There was a time when housebuilders could only choose between mud, straw, stone or timbers to build a home. Centuries on from the industrial revolution, which gave housebuilders the power to create cheap homes which guzzled and spat out precious energy, those primitive days don’t seem so bad.
Thankfully, we don’t have to crawl back inside caves or pack a yurt to enjoy sustainable living. Massive advances in green technologies mean that new homes are being built without detriment to the earth they sit on. We look at the best technologies for creating an energy-efficient home.
- Living roof
Living roofs, aka green roofs, blanket a home with a layer of vegetation planted over a waterproofing membrane. Living roofs help provide a breath of fresh air by utilising plants’ natural ability to filter pollutants. As well as brightening the day of passers-by with their natural good looks, living roofs absorb and filter rainwater, provide insulation and create a habitat for wildlife.
It turns out fibre really is good for you. Not only do fibre-optics provide speedier broadband, but they also consume less energy than copper-based systems. Optical fibre cables also have a longer infrastructure lifespan, typically lasting 25 years; the rate of repair is also 50 per cent less than copper, which translates into less resources used and less waste.
- Tankless water heaters
Heating water is a tankless task – or at least it should be. Tankless water heaters only heat water when you need it, so there are no standby losses, just endless hot water on demand.
- Rain water harvesting systems
One thing we are not short of in England is rain. By harvesting rainwater, Britain’s grey skies stop being a nuisance and start becoming an asset. Rain water harvesting systems can now be plumbed into a home’s existing pipework, reducing water consumption by up to 50 per cent.
- Sustainable flooring
Bamboo flooring is, literally, the natural choice for sustainable flooring. It is made from a fast-growing renewable plant which is a natural anti-bacterial, water-resistant and extremely durable. Other popular choices include rubber flooring, which is made from a 100 per cent renewable resource, and cork flooring which is made without harming the tree.
- Composting toilets
The Chinese have been using them for centuries, but the rest of the world is slowly cottoning on to the idea that human waste shouldn’t be wasted. Rather than flushing precious resources away, composting toilets treat human excrement through biological processes, turning it into organic compost material that can be used to fertilise the soil.
- Smart power strips
Most electronic devices will lazily graze on electricity while sat doing absolutely nothing. A smart power strip automatically puts them on a diet by only feeding them electricity when they need it. Rather than going into standby mode, a smart electricity strip will shut the appliance down after a certain time until it is needed again.
- Natural insulation
Insulation is key to a sustainable home, locking in precious resources. There are a number of green alternatives to synthetic insulation, including sheep’s wool, flax and hemp and wood fibre. Natural insulation materials are made from renewable resources and have low embodied energy. They can also be reused and recycled, and are fully biodegradable.
- Tubular skylights
Tubular skylights bring light into the darkest corners of a home. Solar tubes capture the sun’s rays and shine them indoors, translating into homes filled with beautiful natural light at no cost to the home owner or the environment.
- Sustainable design
Lastly, there is no point is creating a mega eco home if its natural beauty is then plastered with harmful cosmetics. We’ve come a long way from painting our homes with arsenic, but several modern materials used in decorating can harm the environment Think recycled carpets, paints with no volatile organic compounds and reclaimed wood furniture to make a home beautiful outside and in.