Building a new home or an extension to an existing home, gives the opportunity to consider more than just energy efficiency, but the whole impact of the new construction on the environment. Sustainable construction ensures that building today will meet the needs of future generations, without depleting resources, causing pollution or destroying the natural environment.
Reuse, reclaim, source local!
In terms of broad sustainablity criteria, examples of what you can do include re-using reclaimed building materials, using materials with recycled content, incorporating renewable energy technology, providing the highest levels of insulation (see Choosing between insulation materials), choosing locally produced materials, choosing materials with low embodied energy, minimising water use, incorporating rainwater collection and use of grey water, and design which maximises solar gain.
The UK Green Building Council is an organization that seeks to improve the sustainability of the built environment, from the planning stage through construction to final occupancy and use. Its 400 or so members are drawn from all sectors of industry. The Council's website contains wide-ranging information on all aspects of sustainable construction, whether new build or renovation. For example, how to assess the impact of using different materials on the embedded carbon of buildings, responsible sourcing, and choosing healthy materials.
One of the leading standards for energy-efficient buildings is Passivhaus. This can deliver savings of up to 75% on the cost of space heating compared with conventional new-build following current building standards. See Passivhaus: leading the way for sustainable buildings.
Digital technology now has the potential to let you design and 'print' your own house. The WikiHouse project is developing open source software to guide housebuilders through the entire process, from initial design to assembly and fitting out, all based on the best sustainable construction principles. See WikiHouse: 'design and print' your own home!
For more information see the following links:
- Build Store – supplier and information for self-build and renovation
- AECB - information, links and members of the Association for Environment Conscious Building
- GreenSpec an online directory of sustainable construction products sponsored by Burdens environmental, a social enterprise company
- Renewable Energy Hub has a searchable directory of suppliers and installers of a wide range of technologies, from solar panels to rainwater harvesting. It also sells products from over 50 major manufacturers.
- Code for Sustainable Homes - a mandatory rating for new homes which measures the overall sustainability performance.
- Centre for Alternative Technology - for free information, factsheets; they also run residential short courses at the Centre, Machynlleth, north Wales.