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Building a sustainable home of your own

A recent trend has been to build your own self-sufficient home, which gives you everything you want from a house, whilst also being friendly to the earth. Charlotte Reid has been finding out why having a sustainable home has become popular.

The idea of building your own home that is seemingly at one with its surrounding environment would perhaps fit in more with the television programme, Grand Designs.

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A recent trend has been to build your own self-sufficient home, which gives you everything you want from a house, whilst also being friendly to the earth. Charlotte Reid has been finding out why having a sustainable home has become popular.

The idea of building your own home that is seemingly at one with its surrounding environment would perhaps fit in more with the television programme, Grand Designs.

However, over the past few years there have been homeowners and builders wanting to make homes more environmentally friendly.
What makes a building green is the materials used to build it and the methods used to improve the efficiency of it, so less energy is needed to power it.

The trend for sustainable architecture began in the 80s.Sustainable architecture started to become popular in the 1980s as people started to become aware of other environmental issues too. Sally Hall and her husband set up the Association for Environment Conscious Building (AECB) in 1989 to “generate awareness in the building industry” of the environmental and sustainable options available.

The AECB, the sustainable building association, works by bringing together developers, builders, architects and many more in the building trade to discuss and promote the latest in sustainable homes.

However, the idea of sustainable architecture started to move away from purely the builders’ and architects’ creations, as homeowners started to show an interest in environmental options for their houses.

Architect Luke Tozer, from Pitman Tozer Architects, experts in creating low energy homes, says some of the people who approach him have “their own preoccupations and ideas” when looking how to build an eco-home.

Tozer started to become interested in sustainable architecture when he used himself as a guinea pig and created a low energy home in west London.

The house is called Gap House. Tozer says he enjoyed having the chance to build a new house in London as the opportunities to do so are “fairly few and far between“. He explains that as he wants to live in his house for many years it seemed sensible to “try to build something that is going to last a reasonable amount of time. It makes sense to invest a bit more the initial construction and lower the running costs“.

Tozer points out that some developers started to get interested in sustainability and building because of government legislation, rather than wanting to be to friendlier to the earth.

The Government plan is that by 2016 all new houses built will be carbon neutral, although it was accused of watering down these targets in the budget earlier this year.

What are the advantages?

Green buildings create improved places for people to live and work in whilst also being more efficient and generating less waste.

Sally Hall, AECB, says sustainable architecture “makes sense” but explains that the benefits are “not just from an environmental point of view but obviously if you are going to save energy you can save costs”. As energy costs increase, she explains that this makes the payback from having a more energy efficient home “better and better“.

Although not everyone who is interested in sustainable homes has an ambitious project like the people featured in Grand Designs, Tozer believes that a lot of interest in green building is due to the Channel 4 series. He says, “I think there is a big Kevin McCloud factor in people”.

“It has raised people’s aspirations and made them aware that you need architects and designers to be able to provide these things and take them through often a long and difficult process to get to their goal.”

What is the future?

It is feared that because the coalition government recently cut the Feed-in Tariff, a subsidy for solar panels, that it will have an effect on the amount of people willing to make their houses sustainable.

Hall believes that there will be a drop in the number of people wanting to explore the uses of solar panels.

“I should think a lot of people probably won’t bother going for them because if they can’t get a return then they are not going to bother“, she said.

“It is going to revert back to people who really just want to help the environment not people who want to use it as an investment”.

Tozer believes that the approach that the government took when making the changes was “unfortunate“.

He thought the changes should have been done on a more gradual basis, “to slash them overnight undermines the existing industry. I think it’s unfortunate that they didn’t give some certainty and a longer time period for reducing the Feed in Tariff and industry would have been better able to adapt“.

However, the future of having sustainable homes does not rely solely upon people building their own self sufficient space, as good work can be done by increasing the improvement of already existing homes.

But Tozer explains that this will be a challenge.

“It’s all very well peppering the south facing roofs with PVs [solar photovoltaic panels] but actually what you want to do is reduce the amount of energy that is being used in the first place”.

Hall agrees and explains that one of the best ways to be sustainable in the home is to have better insulation because “it’s a cost effective and a very effective way of making yourself green, making you money and keeping yourself warm“.

This includes simple things like loft insulation and double glazing, as Hall says “you don’t need anything fancy”.

She added that the main issue is “getting people to use less“, this change in behaviour is also important even for people who live in eco-homes as wasting energy could undo all the good work you have done.

“We are a very consumerist and materialistic society and a lot of the adverts we see are geared to make us like that. So if you are very low impact sort of person, minimalist is what we need to make fashionable rather than consumerist.”

If you are interested in sustainable architecture or want to know more about renewable options for your home then contact Good Energy.

Economy

How Going Green Can Save A Company Money

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going green can save company money
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By GOLFX

What is going green?

Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.

The first step in going green

There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.

Making needed changes within the company

After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.

Reducing the common paper waste

paper waste

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Yury Zap

Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.

Make money by spreading the word

Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.

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Energy

5 Easy Things You Can Do to Make Your Home More Sustainable

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sustainable homes
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By Diyana Dimitrova

Increasing your home’s energy efficiency is one of the smartest moves you can make as a homeowner. It will lower your bills, increase the resale value of your property, and help minimize our planet’s fast-approaching climate crisis. While major home retrofits can seem daunting, there are plenty of quick and cost-effective ways to start reducing your carbon footprint today. Here are five easy projects to make your home more sustainable.

1. Weather stripping

If you’re looking to make your home more energy efficient, an energy audit is a highly recommended first step. This will reveal where your home is lacking in regards to sustainability suggests the best plan of attack.

Some form of weather stripping is nearly always advised because it is so easy and inexpensive yet can yield such transformative results. The audit will provide information about air leaks which you can couple with your own knowledge of your home’s ventilation needs to develop a strategic plan.

Make sure you choose the appropriate type of weather stripping for each location in your home. Areas that receive a lot of wear and tear, like popular doorways, are best served by slightly more expensive vinyl or metal options. Immobile cracks or infrequently opened windows can be treated with inexpensive foams or caulking. Depending on the age and quality of your home, the resulting energy savings can be as much as 20 percent.

2. Programmable thermostats

Programmable thermostats

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Olivier Le Moal

Programmable thermostats have tremendous potential to save money and minimize unnecessary energy usage. About 45 percent of a home’s energy is earmarked for heating and cooling needs with a large fraction of that wasted on unoccupied spaces. Programmable thermostats can automatically lower the heat overnight or shut off the air conditioning when you go to work.

Every degree Fahrenheit you lower the thermostat equates to 1 percent less energy use, which amounts to considerable savings over the course of a year. When used correctly, programmable thermostats reduce heating and cooling bills by 10 to 30 percent. Of course, the same result can be achieved by manually adjusting your thermostats to coincide with your activities, just make sure you remember to do it!

3. Low-flow water hardware

With the current focus on carbon emissions and climate change, we typically equate environmental stability to lower energy use, but fresh water shortage is an equal threat. Installing low-flow hardware for toilets and showers, particularly in drought prone areas, is an inexpensive and easy way to cut water consumption by 50 percent and save as much as $145 per year.

Older toilets use up to 6 gallons of water per flush, the equivalent of an astounding 20.1 gallons per person each day. This makes them the biggest consumer of indoor water. New low-flow toilets are standardized at 1.6 gallons per flush and can save more than 20,000 gallons a year in a 4-member household.

Similarly, low-flow shower heads can decrease water consumption by 40 percent or more while also lowering water heating bills and reducing CO2 emissions. Unlike early versions, new low-flow models are equipped with excellent pressure technology so your shower will be no less satisfying.

4. Energy efficient light bulbs

An average household dedicates about 5 percent of its energy use to lighting, but this value is dropping thanks to new lighting technology. Incandescent bulbs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. These inefficient light sources give off 90 percent of their energy as heat which is not only impractical from a lighting standpoint, but also raises energy bills even further during hot weather.

New LED and compact fluorescent options are far more efficient and longer lasting. Though the upfront costs are higher, the long term environmental and financial benefits are well worth it. Energy efficient light bulbs use as much as 80 percent less energy than traditional incandescent and last 3 to 25 times longer producing savings of about $6 per year per bulb.

5. Installing solar panels

Adding solar panels may not be the easiest, or least expensive, sustainability upgrade for your home, but it will certainly have the greatest impact on both your energy bills and your environmental footprint. Installing solar panels can run about $15,000 – $20,000 upfront, though a number of government incentives are bringing these numbers down. Alternatively, panels can also be leased for a much lower initial investment.

Once operational, a solar system saves about $600 per year over the course of its 25 to 30-year lifespan, and this figure will grow as energy prices rise. Solar installations require little to no maintenance and increase the value of your home.

From an environmental standpoint, the average five-kilowatt residential system can reduce household CO2 emissions by 15,000 pounds every year. Using your solar system to power an electric vehicle is the ultimate sustainable solution serving to reduce total CO2 emissions by as much as 70%!

These days, being environmentally responsible is the hallmark of a good global citizen and it need not require major sacrifices in regards to your lifestyle or your wallet. In fact, increasing your home’s sustainability is apt to make your residence more livable and save you money in the long run. The five projects listed here are just a few of the easy ways to reduce both your environmental footprint and your energy bills. So, give one or more of them a try; with a small budget and a little know-how, there is no reason you can’t start today.

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