What are the best environmental features to consider when designing your own home?


What do you think are the best and most effective environmental features to consider when designing your own home?

Eleanor Parker, Edinburgh


Hello Eleanor,

Everyone has their own personal agenda when it comes to environmental issues. For me the one very near the top of the list is reducing energy use in your new home. The most cost effective way to do this is to 'super insulate'. That is, insulate way above the minimum requirements laid down under the Building Regulations Part L. This is your one opportunity to 'build in' the materials that will keep you warmer for potentially the rest of your lives.

The second, and equally important factor is to concentrate on a construction that is as air-tight as you can manage. No point heating up all the air, only for it to leak out the gaps. Having got it air tight you must introduce effective ventilation.

Your budget will dictate everything, but try and incorporate 'renewable' energy technology in your build - solar PV, solar thermal and heat pumps just work, but they require the right building orientation, and, or a suitable site arrangement that will accommodate a potentially noisy heat pump. You can get quiet ones, but inevitably they cost more.

You might also wish to look at the environmental impact of the materials you are using to build your new home. Perhaps consider their sustainability credentials, and their 'embodied energy' - i.e. don't buy timber from Brazil, when you can get an equivalent from the next town. This takes time and commitment on your behalf, but if you care for the environment, you will realise enormous satisfaction knowing your construction carbon footprint is as small as it can be.

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