We are all becoming increasingly aware of our individual responsibilities for safeguarding our planet for future generations, but should that affect decisions we make about renovating our homes or designing new homes? The answer, simply put, is yes.

How much or little we do that has a positive ‘green’ impact will depend on many things including the house itself, its location, our budget, personal ambitions and regulations. Through considered and informed design we aim to provide a home that is a delight to live in, where the technologies and materials available now give us greater opportunities for our homes to be more energy efficient and sustainable.   

Sustainability has been described as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. For buildings this is about using renewable resources in both construction and in use, about having consideration for the environment and improving quality of life. In construction these aspects tend to focus on energy efficiency and reduction in the creation of embodied carbon.

Building Standards

To achieve these aims, the initial focus is on insulation levels, air tightness, and consideration of construction details to minimize ‘thermal bridges’ and maximise heat recovery. Integration of renewable building technologies such as solar panels, biomass, and ground or air source energy systems are complementary options that may also be considered. Building Regulations set minimum standards in terms of energy and thermal efficiency, whilst Passivhaus, first developed in Germany, seeks to combine a high level of occupational comfort with low energy consumption in use. Inevitably different approaches are needed for new and existing buildings where the latter require an approach that understands and is sympathetic to the building fabric. Early consideration of these principles can create an effective strategy for a healthy, comfortable building, that in turn plays a vital role in limiting disruption to our natural environment.

Design Considerations

Defining Your Brief:
Sustainability is not just about performance, incorporate and allow for sustainability from the outset.

Incorporate Technology:
Examples include; solar hot water, ground and air source heating, biomass boiler and mechanical ventilation and heat recovery.

Building Fabric:
‘Build tight, and ventilate right!’. Things to think about include; natural ventilation, natural insulation and green roofs.

Internal Environment:
You can improve health and well-being through temperature, air quality and daylight. Also, natural materials and finishes can improve internal spatial quality.

‘Free’ Energy Savings:
Examples here include; incorporating materials with high ‘thermal mass’ to hold and release heat, using a compact building form, incorporating natural ventilation, optimising the solar orientation and the use of solar shading (pictured above).