What is an ‘Eco-home’

 

As the world becomes increasingly aware of the impact that human activity has on the environment, more and more people are looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprint and live in a more sustainable way. One solution that has gained popularity in recent years is the concept of eco-homes.

 

So, what is an Eco-home?

An eco home is a residence that has been designed and built to be energy efficient and have a minimal impact on the environment. This can include features such as higher levels of insulation, the use of renewable energy sources for heating and power, and sustainable building materials. Additionally, an eco home may also include features such as rainwater harvesting, greywater recycling, and green roofs or walls.

In the UK, there are no pre-set conditions that determine whether a property can be classified as an ‘eco-home’. However, as a general rule of thumb, The New Homes Agent tends to classify any property with an energy efficiency ‘A-Rating’  (A-Rated EPC) as an eco-home.

What are the benefits of buying an eco-home?

One of the main benefits of an eco home is that they can significantly reduce energy consumption and costs. With the construction of highly insulated walls, floors and roofs, and the inclusion of premium double or triple-glazed windows, eco homes can keep heat inside during the winter and outside during the summer, which reduces the need for heating and cooling systems. Additionally, by using renewable energy sources such as solar panels or geothermal heat pumps (Air Source or Ground Source), eco homes can reduce or even eliminate their reliance on fossil fuels.

Another benefit of some eco homes is that they can improve indoor air quality. By using materials such as non-toxic paints and adhesives, and incorporating features such as ventilation systems and green roofs, eco homes can help to improve the air quality inside the home.  MVHR (Mechanical Ventilation Heat Recovery) Systems, which use heat exchange cells to ventilate a home with minimal heat loss, have grown in popularity over recent years. These systems can also filter pollen from incoming air, which can be particularly beneficial for people with allergies or asthma.

Eco-homes can also be designed to blend in with their surroundings and to have a minimal impact on the environment. For example, they can be built using locally sourced materials and can incorporate features such as rainwater harvesting systems and greywater recycling systems which can help to reduce the home’s overall water consumption and can also help to reduce the strain on local water resources. Whilst these systems are useful, it’s quite rare to find a developer that will install them as standard due to costs vs. perceived benefits.

The true cost of an eco home. 

As a general rule, eco homes are more expensive to build than traditional homes. There are two main reasons for this. The first is that the required building materials come at an increased cost. For example, increasing the amount of external insulation by 50% costs considerably more than people might expect. The obvious reason for the increase is that you will need to purchase 50% more insulation. However, there is another factor to consider which is often overlooked – lost floor space. We’ve created a hypothetical scenario to explain how this works:

A developer is building a single-storey home which measures 15 metres wide and 8 metres deep externally. When using the standard 100mm of external wall insulation, the width of each external wall would be roughly 300mm (0.3 metres). An external wall is usually made up three parts – a 100mm internal block wall, 100mm cavity insulation, and 100mm external brick wall. There is an external wall at each end of the property, meaning the internal measurement is actually 600mm (0.6 metres) shorter than the external measurement. So the inside of the property will measure 14.4 metres in width and 7.4 metres in depth. As such, the total internal floor area would be 106.59m2 (square metres calculated as 14.4m x 7.4m). This equates to 1,147sqft (square feet calculated as 106.59sqm x 10.764 which is the conversion rate for m2 to ft2).

Now, let’s say the developer decides to prioritise energy efficiency and increases the external insulation from 100mm to 150mm. Each external wall now measures 350mm, and so the internal measurement will reduce by 700mm rather than 600mm. The revised internal measurements will be 14.3m x 7.3m, which equates to 104.39 sqm (1,123.7 sqft). By increasing the insulation by 50mm, we’ve decreased the total floor area by 2.2 sqm (23.7 sqft). 

Now this doesn’t sound like much, but when you consider that the average sale price for a new build bungalow in the Lincoln area can be anywhere from £350/sqft upwards, this decrease in square footage equates to a minimum loss of £7,700 worth of internal floor area. This doesn’t include the added cost of having to purchase 50% more insulation to fill the 150mm cavity.

Costs can also climb due to the use of other thermally efficient materials such as higher ‘U-value’ blocks & bricks, or triple-glazed windows and doors instead of double-glazed units.

The second reason to consider is the increased cost of technological installations such as MVHR (Mechanical Ventilation Heat Recovery) Systems, Air or Ground Source Heat Pumps, and Solar PV Panels. To give an example, the installation of an Air Source Heat Pump can be upwards of 300% more expensive than a traditional mains gas heating system.

Naturally, an increase in construction costs results in an increase in the asking price. However, there is no doubt that long-term savings on energy and water bills can make up for this initial investment. We also believe that over the coming years, the price gap between older and newer properties will increase as more buyers focus their attention on sustainable living, moving away from inefficient homes. This effect will be even more prevalent when buying a home with eco credentials. It’s inevitable that sellers will be able to command a greater premium for highly-efficient homes as the world adapts to the effects of climate change.

Summary

Overall, eco-homes are a great solution for those who want to live in a sustainable way. With their high energy efficiency ratings, improved indoor air quality, and minimal impact on the environment, eco-home construction represents the future of the UK housing market.

In conclusion, they may be more expensive to build than traditional homes, but the long-term savings on energy and water bills can make them a worthwhile investment. As governments and citizens are becoming more and more aware of the importance of sustainable living, eco-homes are becoming a more viable and attractive option for many people.

Contact us for details on any current and upcoming eco-home developments with The New Homes Agent.

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