Over the last decade or so, the green building movement in the UK has gone from strength to strength. Not only do energy-efficient additions help to combat climate change, by reducing carbon emissions, but also save money in terms of running costs.
Confronted with such a win-win situation, more and more self-builders are looking to make their homes ‘greener’ - but knowing where to start can be half the challenge.
In this guide, we explore the key things to consider when constructing your eco-friendly home and delve into ways you can reduce the costs of running your self-build (in terms of heating, lighting, water use, et cetera) without compromising on the aesthetics of your dream home.
A critical milestone in any building project is obtaining Building Regulation approval. As the government gears up towards hitting its carbon emission targets, British Building Regulations are becoming ever more stringent. To make sure you abide by these rules, you can consult the necessary documentation, which outlines the minimum requirements (with respect to conservation of fuel and power) that all new housing has to hit.
The National Planning Policy Framework also sets out how to reduce carbon emissions and protect the environment, which could be an important factor when seeking out planning permission.
Choosing the right materials well in advance is the best approach to creating an eco-friendly home. And that means paying particular attention to elements such as insulation.
Good levels of insulation are like choosing the perfect jumper - keeping you warm in the winter, but not stifling you in summer. There are many forms of insulation for your home, which can significantly reduce heat loss and have the knock-on effect of lowering your heating bills.
In terms of roof, wall and floor insulation, some of the most popular choices for residential properties include: Aerogel, Vacuum Insulated Panels, Multifoils, Sheepswool, Hemp, Wood Fibre and Paper Based (such as recycled newspaper).
Poorly designed/chosen windows are a common source of major heat loss from homes in the winter. A number of factors can mitigate this such as frame material, frame types and glazing. A common approach to improve the energy-efficiency of your windows is to add double or triple-glazing. The number of layers of glass planes will resist heat flow due to the insulating air or gas-filled spaces between each pane.
Materials, such as brick and concrete, can absorb warmth from the sun’s rays during the day and release it into the home, as external temperatures drop, which will all help to reduce energy consumption. In comparison, timber frames tend to fluctuate in temperature due to their lower mass levels, so they heat up and cool down much more quickly. Yet timber frames are largely hollow, so they’re relatively easy to insulate to a good standard.
One way to make sure your materials are as ‘green’ as possible is to source locally, which will reduce your carbon footprint. Another way is finding out if your materials meet high environmental and social standards. For example if you’re buying wood, you should look for the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) sticker, which means you can be confident that buying it won’t mean harming the world’s forests.