Low Energy Sustainable Buildings

In this modern age, we are always looking for ways in which to be more sustainable, there is no denying that. Whether that is eating less meat, recycling more, or using renewable energy in our homes. We only have one planet and even the smallest lifestyle changes can have incredible results on its sustainability. While switching to a renewable energy supplier is a fantastic way to become more sustainable, there is also another way in which your home can help the environment, particularly if you are planning your very own self-build project.

Self-Build Homes

Self-building has taken the UK by storm recently with an estimated 7-10% of homes built each year in the UK now being a self-build. There are many reasons for this including: designing and building a home individual to you, creating a home for retirement or constructing a high-quality home at a cost-effective price. Another key reason we have seen a sharp rise in UK self-builds is their undeniably positive impact on sustainability, particularly when built to Passivhaus standards.

Passivhaus (sometimes known as Passive House) building is a voluntary standard of construction where design principles are implemented in such a way that allows for the occupant to have a high level of comfort (heating and cooling) while using little-to-zero energy. This ingenious way of building allows the user to have both a reduction in energy costs and much lower carbon emissions from their home. So, not only does this help the environment, but it can also save you money!

Reduction in Heating Demand

Passivhaus homes often see a huge reduction in heating demand. This is primarily achieved through high levels of insulation using Insulated Concrete Formwork (ICF), while also reducing the number of thermal bridges in the home.

ICF is a revolutionary innovation in both walling and foundation systems for self-builds. With the walling systems, hollow polystyrene blocks are used to construct the frame of the home itself. Concrete is then poured into the blocks which gives unrivalled insulating properties over more traditional materials used in other walling systems. ICF foundation slabs are of a similar idea but used in the foundations of a home or basement. These are ground slabs that are usually cast at the project site, then reinforced with a steel mesh or fibre. Again, offering incredible insulation over more traditional foundation methods in homes and ultimately reducing energy consumption.

Thermal bridging is the areas of a home where heat tries to escape. This is typically where there is a break or penetration in the structure as the heat will tend to follow the path where it has the least resistance when escaping.

This usually will be:

  • Where the floor meets a wall
  • Where a wall meets the roof
  • Pipe or cable entrances
  • Around windows and doors

Passivhaus homes are built to be almost free of any thermal bridging, therefore significantly reducing the demand for traditional heating methods.

Passivhaus and Sustainability

There truly is no denying that there is a direct correlation between Passivhaus building and sustainability. Looking at the key benefit to come from building a home to Passivhaus standards: if there is a reduction in the demand for heating, this will certainly limit the requirement for energy usage and ultimately reduce a home’s carbon emissions.

Heat in a Passivhaus home is generated from appliances such as the oven, a computer, refrigerators or even lightbulbs and candles. It is also generated from a home’s occupants utilising good old fashioned body heat.

As we don’t all have the luxury of living in a warmer climate, particularly in the UK, there will sometimes be a requirement for the use of traditional heating methods even in a Passivhaus home. Building a home to the high Passivhaus standards and going through the rigorous certification process central to sustainability, most self-builders will tend to opt for an eco-friendly energy source too. Having solar-powered energy sources installed in your home or using a renewable energy provider is always the best way in which to ensure that your Passivhaus home is truly built with sustainability at its core.

This article was provided by Econekt. They are a UK-wide low-energy construction firm with a focus on Passivhaus and ICF self-building. So good, even Mother Nature would approve.