As consumers, we are increasingly focused on cutting our carbon footprint and house hunters are now doing the same thing in looking for homes with impeccable eco credentials.
Triple glazing, rainwater collection, air or ground source heat pumps and solar panels can all contribute to creating a home that doesn’t make its mark on the world, except in impressing would-be buyers.
Property listings often include the rating of its Energy Performance Certificate, and an A rating gives a good indication of how well insulated it is.
However, a good EPC rating doesn’t reveal everything and architect Lynne Sullivan OBE says: “You can have solar panels or renewable energy, but post-war houses typically lose most of their heat through their roofs, walls, and windows – so fixing the fabric of the house first and ensuring you have good ventilation should be the priority.
“When buying a home, the main questions to ask are ‘How much will it cost to run this house and how much will it cost to maintain it?'”
The architect, who is on the steering group of Ecobuild, a major annual conference on creating sustainable buildings and environments in Britain, says that while lower costs are a good indication of minimal energy performance, she advises buyers to consider “comfort”, too.
So, check the house is draught-free, has good indoor air quality and the right amount of ventilation to get rid of smells and moisture issues.
However, truly eco-friendly homes are of the Passivhaus variety – a specific energy performance standard that delivers a very high level of energy efficiency.
This four-bedroom detached house in Durham, above, is one of only two homes in the North East listed on the German Passivhaus project database, although it is not yet officially certified.
Features include solar power, generating an annual income of £750, rainwater harvesting, mains pressure scald-proof domestic water system and triple-glazing, which all help to achieve an overall negative carbon footprint.
LET TECHNOLOGY HELP YOU
Hundreds of thousands of Britons have already discovered the joys of Amazon’s intelligent personal assistant Alexa and similarly marvellous technology is being developed that will help householders take charge of their home’s impact on the environment.
Grand Designs presenter Kevin McCloud expects to see the rise of the “smart home” over the next five years.
He says: “You will be able to buy five key pieces of technology, probably for around £750, that will all talk to each other. Your fridge will read its contents and order ingredients for you. It will also connect to the national grid and work out the minimum power it needs to keep your contents fresh, so there’ll be no need to turn extra power stations on.”
“A Foobot – or similar – will measure your air quality and connect with your Amazon Echo, which will inform you when need to open a window. Light switches will become redundant because bulbs will have little WiFi components in them and be controlled by your smartphone.”
Many of the homes featured on the Channel 4 series include eco-technology at the cutting edge and a five-bedroom house with stunning views over seven counties, for sale for £1.1 million in the Malvern Hills, fits the mould.
The building was remodelled by the owners in 2006, and is currently laid out as a three-bedroom house on the ground floor, with a two-bedroom apartment on the lower-ground floor.
An air source heat pump, which pumps heat from the air and boosts it to a higher temperature, a heat recovery system, underfloor heating and solar panels all maximise energy efficiency.
Another extremely eco-conscious home is The Gasworks, a renovated 19th-century Grade II-listed stone cottage with a light and modern extension is on the market in the Cotswolds village of Upper Slaughter.
Traditional meets contemporary in the four-bedroom conversion of the former gas works dating 1877, which now features solar heating and air source heat pumps.
Interestingly, it was designed by award-winning Chris Dyson Architects for the Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit novelist, Jeanette Winterson.
With a £1.59 million price tag, you perhaps wouldn’t expect much less, but not all eco-friendly homes come at such an eye-watering price.
For £399,950, a unique EPC A-rated four-bedroom home in West Devon comes with triple-glazing, rainwater storage and four kilowatts of solar panels that are on a feed-in tariff – creating a quarterly income.
For a similar price this five-bedroom home in Scotland offers underfloor heating through a ground source heat pump, which provide homes with heating or hot water by harnessing natural heat from underground and pumping water through it in pipes, super-insulation and high specification double glazing.
As Kermit wisely sang, it’s not easy being green, but it’s an important part of modern life and increasingly affordable technology is making it possible for more and more of us to do our very best for the environment.
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