From zero carbon to energy efficiency, environmental issues are not only front-page news but are increasingly mandatory considerations within the planning application process and building regulations. Benjamin Allen Timber Framed Homes are actively ensuring our design considerations; materials specification and technical support meet these new challenges, advising our clients appropriately in building sustainable, energy efficient homes. This reduces the impact a home has on the environment and its surroundings while still creating stylish designs that benefit from the latest technology.
Why focus on building Greener Homes?
Homes built to high standards of design and sustainability is a benefit requested by all our self build customers. Well designed, sustainable homes can benefit our clients through lower running costs, increased comfort and improved value. We can also benefit from increased saleability, greater value and improved reputation.
As a responsible business, we believe that we have an important role to play in protecting the environment for future generations. In a future world of increasing energy prices, scarce resources and increased prominence of the environmental agenda, taking a proactive approach to these issues will position Benjamin Allen as a market leader for Sustainable Homes.
Over the last few years, we at Benjamin Allen have focused on improving the environmental performance standards of the homes that we build, often going above and beyond national standards.
The key word is sustainability and the Government has issued a detailed document entitled Code for Sustainable Homes, which gives a step by step guide to designing and building self sustaining, low carbon homes. In brief the document sets out design principles and includes categories such as energy/CO2, pollution, materials and water use. The code uses a star rating system to determine the overall sustainability performance of a new home starting with one star and rising to six stars. In simple language one star equates to a 10% improvement on the energy standards of the current Building Regulations and six stars represents a ‘zero carbon’ home. (For further information visit www.communities.gov.uk).
There is a wide and complex range of options open to the self builder to achieve a high rating. Calculating the rating is not a task for the layman and has to be carried out by a qualified, independent Energy Consultant. Our experienced team can guide you through the maze and advise you on the cost implications at every stage.
To achieve sustainable homes the UK Government has developed The Code for Sustainable Homes. The code sets out 9 principle categories of sustainability to consider. For anyone building their own home however the most important areas in our opinion are design and specification. Good design lays the foundations for a self sustaining home and should consider key factors such as the shape of the building, it’s orientation on the site, the layout of the principle rooms and the use of glazing for solar gain. The materials you use are also vitally important in terms of reducing heat loss and the storage of heat gained within the structure.
There are a wide range of ‘green’ products you can incorporate into your new home. These include heat pumps, bio-mass boilers, solar panels, triple glazing and photovoltaic technology. It is worth bearing in mind that certain design features actually lose you points in the star rating system the worst of these being open fires, very large areas of glazing, mechanical ventilation systems, air conditioning units and swimming pools.
We have analysed the ratings for homes we recently designed for clients and typically they have achieved a rating of 3 stars on the sustainability scale. These ratings were principally achieved through intelligent, thoughtful design and careful choice of materials and do not include additional ‘eco features’ such as heat pumps, solar panels, triple glazing or bio-mass boilers. Should you wish to incorporate any or all of these features in your new home then you can achieve a higher star rating. There are costs attached to these options and Benjamin Allen can advise you accordingly but as with all aspects of building with Benjamin Allen.
Careful thought should be given to the following when designing your new home:
- Size does matter so it is important to give careful thought to matching space requirements with real use demands. The shape of the building can affect not only the total construction cost but also its carbon output – although round houses are best, they are difficult to furnish.
- Orientation of the design is important – remember to follow the sun to reap the maximum benefits.
- Think about the room arrangements – who needs sun flooding into a utility room or a view from a broom cupboard?
- Consider the services you require – wet rooms in close proximity to one another minimise pipe run lengths which in turn improve operational efficiency.
- Open fires with chimneys are not good news – instead, why not opt for an enclosed wood burning stove with well sited combustion air arrangements and insulated flues – these are an ideal form of secondary space heating.
Following on from this Benjamin Allen have developed a set of key principles and objectives when designing your new home. These include:
- Make the best use of solar gain
- Respect local character and landscape
- Reduce energy consumption
- Design to minimise waste, energy use, transportation and pollution on the build phase
- Design for the integration of renewable energies
- Design for reduced water usage
Fore more information on Sustainable Homes and how we can implement sustainable design features for self builders please contact Benjamin Allen.