The terms ’eco’, ’environmentally friendly’, ’green’ and ’sustainable’, are used so freely nowadays it seems the true essence of these words are being lost. Many companies claim that their construction methods or materials are low-impact, but how does one tell the difference between those who are truly dedicated to the field, or those who are just following trends?
The term green home, was coined in the 1970s after the cost per barrel of oil abruptly rose. All of a sudden, import and transportation costs became more and more expensive, and unattainable to the average person. Perhaps a blessing in disguise, as now, homeowners need to search for materials closer to home. Locally sourced materials automatically equate to a greener build, and of course, help to support your community. On top of this, there are many factors that need to be assessed in the design stage, these include: effective ventilation in lieu of artificial air-conditioning, photovoltaic panels, correct solar orientation, and a well designed water system that facilitates grey and black water. These may sound like foreign words, but once you begin to delve into the ever-changing world of environmental design, you may find yourself well and truly converted. Today, we are going to look at some of homify’s greenest experts, and explore the objectives and features behind their sustainablehome designs.
Designcubed are a firm that is dedicated to contemporary sustainable architecture. Part owner and architect, Steven Blower, was fortunate enough to come across this wonderful pocked of land in East Dulwich, that had lay untouched due to inflexible council restrictions. Timber is one of the best external insulators, and the entire exterior of the house has been beautifully clad in these wonderful pale wooden panels. Utilising many recycled materials for the interior fit out, the owners were able to keep their build costs low and carbon footprint at a minimum. On top of this, their bank balances will thank them too, due to the installation of solar panels. These have been ingeniously tucked away on the roof, so as to ensure they do not jut out and invade the streetscape. The biggest challenge faced, was figuring out a way to allow light into a building with such a densely packed block. The property has been designed with a surprisingly large courtyard that gives all the main rooms ample solar gains and ventilation—the occupants should feel comfortable all year round. And, hidden from view, are a wonderful set of roof lights which flood the house with natural light from all angles.
Renovations or upgrading an existing house is always thought to be a more sustainable way to live, as opposed to tearing something down and starting from scratch. Utilising the available materials on site, and reusing or re-adding the parts you have stripped away, leave a far smaller footprint on the land. Pictured, is a converted 18th century barn house in Cotswolds. Using locally sourced materials which support the original build, these factors help to blend the dwelling its rural surroundings. The angle, span and colour of the roof allow for ample solar absorption during the day, ensuring the house will be warmer in winter and cooler in summer. Of course, the large sliding panelled doors, open up to the beautiful expanse of water to effectively ventilate the house.
London based studio forresterarchitects, has designed the 'Pond house' as a completely passive home. Located in an area of environmental significance, in Britan's most protected waterway. Following the Passivhaus Planning Package (PhPP), the architects adhered to these guidelines to ensure they were building a home that not only matched, but completely exceeded the UK building requirements.
Going back to the sustainable design factors that we spoke about in the introduction, this house surpasses the basics mentioned. It does not require conventional heating or cooling systems, is completely insulated and sealed, and most importantly, has a strong focus on the all important south facing solar heat gains. On top of this, there is a complex rainwater and photovoltaic system to heat water and generate electricity.
Located in a secluded forest, the aim of this property is to not disturb and remain as passive in its landscape as possible. Unseen from this view, this house probably has one of the most incredible examples of cross-ventilation design that we have ever seen. Both sides of the house open up, allowing the building to breathe completely. Concrete is also an outstanding insulator—the inside of this house will remain very cool during the summer months. As well as this, the deep overhang of the roof line ensure the property is protected from receiving too much unwanted heat.
You cannot overlook the beautiful pond at the forefront of the picture. Adding this tranquil and serene element to the garden protects and safeguards that the plant and wildlife in the area, despite the new addition.
Possibly the best thermal barrier available is earth. This particular feature helps to lower urban temperatures, absorbs sound, retains rainwater and is an excellent insulator. It is said that buildings that have green walls or roofs, are likely to use 25% less energy than traditional builds. Among these factors, the additional vegetation is great to improve the biodiversity of animals and plant life in the area. Enveloping a building in earth is essentially like living underground. The feeling is similar to that of a basement, which is very often the most comfortable room both temperature and sound wise.