effectively it is all done for you. They have received an 'excellent' from the Eco Homes Accreditation Scheme.

Making your Current Home Sustainable and Eco Friendly
There are some incredibly simple and cheap ways to live in your home in a much greener way. These can be as easy as just buying energy saving light bulbs which cost less than £10, but can save you money year after year - and help contribute to saving the environment.

The first thing to do is an 'energy check' online , which is free from the Energy Saving Trust.
Secondly, here is a list of 'the top ten' ways that could help you to use less energy in your home:-

1. Insulating your home
2. Recycle as much as possible and buy recycled products
3. Using energy efficient light bulbs
4. Use economy settings on your appliances
5. Turn your appliances off as often as you can rather than leaving them on standby
6. Buy energy saving appliances
7. Double glaze windows
8. Draught proof doors and windows
9. Buy a condensing boiler
10.Fix any leaky taps that you may have

To find out how much these energy saving measures could help, try out the Energy Saving's Trust Calculator - a four bed house could save over £1500 per year!

There are also some more extensive ways that you can turn your home into an environmentally friendly one, some of which are even encouraged by the government and therefore attract subsidies and grants - saving you money to boot! In some cases, you may even be eligible for a grant, checkout the Energy Saving's Trust website for more information. They will also give you a guide to choosing and installing any of the following:-

1. Insulation
2. Solar panels, wind, biomass, heat pumps or biofuels
3. Rain harvesting

For more information on how to make your home energy efficient, visit the energy efficiency information provided by Homebuilding & Renovating.
Articles, Case Studies and More Help
Here are some case studies and articles:-

The Eco House that George Built
This is an article about turning a former council house in Oxford into an energy efficient one - and saves 60% on the fuel bills every year!

The A To Z of Eco Friendly Housing
This is an article about the environmentally friendly housing development in Beddington, Surrey.

Homes of the Future
An article about building an environmentally friendly home.

House Hunter Eco Friendly House
Help from the Independent about finding an eco friendly home to purchase.

There are some good magazines that you can subscribe to, some with good online websites with a mass of case studies, particularly about building your own eco friendly home. There are also links to a couple of online book sellers too, but checkout if you can get them cheaper with Amazon first.

Homebuilding & Renovation
Subscription is to the magazine and website and costs a little more than the others - around £36 per year.

Build It Magazine
Subscription is to the magazine and the website and costs around £33 per year.

Self Build & Design
Subscription can be magazine and website or website only and costs between £20 and £34 per year.

Green Futures
A leading magazine on environmental solutions and sustainable futures which costs around £24 per year.

Shows and Seminars
The Homebuilding and Renovation Show is held around the country six times a year from Scotland down to the South West. They usually have some seminars on eco friendly homes and have many suppliers attending the show too. Tickets can be gained for free if booked well in advance.

You can also visit the following website to find out about seminars and projects to learn more about eco friendly homes:-

The Centre for Alternative Technology Courses
They run an enormous amount of courses which range in price from a few hundred to £500. Some are residential courses, but include Timber Framed Self Build through to clay plastering! You can even visit them for the day. You get a concession if you arrive by green transport such as a bike, although make sure the sun is shining as many of their exhibits are outdoors.

Need help with a property problem? Have a question? Why not call Designs on Property on 07585 897128 or Contact Us via email.
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