The term ‘eco homes’ is a term coined over the last decade, however like many trend related terms, people know it is good but don’t exactly know how or why.
Firstly let’s distil it a little further – what is passive solar design? This is essentially designing a home that optimises the sun’s energy for the heating and cooling of living spaces. This is one of the fundamentals of good architectural practice and should be considered when designing a new home.
Each home should be designed for the local climate and site conditions to maximise the home owners comfort and health whilst minismising energy use. We are able to achieve this via the correct placement of windows, doors, angles of roof lines and eves. Also materials and room placement. It is not necessarily a matter of adding expensive elements however instead of optimal placement. This is extremely hard to achieve with a ‘set plan’ as often the smallest adjustment in angles can have a big influence on the overall effectiveness of passive solar energy.
After the design, it is a matter of looking at the individual materials. Concrete floors are a great as a ‘heat sink’ as they store thermal energy from the sun throughout the day. Placement of windows and doors and floor covering selection can aid this. Systems such as Ribraft floor are great in terms of their insulating properties (notwithstanding speeding up the construction process) and should be considered when building. Cladding materials and double glazing continue to add to the thermal envelope of the home.
Then it is a matter of balancing how much you want to spend vs the benefits. Some things to consider is how long you are planning on staying in your home as in most cases the ‘pay-back’ period is a matter of some years but for others this is more of an environmental consideration. There are some very exciting new product developments that have come to market over recent years such as evolutions in solar, warm roofs, pressurised environments and ducted systems to name a few.
When specifying materials for a home as an architectural practice we are very proactive at reviewing the environmental impacts of certain materials. In some of our homes we are using a Caviller Bremworth Carpet made from recycled fishing nets! We also use mammoth insulation which is recycled plastic. What is exciting is that more suppliers are now able to provide options that ticks all the boxes; design, cost effectiveness and positive environmental impact. We expect this very positive trend will continue to thrive.