How To Build An Eco House

When you have an old home there's a limit to what you can sensibly do if you want to make it green. But if you are building your own home from scratch you have a chance to incorporate many sustainable features at the lowest possible cost.

By Josephine Smit, Building4change.com

First and foremost, a new home should be designed to use as little energy as possible and keep your fuel bills down. There are lots of green products and building materials that can help to make your home more sustainable and efficient in its use of energy, water and other natural resources. Here's a brief checklist of the essentials that you should consider.

Pack In The Insulation

It can be difficult and disruptive to add insulation to an existing home, but it is relatively cheap to install it during construction. There's another good reason for fitting plenty of insulation: it is the easiest way to ensure that you keep your heating bills as low as possible in the future.

While a conventional house might have around 125mm of wall insulation, a really low energy home would have around 275-300mm thickness. Product options range from conventional mineral fibre to natural materials such as recycled newsprint, hemp, wood fibre or sheep's wool. Natural products are becoming increasingly popular and can be used in the same way as conventional ones.

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Get The Glazing Right

People love to have homes with big bay windows, glass doors and conservatories to bring daylight and the sun's warmth into their homes and make the most of the views but there can be disadvantages, depending on the location of your home. Firstly you may lose a significant amount of heat from that glazing in the winter. Secondly you have to be careful not to make your home so hot in the summer that you need to introduce energy-guzzling air conditioning.

If keeping your home warm is the priority, then opt for high performance double glazed windows, perhaps with a gas fill between the two layers of glass, triple glazing or special energy efficient glass, known as Low-E (for low emissivity). If you want your home to have big south facing windows, think about incorporating some form of solar shading into your design, such as a brise soleil, or using a solar control glass that has been specially coated to reduce heat absorption.

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