With many of us looking at ways to live more sustainably, eco-friendly homes have become a top priority for many UK homebuyers.
Eco houses can be designed in many ways to give them this title, including being energy efficient once inhabited, reducing emissions during the build process, using sustainable materials, or negating the effects on the surrounding environment.
This process goes far beyond installing solar panels and LED light bulbs – nods to eco-efficiency in standard homes – but is an all-encompassing holistic ethos of living and living well.
What makes a home eco-friendly?
Below are the essential energy-efficient features to look out for when buying an eco-friendly home:
- High insulation levels ensure no warm air escapes during the winter, making it cheaper and easier to heat your home.
- Triple-glazed windows. This option is especially effective if your windows face south to absorb the light and heat, with colder north-facing windows minimised.
- If you can operate heating and hot water using renewable sources such as biomass boilers, this will reduce the effects on the environment even further.
- Solar panels provide renewable energy and, in some instances, more than you need, which you can sell back to the National Grid.
- Fully airtight seals and mechanical air ventilation systems reduce draughts, thus reducing energy consumption even further.
- Adopting a Passivhaus approach targets the most environmentally-friendly principles and is recognised as the gold standard of eco-homes.
Pro Tip: The Association for Environment Conscious Building champions sustainable building processes, and they’re well placed to advise on it.
What materials do eco-friendly homes use?
Using natural materials such as wood, mud, wool, and straw rather than plastics and concrete will boost your eco-credentials even further.
Creating concrete produces high CO2 emissions, with substances such as limecrete providing a better alternative.
If you’re building an eco-home, it’s worth researching these different materials and getting to grips with how you can implement them.
The Forestry Stewardship Council is responsible for the provenance of its timber and the certification that sustainable methods have produced it.
Knowing the source of all your construction materials means you’re more likely to confirm their eco-friendly credentials.
Re-used and recycled materials such as glass and railway sleepers are also ideal, and you can readily and economically source them at salvage yards.
A carbon-neutral build focuses on items that offset any carbon emissions used in the construction process, plus the energy used for heat and power.
Getting rid of any hard-standing areas such as brick, tarmac, and concrete and using green spaces instead – especially ones left to the wild as much as possible, with a mixture of flora and fauna, will attract insects for added pollination and help with drainage. You could even introduce a green wall or roof with additional specialist planting.
How much will it cost?
Building an eco-home is more expensive than a traditional property as the materials needed are less easy to come across. However, there are ways you can help reduce costs without compromising your green credentials.
Constructing the property in a standard shape, such as a rectangle, and opting for a smaller footprint rather than going for anything more elaborate makes things easier and cheaper. You may also find that you’re left with less wastage from offcuts – although these could easily be incorporated elsewhere in the build if required.
Draught-proofing an existing property can cost as low as £300 and is one of the most energy-efficient methods you can implement in your home.
Changing standard single or double glazing for triple glazing is another easy fix for increasing efficiency and reducing thermal losses.
What type of mortgage do you need?
As you might expect, getting a mortgage for an eco-home, whether it’s one you’re building yourself or an existing structure, is more complicated than a standard mortgage.
Lenders are more cautious about committing funds to what they see as non-standard construction. “Eco properties fall under the category of “unusual properties” which can make lenders reluctant to mortgage them,” says Pete Mugleston, Mortgage Broker and MD at Online Mortgage Advisor. “This is because most lenders want to know that your property provides good security for the loan, so in the unfortunate event of repossession, they can resell it easily.”
Taking out a self-build eco loan means an independent surveyor will come to look around the property after each stage of the build and will report back to the lender.
Often, you’ll receive your funds in installments, allowing you to pay for the build as you go along. Although this approach should help keep you within budget, you may also lose out on economies of scale and have to wait longer for supplies.
However, it’s also possible that you won’t need to make any mortgage payments until your project is complete, although interest will still accrue, and you’ll be liable for that.
Eco homes are booming in the UK, and many environmentally-friendly building techniques have become standard practice across the construction industry.
These principles will become more prevalent as we all learn to live sustainably and operate in a greener society.