PROPERTY OF THE MONTH
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 (ecodesign.co.uk). ‘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.’