The Rise of the Eco Home

Consumers are increasingly demanding sustainable products in many areas of their lives. From ethically, responsibly produced clothing to food with less plastic packaging, people want to be able to make purchases that have as little impact on the planet as possible. Buying a home is no exception and we can already see the green housing market booming…

What Is An Eco Home?

Eco homes were once considered eccentric and exclusive. The term conjures up an image of a cabin in the woods with its own wind turbine. Or a hyper-modern glass spaceship built into a hillside. But this is no longer the case. Eco homes can be much more normal than that.

There is no specific set of criteria that defines an eco home. It just means a building which tries to minimise its impact on the environment

Considerations could include sourcing sustainable building materials, replacing ecology lost in the building process and blending in with the local environment – for example, via a ‘green roof’, pictured right. Maximising energy efficiency and conserving resources is important too. Some houses might harvest and recycle rainwater. Renewable energy systems – including heat pumps for heating and solar panels for electricity – are also common features of eco homes.

Photo credit: self-build.co.uk

What's So Great About Eco Homes?

First up, eco homes are better for the environment. According to the World Green Building Council, building and construction are collectively responsible for 39% of global carbon emissions, with operational emissions (from energy used to heat, cool and light buildings) accounting for 28%. 

If we can improve the energy efficiency of buildings and power them from renewable sources, we can massively reduce their production of harmful emissions that cause climate change.

Eco homes also often result in healthier living spaces for their inhabitants. They tend to make use of more natural light, open space and green areas. They can be kept at a more consistent temperature and have higher quality air. Smart features and renewable energy systems also give inhabitants greater control over their own energy generation and storage.

Another great benefit of eco homes is the financial savings. Eco homes are cheaper to run because their energy bills and maintenance costs are lower. They can even make money if they generate surplus energy (for example, via solar panels) that can be sold back to the grid. One property in Wales is reported to make its owners £700 a year through renewable energy incentives!

Adding eco-friendly features can also increase the value of a property. Research by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC, 2013) looked at over 300,000 property sales in England between 1995 and 2011. It found that energy saving improvements could increase a home’s value by an average of 14% and up to 38% in some regions.

A Booming Market

Self-build projects – where the inhabitant (often with the help of an architect) designs their own home – are becoming more popular. Customers are increasingly drawn to having greater control over their property’s design and features, resulting in a home that fits their lifestyle perfectly. 

Check out this one, designed and built by architect-owners Catherine Roberts and Steven Harris. It’s zero carbon, largely due to its airtight design which reduces the energy required for heat, and cost just £175,000 to develop.

There is a growing number of ‘green’ architectural firms and building consultancy companies to help people make their homes more eco-friendly.

Photo credit: homebuilding.co.uk

No Longer Niche

Even though self-builds can actually be very cost-effective, they still require quite a lot of time and planning. This means that building a brand new house from scratch is not a realistic option for many people.

Luckily, thanks to technological developments (such as the production of ‘solar tiles’ in the last few years) and growing public concern for the environment, eco homes are becoming much more mainstream. The market is increasingly offering environmentally friendly homes that are modern, attractive and reasonably priced!

82% of homeowners would pay more for a home that allows them to 'go green'...

…according to research by housing developer Redrow in 2017, which surveyed over 1700 prospective homebuyers.

Photo credit: zedfactory.com

A pioneering example of such housing is the Bed ZED Project in Wallington, a suburb of London. Officially named the Beddington Zero Energy Development, it is the UK’s largest carbon-neutral eco community and consists of 82 homes fitted with eco-friendly and energy saving features.

The terraces face south to maximise solar heat gain and most of the buildings have green roofs. There is even a small combined heat and power (CHP) plant which provides most of the estate’s energy from renewable sources. The project has won national and international awards for sustainability, innovation and design.

Large-scale property developers are also taking note. Since early 2019, house builder Redrow has provided integrated solar PV systems for all new housing developments with low carbon requirements. And 72% of homes built by Berkley Group in 2018/19 are supplied with energy from low-carbon or renewable sources.

The demand for green housing is increasing rapidly and this trend shows no sign of slowing down. The industry will be further boosted as environmental and energy standards for UK building regulations become stricter. We can’t be sure exactly what the houses of the future might look like, but it’s likely they will be quite different to the ones we live in today.

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