Eco Homes

Eco House Agent, United Kingdom
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Eco Friendly Houses


Whilst some who want a greener home decide to get their hands dirty and build their own, others decide to stay in their existing home and make it more environmentally sound.  

Below are some examples of both approaches:

New Builds 

The Gatehouse


This house in Dumfries was built by Steve James for only £4,000 with straw bales forming the walls and a turf roof.  Electricity was supplied by a car battery and a compost toilet and rain filtration system were installed.

The kitchen was made of wood from a fallen cedar tree found in Glasgow and the sink and all the windows were rescued from skips.  James built the log burning stove which heats the house using old paving slabs.

Go to www.envisioneer.net for pictures of the finished house.

The house is also featured at www.earthfirst.com, which includes details and photos of some other unusual self builds.

St Agnes House


This house in St Agnes, Cornwall was designed by Robin and Nicky van der Bij in 2004.  They formed Ecohouse, an eco friendly building company, the following year.  Their home includes solar panels to supply hot water, underfloor heating, a wood burner and photovoltaic panels as well as heat recovery ventilation.  Insulation is provided by sheep’s wool.  

Materials to build the house were sourced locally including cedar wood and the Delabole slate for the roof.  The stone for the walls was taken from the site itself.

Pictures of the house and information on this and Ecohouse’s subsequent builds can be found at www.ecohouse.co.uk .

Retro fits

3 Acorns Retro Eco House


This house belonging to Donnachadh McCarthy was the first retro carbon-negative home in London.  It sells more green electricity to the national grid than it imports fossil fuels.  There are solar panels to provide hot water and electricity, a wind turbine and a wood burner.  A rainwater harvester supplies over 70% of the house’s WC water needs and rainwater is also used in the garden. The windows are triple glazed and the gas fire is fitted with a catalytic converter.   McCarthy calculated that being more environmentally friendly has saved him over £6,000.

The house is open to the public as part of London’s annual Open House weekend.

To find out more about the house go to www.3acorns.co.uk .  

More information on the Open House weekend can be found at www.londonopenhouse.org .

Drum Housing Association Hampshire Houses


Drum Housing Association’s award winning project in collaboration with the Energy Saving Trust involved work on six 1950s houses.  A wide range of measures were used to improve energy efficiencyGround source heat pumps, photovoltaic panels, waste water heat recovery, ventilation with heat recovery and low energy lighting were all included.

The houses were the first in the country to carry the “Generation Homes” benchmark.  This requires a house’s annual CO2 emissions to be cut by a minimum of 60%.  The actual reduction achieved was 75%.  Insulation and air tightness were also both improved.


But what if you want to stay in your current home and can’t afford radical changes such as solar panels and wind turbines?  There are lots of things you can do to make your home more eco friendly.  Here are just a few of them:

Make sure you have enough loft insulation.  According to the Energy Saving Trust, if you’re fitting mineral wool loft insulation you’ll need to lay a depth of at least 270mm.  This depth of material in a loft that had no previous insulation would save about a tonne of CO2 each year.  If you know there hasn’t been any new insulation done recently, the trust advises that it may not be deep enough by current standards.  It’s well worth having a look to see if you can improve things.

Make sure you have cavity wall insulation (if you have the right kind of walls).  The Energy Saving Trust says about 1/3 of the heat lost in an uninsulated house is through the walls.  If you have condensation on external walls this kind of insulation can help to cut down on the amount that goes through to the inside of your home.

Go to www.direct.gov.uk for information on getting financial help/grants to making insulation and/or heating improvements.  

Use draught excluding strips around external doors and a fabric draught excluder at the bottom of your door.  A draught proof letterbox is also an inexpensive way to save energy and especially useful if (like me) you have a front door that leads straight into your living room.

Turn off your taps while cleaning your teeth, put less water in your bath or spend less time in the shower.  According to direct.gov.uk fitting aerators to your taps can also reduce water use by up to 50%.  

If you have a higher flush toilet, direct.gov.uk advises fitting a “hippo” to cut down on the amount of water it uses.  Most water companies will give you one free if you ask.

Try to have a full load in your washing machine and dishwasher when you use them.  If you’re using a tumble dryer, giving your clothes an extra spin in the washing machine before you use it can cut down on drying time, especially if you’ve used a quick wash cycle.  This is good because tumble dryers tend to be less energy efficient that many washing machines.  Obviously drying things naturally if you can is even better.

Turn appliances off when you’re not using them.  The Energy Saving Trust says that £1billion is wasted annually in the UK by people leaving things on standby.

Turn off any unwanted lights and use energy efficient bulbs instead of the incandescent variety.

Turn down your heating thermostat.  The Energy Saving Trust says you can save about 10% on your heating bills by turning it down only one degree.

Sources:

independent.co.uk
direct.gov.uk
energysavingtrust.org.uk
radian.co.uk
ecohouse.co.uk

Author Rebecca Laird


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