Contributed by Sasha Francis
When you imagine an eco-home you can’t be blamed for thinking of a timber-clad, grass roofed dwelling with wind turbines lining the approach – however a house’s eco-friendly credentials aren’t always as obvious as you may think.
With a multitude of advances in construction technology and materials it’s becoming easier than ever to construct a highly energy efficient household without it governing your style and design choices.
For many people it’s not enough to just build a more thermally efficient and energy-saving home. They want the materials and labour used to be as sustainable as possible, perhaps even sourced as locally as possible. In that way, they limit the amount of energy that goes into the construction of the home. They reduce the embodied energy or impact of construction.
When planning the building of an eco-home there are several considerations, starting with Passivhaus Design. Passivhaus Design is the industry recognised standard for design and construction of environmentally friendly properties. To achieve Passivhaus standard, the energy required to heat the property must not exceed 15kWh/m2. This figure is determined by calculating the maximum amount of heat that can be delivered using a fresh supply of air at the minimum required ventilation rate. To achieve it, the designer must think carefully about the size, shape and orientation of the home to ensure good heat retention, airtightness and natural ventilation.
Although Passivhaus is the industry standard you don’t have to fully commit to that level in order to achieve a more environmentally friendly home. You’re probably familiar with solar energy generation. Solar panels are now a very common sight on buildings. Not only can they reduce your dependency on fossil fuels, but can save you significant money in the long run. An important element to consider in construction when implementing solar panels is building orientation. Install them wherever possible so that they faces south (when in the Northern Hemisphere). Also, consider seasonal shading to prevent overheating the house in the summer.
(Editor’s note: for more detail on this idea, read Saving Energy with Passive Buildings and The Passive House: Sustainable, Comfortable, Affordable.)
The way in which you heat your home can also dramatically reduce your impact on the environment. A wood burner utilises materials that would otherwise be discarded. They therefore provide a carbon neutral fuel source. They are incredibly dependable and low cost. Another heating solution (note: when installed and used effectively) is underfloor heating. It’s not just for expensive hotels and spas. You can install underfloor heating in the most-used rooms in the home to warm the space. Doing so can increase energy efficiency by 40%.
Possibly the easiest way to conserve energy in a home, whether a new-build or a pre-existing property, is to implement smart technology. By simply being aware of how much energy you are using, you’ll be surprised how easily you can reduce consumption. Doing so saves you money on your utility bills and reduces your impact on the environment.
If you are looking to construct your own eco home, it’s worth considering talking to an expert about how to best implement environmentally friendly properties into the design. The infographic below also gives some further ideas as to further eco-friendly home construction tips.