Eco homes vs eco upgrades

Posted by Derek Mason

9th May 2023

Picture credit: Zaptec on Unsplash

If you’re ready to lead a greener day-to-day life and you Google “eco homes” you’ll find a considerable number of “Grand Designs” style properties being advertised. They’re impressive, but if you don’t have exceedingly deep pockets then they’re not a practical purchase. So it’s good to see that more and more sensibly priced eco homes are making it onto the market.

One of the largest eco developments in the UK is happening in Cambridgeshire, with more than 800 houses and flats going up at Knights Park, two miles north of Cambridge city centre. Powered via solar panels, the homes will be triple-glazed and use high-performance insulation to minimise heat loss.

Other features include a mechanical ventilation heat recovery system, rainwater recycling system and underground rubbish storage. The development will be connected to local shops and schools via cycle and pedestrian routes. With prices starting at £369,950 for a one-bedroom flat, they’re not dirt cheap by any stretch, but they are at least a little more affordable than the average Kevin McCloud-style creation.

A smaller development of eco-homes is going up in north London. Twenty flats at the Whetstone Green Apartments development will benefit from solar panels, mechanical ventilation and heat recovery systems, with efficient, streamlined ceiling panels to heat the homes instead of radiators. Green roofs will create an additional habitat for bees and butterflies, and residents will have access to electric vehicle charging points.

Eco developments are springing up in other locations too, including a 23-acre site near Broadstairs in Kent, and an eco-skyscraper cluster which will create 1700 student homes along with flats, shops and offices in Blackwall, East London. The Blackwall project will be the largest Passivhaus development in Europe.

Actor Rupert Grint, aka Ron Weasley from Harry Potter, has got in on the act too – on a smaller scale – and is converting a disused barn on his Hertfordshire estate into three individual eco-homes with a green roof to insulate, absorb rainwater and sustain wildlife.

There’s clearly demand for eco-homes and it’s good to see that they’re being built in what, anecdotally, seems like greater numbers. It’s difficult to find statistics to confirm that the numbers are increasing, but they certainly appear to be.

With energy prices as they are, it seems to me that we need much more of a focus on existing housing stock. The majority of British housing stock leaks like a sieve, with heat escaping through roofs and around windows. We have a wealth of technology at our fingertips to deal with this and heat mapping can show exactly where the heat escapes.

So, while an apparent upward trend in building eco homes can only be a good thing, I look forward to more action being taken on upgrading existing homes, along with finding innovative ways to reduce energy consumption across the board. If the threat of serious climate change doesn’t prompt impactful action, then rising fuel bills hopefully will.

Meanwhile, if you need assistance with the structural elements of an upcoming project, please do get in touch.

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