The term eco home is used broadly to describe any house which has been designed with sustainability or environmental concerns in mind. This can range from kitting your home out with the latest renewable technology for heat and power, to building a home that has a low energy demand in the first place.
With so many factors to consider, eco homes are deemed to be a complicated endeavour, but take inspiration from our choice of incredible environmentally-friendly designs.
This gorgeous two-storey cottage is a great example of using natural materials – a green oak frame and organic paints – to create interesting shapes and a beautiful finish. A ground source heat pump and sheeps wool insulation were used to retain a low carbon footprint.
Using ‘exotic’ building materials Stephen and Rhona Graham built their low-impact, contemporary-style home. Rubber tyres, beer cans and straw bales make up the house which is topped by the amazing turf roof.
Eco Home Materials
If you are looking to really reduce your environmental impact, limiting your energy demand is only half the story. Getting into the sustainability of materials is a bit of a can of worms — you might be able to find materials from sustainable sources but if they need to be shipped from miles away, that is going to increase your carbon footprint.
Unless you build entirely ‘from the land’ you will have to accept that the eco warrior in you will have to make the odd compromise. However, where you can, buy local, natural materials and look out for certificates of sustainability — such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) mark on wood.
A Douglas fir frame and straw bales were used to build this quirky eco home. The house’s sustainable nature is present throughout the finish as the lime render on top of the bales gives a rustic and relaxed feel while the triple glazing and solar photovoltaic (PV) panels installed are displayed externally.
Generating more energy than it uses, this house was built using as many locally sourced materials as possible.
This package passivhaus was built just four months after the original 1930s house was demolished – the shell itself erected in just two days!
Almost entirely submerged in forestry, this self-build is as green as they come. Constructed from Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) in the garden of the homeowners old home, the external finishes on the walls, roof and windows are certified sustainable softwood grown in Scotland.
The clever design of this home demonstrates how achievable low-running-cost home, built from ordinary building materials, can be. Standard blockwork cavity walls were stuffed with Rockwool cavity batt insulation and the inner glass skin controls the temperature of the house.
A fabric first approach was taken to build this organic home on a sloping site. Highly insulated steel and blockwork mean it has outstanding levels of airtightness and various renewables and eco-technologies were installed such as ground and air source heat pumps, Solar PV panels and a passive ventilation system.
What is a Fabric-first Approach?
A fabric-first approach means focussing on reducing the potential heat loss of a building. This requires you to think about what to build out of, how to insulate it, and how to ensure airtightness (which has a direct impact on heat loss).
Certain build systems have been designed to incorporate insulation as part of the structure (rather than something that is added into wall cavities or behind panels). SIPs and insulated concrete formwork (ICF) are two such examples.
Built to a tiny budget of just £123,000, this house displays great use of eco-minimalism as high insulations mean it requires very little energy to run, negating the need for potentially expensive renewables.
For some renewables are a necessary feature for eco homes, your focus should be on producing a home with low heat demand to begin with. That said, while you can easily design in ways to control the temperature of your home, you may want to turn to renewables for power to light your home at night (and power any appliances).
Solar PV panels can be used to generate some of this energy demand. Wind turbines and hydroelectric can generate electricity too, but these are often much more expensive.
Even a very thermally efficient house needs hot water and maybe the odd boost of heat, and ways to generate heat for your home without the need for a conventional gas-mains boiler are:
The first of its kind in the UK, this self-build used a highly insulated encapsulation system to achieve passivhaus status.
Made up of three boxes – two larch-clad – this unusual self-build in the trees uses repurposed beech wood from a sports hall and grills from a local diesel factory as interior and exterior flooring. Passivhaus status was achieved through triple glazing and a mechanical ventilation with heat recovery system.
Solar thermal and solar PV panel cement this home’s eco status. The contemporary house is built from blockwork, rather than timber frame, due to the site’s awkward size.
Taking advantage of SIPs ability to be rendered elsewhere on site and craned into place, this contemporary eco cottage’s energy bills are minimal as the homeowners take advantage of governmental Feed-in Tariff payments.
A hybrid of timber and steel frame was used to engineer this stunning building that is proud to stand out. Using a heat recovery ventilation system means that this house uses stale exhaust air to warm incoming fresh air and retain a comfortable living environment throughout the changing seasons.
Kit homes are a great way of reducing your build’s carbon footprint as the highly insulated timber frame is made off-site – this one from Potton. Overheating was a concern here, but the triple-glazed windows are designed to reduce solar gain while covered outdoor areas minimise direct sunlight.