Ecofriendly houses

House Beautiful (UK) - - CONTENTS -

Whether it’s a multi-mil­lion pound ru­ral re­treat or a sky­scraper apart­ment, hardly a home is built th­ese days with­out a ref­er­ence to its ecofriend­li­ness. The wide-rang­ing term can cover any­thing from an af­ford­able pod to a tra­di­tional house built with nat­u­ral re­sources, such as in­su­lat­ing straw bales and lime plas­ter. Or it could re­fer to an old cot­tage con­structed with or­ganic lo­cal stone and tim­ber; or a high-spec new-build, with south-fac­ing tripleglazed win­dows to max­imise sun­light and a ground-source heat pump to save on en­ergy bills. The house be­low, for in­stance, which fea­tured on Chan­nel 4’s Grand De­signs, was built to ex­act­ing eco stan­dards en­abling it to with­stand the fierce Isle of Skye weather. Sus­tain­able build­ing ex­pert Tim Pullen says there’s no sin­gle def­i­ni­tion of what con­sti­tutes an ecofriendly home. ‘The near­est we get is: “A dwelling that uses ma­te­ri­als and per­haps tech­nol­ogy to re­duce its en­ergy needs and im­pact on the en­vi­ron­ment.”’ Eco homes took off in the 1970s in Swe­den and Ger­many, where build­ing in­no­va­tions, such as huge win­dows and larch or cedar cladding, met the ideals of peo­ple who wanted to live and raise their fam­i­lies in a healthy en­vi­ron­ment. In the UK, ar­chi­tect David Gale pins the start of our in­ter­est to the publi­ca­tion in 1989 of David Pear­son’s The Nat­u­ral House, which de­scribed new ways of cre­at­ing a home based on eco­log­i­cal prin­ci­ples. It tapped into a grow­ing aware­ness of the need to pro­tect our frag­ile en­vi­ron­ment from pol­lu­tion, and re­flected the con­cerns of those seek­ing a less ma­te­ri­al­is­tic life­style.

‘When we set up in 1992, we based our prac­tice on per­ma­cul­ture – the idea of hav­ing a home that is sus­tain­able and works with na­ture,’ says David Gale, di­rec­tor of ar­chi­tects Gale & Snow­den (ecode­ ‘This was quite a new thing back then, but now we’re find­ing that peo­ple un­der­stand that hav­ing a healthy eco home won’t only save them money but will also help to re­duce cli­mate change and our im­pact on the planet too.’

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