Can a Self-Build be Sustainable without Sacrificing Style?
For many people the words sustainable and self-build conjure up images of old tyres or plastic bottles filled with mud and re-fashioned branches proudly on display throughout the interior. Whilst this style of building is certainly sustainable, and works for many self-builders, especially those on a budget, it’s definitely not your usual ‘Grand Design’.
So if you’re style is more Feock than field shed, where do you start with sustainability?
Design. When you embark on an exciting new-build project, the first step is usually an architect. The design process will consider the layout, the style, the exciting materials and engineering possibilities. But the heating? Where the water tank will go? Less exciting.
However, considering the nuts and bolts of the ‘function’ of the building in the early design stages can really impact both the build cost and the overall future costs of your new home.
Work with your architect to consider these aspects as part of the design process:
- Design in waste/ water/ energy efficient materials, features & products, for example is a SIPS (Structurally Insulated Panels) build more efficient than basic block work and insulation? Could your glass frontage reduce your heating bills by providing solar gain?
- Design out wasteful and harmful materials, features & products.
- Use a system to measure success e.g. Passivhaus/ Code for Sustainable Homes………. But don’t become a tick box slave to it!
- Design in renewables & design out power hungry elements as much as possible e.g. insulate more, heat less, save money. For example, a highly insulated building with a heat pump and solar could make your home super cosy at very little cost…for years to come.
- Manage energy and store it in a hierarchy of efficiency – lowest losses and least cost. Control & management is better than storage. Consider the use of smart systems and appliance management. If you’re thinking about top of the range smart home technology, give some consideration to incorporating energy and appliance management. The less you use, the more you save.
If I choose renewable heating or power, when do I need to contact an installer?
Considering the heating and power options for your build at the initial design stages will save time and money later in the project. Reputable installers will happily work with your architect at the design stage to make sure your chosen system will be as cost effective as possible.
Whilst renewable heating and power systems can be fitted at a later stage in the build, this can cause delays and costs that could be avoided with collaboration at the design stage.
How do I choose a renewables company to work with my architect?
Find a local install company who has experience in designing and fitting systems for new builds. Many will already have good relationships with architects, both locally and from further afield.
Ask the installer to give you relevant case studies or take you on a site visit of a happy customer. A good installer will have customers who would be happy to talk to you about their experience.
Choose a company that can offer a range of technologies – good project management is key to keeping build projects on time and on budget. Choosing a company that can offer everything you need keeps project management simple.
Expect to pay for the design stage. Yes, your plumber can install a heat pump, and your electrician can install your solar, but the long term savings and return on your investment rely on the system you choose running at its most efficient. Investing in at the design stage will increase the value in your system for years to come. Some installers will do it for ‘free’, but essentially it’s still included in the cost of sale. Make sure you know what you’re getting from the start.
Choosing a company that keeps the design and install in-house rather than contracting out gives you more control over the finished project. Having a single point of contact for you and your architect enables effective communication – there is nothing more frustrating on a build project than coming in to find a builder or installer misunderstood the plan!
This blog was provided by ZLC Energy.