Georgian listed building in London with secondary glazing to curved window by Architecture for London

Sustainable design choices and eco-friendly home improvements are crucial in combating the effects of climate change in the UK. How can you make your home an eco-home?

As the UK faces the mounting challenges posed by the climate emergency, it is evident that urgent action must be taken to mitigate its effects. Homes, of any scale, are consistent contributors to carbon emissions and therefore, embracing sustainable practices in the home is key to moving toward the UK’s 2050 net zero mission. The UK has recognised the urgency of a cleaner, more sustainable future and is now legally bound to hit net zero by this date.

What is an eco-home?

An eco-home follows green or eco-principles, both in terms of embodied energy (energy used in extraction, processing, delivery and assembly of materials) and energy ‘in-use’ (a function of insulation, airtightness, triple glazing etc.). Ultimately an eco-home should be low energy in all aspects while also optimising user well-being.

While the movement toward more sustainable homes has become more popular in recent years due to the climate crisis and surge in energy costs, low-energy homes are not a modern concept. Historically, sustainable homes were embraced by a variety of cultures globally. Early settlements illustrate resource optimisation and use of natural, local, low embodied energy materials. Before the advent of fossil fuel use, buildings were designed to provide thermal comfort naturally: for example stack or cross ventilation in hotter climates. From earthships in Egypt to the Roman Aqueducts, history offers us many useful lessons.

Discover Architecture for London’s architectural eco-homes.. If you would like to discuss your project please contact us.

Eco-homes, at what cost?

Although employing sustainable practices in the home may increase costs by between 5% and 15% for a typical refurbishment project, many case studies have shown how eco-friendly homes offer long-term savings that surpass the initial investment cost. Homeowners can take reassurance in knowing their energy bills will be substantially reduced. Their property value is also likely to increase and it is more likely to be compliant with future building performance requirements. This may be crucial when selling or renting the property in the future. An eco-home is also future-proofed against energy price volatility.

Making your home more eco-friendly does not always need to be costly. Simple changes can make a big difference and as Passivhaus designers, we promote the concept of eco-homes by focusing on small details that have a big impact.

“There are so many easy things people can do to make their houses greener, which have meaningful results. At Low Energy House, we made our original front door more airtight with £10 DIY brush seals all around and a £20 magnetic letterbox seal.” – Ben Ridley

When approaching sustainable practices in the home there are different considerations for a retrofit and a newly built extension. You can read more about sustainable home refurbishment in practice with our case study project, Low Energy House, where the existing property was retrofitted and extended using Passivhaus principles.

listed building heat pump

Heat pump at Grade II listed Georgian House Refurbishment

What support is on offer?

Government incentives and tax-saving programs in the UK promoting eco-home renovations have become more popular in recent years, with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak favouring 0% VAT on solar panels, heat pumps and insulation. More details on current support efforts can be found in our green home improvements post.

10 step guide to your eco-home

1. Energy Audit

Identify key areas of energy inefficiency in the home to create a priority list of improvements to be made. These improvements can include swapping out bulbs for energy-efficient LED or CFL bulbs to reduce consumption or choosing appliances with a high (A+++) energy efficiency rating to lower electricity use.

2. Glazing

Assess the thermal efficiency of existing windows and doors and where necessary, replace them with triple glazing or additional secondary glazing. Triple glazing enhances thermal performance and minimises heat loss, leading to energy savings while also providing an additional layer of insulation to combat noise pollution. Secondary glazing is a great alternative to costly, newly fitted windows and still provides an additional layer of thermal performance while maintaining the character of older windows.

3. Insulate and make airtight

Combat heat loss with insulation to the walls, roof and floor of your home. This makes the home more comfortable and reduces the need for heating and cooling throughout the year, reducing both carbon footprint and significantly reducing energy costs.

4. Air quality and non-toxic paints

Air quality can be greatly improved by opting for non-toxic paints and coatings in the home. Traditional paints can contain harmful chemicals and as a result, release volatile organic compounds or VOCs into the air. Non-toxic alternatives result in improved air quality in the home. Many eco-friendly paints and coatings also reduce harmful waste materials in their production.

5. Recycled or reclaimed materials

Using reclaimed and recycled materials in the home ensures the space is eco-friendly by minimising waste. Choosing to repurpose materials such as bricks, timber or glass reduces the environmental impact associated with single-use material production, contributing to a more sustainable, circular economy.

6. Smart home accessories

Install programmable or smart thermostats to regulate heating and cooling based on your schedule, optimising energy use and minimising unnecessary waste.

7. Renewable Energy

Where possible, consider the installation of renewable energy products such as solar panels. Solar panels are a great example of how natural resources can be utilised to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.

8. Water

Reduce water waste in the home by installing low-flow taps and sanitary ware. Where possible, consider rainwater harvesting and greywater recycling systems.

9. Light and ventilation

Take advantage of the property’s orientation and optimise natural light through the strategic placement of windows and skylights. Locate more frequently used spaces around these windows to reduce the reliance on artificial lighting and ventilation.

10. Sustainable landscaping

Where possible, consider planting native greenery that does not require too much water or maintenance. The creation of green walls or roofs can provide an additional layer of natural insulation while also nurturing biodiversity sustainably. Plant species can be chosen for their ability to attract and support bee populations.

Discover Architecture for London’s architectural eco-homes.. If you would like to discuss your project please contact us.