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Sustainable building means more attractive and comfortable homes

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As a child, come the evening when everyone was back from their respective jobs, schools and social engagements, my father would lock the door of our house and ‘shut the world out’ – a saying that has stayed with me and as a result, those I have lived with, ever since.

However by locking the door, neither we nor our homes cease to interact with the society and the environment inhabited. Around 27% of the carbon emissions in the UK come from our homes, according to the Centre for Sustainable Emissions.

Whilst there are actions we can take to reduce this, which will no doubt be the subject of another column (such as turn down the heating, not run the tap whilst brushing teeth etc) there is a growing realisation that larger, more structural change is needed. For a home to care for those living within it, it doesn’t have to be taking from the world around it.

This is where the concept of sustainable housing comes in. Housing development has direct and indirect impacts on the environment. Through its design, construction, and operation, housing represents a significant level of consumption of natural materials, water, and energy.

Green or sustainable development is that which allows people to build structures that fulfil their purpose whilst minimising the impact upon the environment, in all the above ways, for both current users and future generations.

Whilst the UK government has set a target for all new build housing to be zero-carbon by 2016, it is not clear whether this means that the building is zero-carbon until the point of its construction, or for life. This is the only true indication that a building is sustainable – that it continues to be efficient and enables the environment in which it is in to thrive.

Ultimately, a home is there to look after its inhabitants, and so the most truly environmentally sustainable houses are those that allow the owner to live in a warm and healthy place without having a devastating environmental impact.

No matter how sustainable a building may have been in its design and construction, it can only remain so if it is operated responsibly and maintained properly. Currently, £23 billion is spent annually on home renovation, maintenance and repair.

Sustainable housing is more fuel efficient. Around 4.5 million people in the UK live in fuel poverty (latest figures from Department for Energy & Climate Change) – the largest number in Europe. If homes did not need so much energy to operate, this would not be a problem.

New developments are being built that not only use fewer resources in their construction, but consider how the property can be maintained in a more energy efficient way. Southerly facing windows let in more light – both aesthetically pleasing and reducing the need to switch on electric lights. Insulated walls are warming and reduce heating bills, as well as preventing the need for a huge metal radiator.

In an effort to reduce energy usage, designers look to cut out air leakage and may smartly position windows and walls and place awnings to offer shade during the summer while maximising solar gain in the winter. All of these things demonstrate that for a home to be environmentally friendly, it does not have to be uncomfortable and unappealing.

There are also some more systemised structures that can help to reduce energy usage. Solar power has become a more ingrained and acceptable form of environmental efficiency, via panels and heating, and waste-water may be minimised by utilising water conserving fixtures such as ultra-low flush toilets and low-flow shower heads. ‘Grey water’ such as that from the washing machine can be used to flush said toilets.

Starting at environmental impact from this level is a smart choice, as it appears to infringe less. People don’t have to make the decision to live sustainably; they just do.

Sustainable building development must therefore reduce energy consumption for both the transportation and building costs, as well as the living costs, enabling people to efficiently use energy, water and other resources in their day to day life. The common objective is that building should reduce the overall impact of the built environment on human health and the natural environment.

The most criticised issue about constructing environmentally friendly buildings is the price. Solar panels don’t come cheap, and modern technologies tend to cost more money.

However studies have shown that most green buildings cost a premium of less than 2%, but yield 10 times as much over the entire life of the building. As usual, it is an offset between knowledge of upfront cost and the unknown lifecycle cost. A study in the US has shown that over a 20-year life period, some green buildings have yielded $53 to $71 per square foot back on investment.

Environmentally sound and economically viable? Now you’re talking.

Francesca Baker is curious about life and enjoys writing about it. A freelance journalist, event organiser, and minor marketing whizz, she has plenty of ideas, and likes to share them. She writes about music, literature, life, travel, art, London, and other general musings, and organises events that contain at least one of the above. You can find out more at www.andsoshethinks.co.uk.

Further reading:

‘What was an ecohouse is now just a really well-designed house’

Campaigners say government planning policy will ‘wreck countryside’

Study paints UK as a leader in green building

Green homes: will patience pay?

The benefits of self-build to the UK energy landscape

Francesca Baker is curious about life and enjoys writing about it. A freelance journalist, event organiser, and minor marketing whizz, she has plenty of ideas, and likes to share them. She writes about music, literature, life, travel, art, London, and other general musings, and organises events that contain at least one of the above. You can find out more at www.andsoshethinks.co.uk.

Environment

How to Build An Eco-Friendly Home Pool

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eco-friendly pool for home owners
Licensed Image from Shutterstock - By alexandre zveiger

Swimming pools are undoubtedly one of the most luxurious features that any home can have. But environmentally-conscious homeowners who are interested in having a pool installed may feel that the potential issues surrounding wasted water, chemical use and energy utilized in heating the water makes having a home swimming pool difficult to justify.

But there is good news, because modern technologies are helping to make pools far less environmentally harmful than ever before. If you are interested in having a pool built but you want to make sure that it is as eco-friendly as possible, you can follow the advice below. From natural pools to solar panel heating systems, there are many steps that you can take.

Choose a natural pool to go chemical free

For those homeowners interested in an eco-friendly pool, the first thing to consider is a natural pool. Natural swimming pools utilise reed bed technology or moss-filtration to naturally filter out dirt from the water. These can be combined with eco-pumps to allow you to have a pool that is completely free from chemicals.

Not only are traditional pool chemicals potentially harmful to the skin, they also mean that you can contaminate the area around the pool if chemical-filled water leaks or is splashed around. This can be bad for your garden and the environment general.

It will be necessary to work with an expert pool builder to ensure that you have the expertise to get your natural pool installed properly. But the results with definitely be worth the effort and planning that you have to put in.

Avoid concrete if possible

The vast majority of home pools are built using concrete but this is far from ideal in terms of an eco-friendly pool for a large number of reasons. Concrete pools are typically built and then lined to stop keep out any bacteria. This is theoretically fine, except that concrete is porous and the lining can be liable to erode or break which can allow bacteria to enter the pool.

It is much better to use a non-porous material such as fibreglass or carbon ceramic composite for your pool. Typically, these swimming pools are supplied in a one-piece shell rather than having to be built from scratch, ensuring a bacteria-free environment. These non-porous materials make it impossible for the water to become contaminated through bacteria seeping into the pool by osmosis.

The further problem that can arise from having a concrete pool is that once this bacteria begins to get into the pool it can be more difficult for a natural filtration system to be effective. This can lead to you having to resort to using chemicals to get the pool clean.

Add solar panels

It is surprising how many will go to extreme lengths to ensure that their pool is as eco-friendly as possible in terms of building and maintaining it but then fall down on something extremely obvious. No matter what steps you take with the rest of your pool, it won’t really be worth the hassle if you are going to be conventionally heating your pool up, using serious amounts of energy to do so.

Thankfully there are plenty of steps you can take to ensure that your pool is heated to a pleasant temperature while causing minimal damage to the environment. Firstly, gathering energy using solar panels has become a very popular way to reduce consumption of electricity as well as decreasing utility bills. Many businesses offer solar panels specifically for swimming pools.

Additionally, installing an energy efficient heat pump or boiler to work in conjunction with your solar panels can be hugely beneficial.

Cover it!

Finally, it is worth remembering that there are many benefits to investing in a pool cover. When you cover your pool you increase its heat retention which stops you from having to power a pump or boiler to keep it warm. This works in conjunction with the solar panels and eco-friendly heating system that you have already had installed.

Additionally, you cover helps to keep out dirt and other detritus that can enter the pool, bringing in bacteria. Anything that you can do to keep bacteria out will be helpful in terms of keeping it clean.

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Features

4 Ways To Get a Green House in 2018

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green house and homes
Featured Image From Shutterstock - By Photographee.eu

Demand for green houses is surging. In 2020, almost 20% of all homes on the market will be green.

If you would like to buy a green home, this is a great time to look into it. Prices are still pretty low and there are a lot more financing options available than there were right after the recession.

If you’re thinking about buying a house, now could be a very good time to make the move! A number of factors in the housing market right now mean that you might be able to afford your dream home. Although in many parts of the country house prices are still rising, if you do your research and plan wisely, there are lots of good schemes to help you get your foot on the property ladder, or trade up to the house you’ve always wanted.

Interest Rates and Stamp Duty

Although the Bank of England raised interest rates by 0.25% recently, they remain very low, which is good news if you’re thinking of taking out a mortgage. However, rates may not stay low and it’s predicted that there’ll be a further rate rise during 2018, so don’t wait too long. Another factor that’s going to help first time buyers in particular is the Chancellor’s decision to abolish stamp duty for first timers purchasing properties for under £300,000.

Different options

For many people looking to buy a green home, raising a deposit of between 5% and 20% may not be a realistic option, in which case there are a growing number of schemes to help. Increasingly popular are shared ownership schemes, through which the buyer pays a percentage of the full value of the property (typically between 25% and 75%) and the local council or a housing association pays the rest, and takes part ownership. This is suitable for buyers who may struggle to meet the up-front costs of buying outright. There will often be a service charge or management fees to pay in addition to the mortgage. The Government’s Help To Buy scheme is a good place to start looking if you’re interested in this option. This scheme is now available to people looking to buy green homes too.

ISA Options

If you’re still saving for a deposit, another scheme is the Help to Buy ISA. You can get a 25% boost to your savings on amounts up to £200 per month with this scheme. It’s only open to first time buyers and you can claim a maximum of £3000.

Other costs

Green home buyers are going to run into a number of other ancillary costs, most of which are common to other homebuyers.

When calculating how much you can afford, it’s vitally important to remember that buying a house comes with a whole host of other costs. Depending on the cost of the property that you’re buying, you may have to pay stamp duty of anywhere between 1% and 5%. There’ll be estate agents fee if you’re also selling a property, although there are a wide range of online estate agents operating such as Purple Bricks or Right Move that have lower fees than traditional high street companies. Conveyancing costs to a solicitor can add another £1000-£3000 and you may need to take out life insurance and hire a moving firm.

There are other initial costs such as, fixing parts of the home that aren’t upto your taste. Getting new furniture to fill up all the new-found space in your new home. If you are moving away from the city, you need to consider the cost of transportation as well, as it can take up quite a lot over time. Take your time, do your homework and shop around and soon you could be getting the keys to your perfect home.

I hope this article was useful for you to learn more about the basics that you need to be aware of before you start the process of buying your first home. If you have any doubts with regards to this, let us know through the comments and we will be glad to help you out. If you have any suggestions regarding how we can improve the article, let us know them through the comments as well for us to improve.

Do you have any other reservations against buying your first home? Do you see your house as an asset or a liability? Do you think it is important for everyone to get themselves a new home? Let us know through the comments.

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