The cost of living squeeze is intense, the heatwaves are foreboding, and fuel poverty is more real than ever. Welcome to 2022, the better times as we call it in the future (hoping it wouldn’t be so). Nobody is debating the need for sustainable housing anymore; everyone wants to know how to build them. They are not just a way to combat climate change. They are the only way out of a looming energy crisis.
The Scottish Government has invested substantially towards sustainable housing since 2007, with a route map to 2030 in Scotland’s Sustainable Housing Strategy set out in 2013. And, with soaring energy bills that are crippling our finances, we want warm, affordable, and low-carbon homes now! So, let’s give this a little of your time.
What is sustainable housing?
Sustainable housing consists of low-carbon footprint homes that have lower greenhouse gas emissions and higher energy efficiency, capable of offering a better-quality life affordably. The UK targets to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050, and it is set in law. It involves retrofitting existing homes with clean energy and improved energy efficiency while building new homes based on the Code for Sustainable Home. Decarbonising the housing stock tackles the climate emergency, combats fuel poverty, boosts the economy, and contributes to warmer homes and cleaner air.
Features of a sustainable home
Houses account for 30% of total energy use, 27% of CO2 emissions, and around 24% of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK. Greener homes need higher energy efficiency. Minimising heat loss through roofs, walls, floors, windows, and doors is part of it. Thicker insulation (loft and cavity wall insulation), draught proofing, and double-glazing can save on heating bills.
The first step to reducing carbon emissions and saving on energy bills is to take control of your heating. Improving regulation of the heating system with programmable room thermostats, thermostatic valves on radiators, an automatic bypass valve, and greater boiler efficiency can cut down energy consumption significantly. Victorian pipe systems and ancient boilers cost us big money on bills and amount to a heavy carbon footprint.
High-efficiency lighting and appliances with bigger efficiency ratings can make a big difference in energy consumption and save considerably on energy bills.
Open-plan designs of modern homes allow for more even temperature control, improved air circulation, greater use of light, and space and material savings.
Uses renewable energy
Replacing fossil fuels with clean energy is part of Britain’s plan to make its new homes zero carbon ready by 2025. Heating systems with ‘clean heat’ technologies such as heat pumps and heat networks can radically improve the energy performance of a home. Renewable energy in the form of solar panels and heat pumps cut down CO2 emissions to a great extent. They may be costly to install, but they are an investment that will pay for itself and continue to save you a lot of money on energy bills in the long term.
From motion sensor LED lighting that automatically turns off lamps when no one’s around to central heating controls that can be programmed to switch the heating on and off as required, smart technology reduces energy waste. Energy-efficient washing machines and dishwashers use less water for maximum performance. Harnessing natural light with oversized glass windows, skylights, and bi-fold or sliding doors is another way to ensure your home is brighter during the day, limiting the need for artificial illumination. New builds have the advantage of starting from scratch on energy efficiency. Solar gain-oriented designs will make the most of natural light.
Low maintenance costs
Newer and smarter heating, cooling, and lighting systems do not require regular maintenance as older systems do. It is not only cost-effective but convenient. LED light bulbs last 50,000 hours or more, which is 40 times as long as the average incandescent bulb.
Minimal destruction to the natural environment
Recyclable, recycled, and reclaimed materials help build sustainable homes with low environmental impact. Responsibly-sourced wood, clay bricks, natural stone, natural slate, clay tiles, and glass are recyclable and planet-friendly. They are less energy-intensive to produce. Engineered timber, reclaimed wood & bricks, recycled steel, bamboo, hay bales, hempcrete, plant-based rigid foam, enviroboard, ashcrete, and ferrock are greener construction materials. Sheep wool, which is 100% recyclable, can be used for domestic insulation.
Re-using existing assets when building
Reclaimed wood, brick, slate, and other building material remove the need for emissions and waste. You can extend the same principle to interior design. Repurpose furniture, rugs, and fabrics.
Sustainable homes are essential to our future. We are looking at a rapidly-warming planet with climate catastrophes and energy crises, all caused by human activity. Achieving net-zero emissions isn’t just a national goal but a necessity for our survival. GS Brown Construction homes are built to high-quality standards and enhanced energy efficiency.