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Mythbusting on sustainable homes



Isabel Allen and Simon McWhirter, directors at Hab Housing, explore some of the myths that surround custom-build and explain why it has a key role to play in tackling the UK’s housing crisis. 

This article originally appeared in Blue & Green Tomorrow’s Guide to Sustainable Homes 2013.

Myth one: custom-build is expensive

It doesn’t have to be. We are very mindful that the British public has been bombarded with tales of grands projets – expensive dreams that cost the Earth. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

On the continent, custom-build is seen not as a self-indulgent hobby, but as a means of bringing the cost of home ownership down. Yes, a one-off folly surrounded by extensive grounds is always going to be expensive. But we’re not talking about that. We’re talking about ordinary, modest, housing – often in terraces.

Click here to read The Guide to Sustainable Homes 2013

But rather than showing the customer a finished house and saying, “Lump it or leave it”, we want to establish what it is they really want to buy. In some instances they may want to buy a bare shell with a view to ‘camping out’ until they have raised more money to build in, say, an upper floor. In others, they may have the skills – or the contacts – to carry out much of the work themselves.

Myth two: custom-build houses are wacky and eccentric

Great! We’re all for eccentricity. That said, our primary aim is to offer our customers the chance to own their own home for as low a price as possible.

In practice, this means rational, economic houses; whilst we have spent a lot of time working on the best possible designs, the starting points for them are – for the main part – essentially very simple rectangular forms.

Bearing that in mind though, we’d be disappointed if customers didn’t make their mark on their homes. One of the things that makes volume house-building projects so stultifying is the sense of sameness – the fact that they lack the variety of settlements that have grown organically over time. 

Myth three: it’s risky

Building projects are notoriously risky, especially those with an amateur at the helm. They ride roughshod over programme and budget, causing an awful lot of grief to all concerned. Our mission is to make the whole process less risky and to iron out the kinks.

We’ve designed, tested and – crucially – costed a range of potential house types and so can give an accurate idea as to what any given project is likely to cost. Oh, and all of our plots are set within a carefully thought through masterplan with really high-quality public realm, doing away with the very real risk that you end up with a house that you love in surroundings you hate.

Myth four: custom-build projects take forever to get off the ground

They can, and they do. But ours won’t. Why? Because we take care of the stuff that makes projects get stuck at the starting gate.

We’ll get outline planning consent for our schemes before we market individual plots so that buyers can rest secure in the knowledge that they’re investing in a realisable dream. And we’ll make sure that all our sites have the services (like water, electricity, etc) they need.

Myth five: you can’t get a mortgage to build your own house

Availability of finance is a real problem for British self-builders and custom-builders. But things are changing fast, and our strategy of de-risking custom build will make the process infinitely more attractive to lenders.

Our plan is to work with mortgage companies to smooth the process of accessing suitable finance for your project and will assist our customers with the range of options available.

Isabel Allen and Simon McWhirter are directors at Hab Housing, which was established by Kevin McCloud (Channel 4’s Grand Designs) to tackle the shortage of environmentally-friendly and beautifully-designed housing at the affordable end of the market. Hab, which stands for Happiness Architecture Beauty, recently broke the record for equity crowdfunding, after raising £1.9m on the online platform Crowdcube.

Further reading:

Creating a low-carbon home of your own

Superhomes for a super future

Sustainable design should change our behaviour for good

Sustainable mortgages: designed as if people and the planet matter

The Guide to Sustainable Homes 2013


New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035



renewable energy policy
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Eviart /

New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern is already taking steps towards reducing the country’s carbon footprint. She signed a coalition deal with NZ First in October, aiming to generate 100% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2035.

New Zealand is already one of the greenest countries in the world, sourcing over 80% of its energy for its 4.7 million people from renewable resources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. The majority of its electricity comes from hydro-power, which generated 60% of the country’s energy in 2016. Last winter, renewable generation peaked at 93%.

Now, Ardern is taking on the challenge of eliminating New Zealand’s remaining use of fossil fuels. One of the biggest obstacles will be filling in the gap left by hydropower sources during dry conditions. When lake levels drop, the country relies on gas and coal to provide energy. Eliminating fossil fuels will require finding an alternative source to avoid spikes in energy costs during droughts.

Business NZ’s executive director John Carnegie told Bloomberg he believes Ardern needs to balance her goals with affordability, stating, “It’s completely appropriate to have a focus on reducing carbon emissions, but there needs to be an open and transparent public conversation about the policies and how they are delivered.”

The coalition deal outlined a few steps towards achieving this, including investing more in solar, which currently only provides 0.1% of the country’s energy. Ardern’s plans also include switching the electricity grid to renewable energy, investing more funds into rail transport, and switching all government vehicles to green fuel within a decade.

Zero net emissions by 2050

Beyond powering the country’s electricity grid with 100% green energy, Ardern also wants to reach zero net emissions by 2050. This ambitious goal is very much in line with her focus on climate change throughout the course of her campaign. Environmental issues were one of her top priorities from the start, which increased her appeal with young voters and helped her become one of the youngest world leaders at only 37.

Reaching zero net emissions would require overcoming challenging issues like eliminating fossil fuels in vehicles. Ardern hasn’t outlined a plan for reaching this goal, but has suggested creating an independent commission to aid in the transition to a lower carbon economy.

She also set a goal of doubling the number of trees the country plants per year to 100 million, a goal she says is “absolutely achievable” using land that is marginal for farming animals.

Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson believes that phasing out fossil fuels should be a priority for the new prime minister. She says that in order to reach zero net emissions, Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar.”

A worldwide shift to renewable energy

Addressing climate change is becoming more of a priority around the world and many governments are assessing how they can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally-friendly energy sources. Sustainable energy is becoming an increasingly profitable industry, giving companies more of an incentive to invest.

Ardern isn’t alone in her climate concerns, as other prominent world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have made renewable energy a focus of their campaigns. She isn’t the first to set ambitious goals, either. Sweden and Norway share New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045 and 2030, respectively.

Scotland already sources more than half of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to fully transition by 2020, while France announced plans in September to stop fossil fuel production by 2040. This would make it the first country to do so, and the first to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.

Many parts of the world still rely heavily on coal, but if these countries are successful in phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable resources, it could serve as a turning point. As other world leaders see that switching to sustainable energy is possible – and profitable – it could be the start of a worldwide shift towards environmentally-friendly energy.


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How Going Green Can Save A Company Money



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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