How to Create the Ultimate Eco Home
Future home

Nowadays, the term 'green' rolls off the tip of the tongue of most people who are involved in the construction industry. This is a field which has had to adapt phenomenally over the years, simply because it contributes most to those high emissions that the government are attempting to curb.

Take a look around Archiquality, and most examples will be of the green variety as well. It's become somewhat fashionable to build a sustainable dwelling, and advancements in technology means that such buildings look completely stylish.

The industry has even coined its own term to describe those buildings which are looking to break boundaries when it comes to energy efficiency. Passivhaus is the description for such properties and there is now an official standard to deem whether or not buildings can be awarded this title. Suffice to say, it's quite an accolade and if you are looking for your next house to take centre stage, it's certainly worth investigating.

The fact that the BRE runs its own long-term qualification for Passivhaus highlights exactly how extensive the standard is, and how it certainly cannot be explained adequately in one article. However, if you are considering injecting more green than usual into your next self-build, here are some of the principles that are becoming commonplace and will set you well on your way to at least satisfying some of the Passivhaus requirements.

Take full advantage of the roof space

Take around at these designs — notice something in common? All of the roofs are completely out of the ordinary. Gone are the days when we a surveyor will complete his rounds for the day and see a hipped, gable and flat roof — the shapes that are seen in the current age are beyond description.

In fact, architects now seem to be creating their own unique roof shapes every day. They're constantly getting more extreme and while design obviously plays a big part in this — so does sustainability.

Solar panels naturally have a big part to play in staying green and it goes without saying that they need to be facing the west in a bid to maximise their performance.

However, staying green isn't just about sticking a load of modern panels on the roof. It also revolves around your glazing and the benefits in relation to skylights are beyond belief. They'll attract a considerable amount of heat towards the building, as well as inject light into the place at the same time. Again, they need to be positioned appropriately though, and this is where that funky roof design comes into play.

...But also dig downwards

Don't be fooled into thinking that all of your efforts need to come from the roof. It might play a big part in staying green, but another area you can reap the rewards from is the ground. Ground Source Heat Pumps might not have made a significant impact on the house building market like solar panels, but their rewards are obvious for all to see.

Particularly if you are taking advantage of an underfloor heating system, the rewards can be fantastic. Some households will save 5,230kg of carbon dioxide every year, and that's just from installing a pipe deep into your garden. Of course, it's slightly more complex than that — and expensive as well, with some systems costing around £15,000. This is the main reason why a lot of households opt against it but if you are adamant about creating that dream, eco home, GSHPs are the thing in fashion at the moment.

The A-Z of windows

Buying a new window used to be a simple process. Now, it’s not quite like that — especially when you’re installing them onto a brand new property.

Firstly, the position of the windows in the green day and age is crucial. They again need to act as sun traps, in a bid to extract as much heat and light to the house as possible.

However, technology advancements mean that there is now another issue to consider in the way of glazing. Triple glazing is pretty much expected by the green community nowadays, with this naturally aiding from a sound and thermal perspective. We could then venture on and discuss the importance of openings, trickle vents and all of the other features that accompany modern-day windows — but we’ll leave that for another day.

Staying 'green' doesn't only have to cut your gas bills

The press might constantly be berating the gas and electricity providers, but let’s not forget that staying green also revolves around water savings as well. There are countless ways to slash your water consumption and as well as the standard day-to-day practices, there are now more permanent methods to save.

Rainwater harvesting systems are probably the biggest saver in this regard and the general belief is that they can slash your mains water consumption in half. With a well pump from Grundfos now priced so competitively, it means that they can be comfortably integrated with wells or even just a storage tank and be pumped into the main system. It’s not as advanced as it sounds in writing and will barely affect the external appearance of your property. In fact, the addition of a well could even hand it a little more charm.

Round it all off with SIPs

Finally, let’s round the whole thing off with some structural insulation panels. These are seen as the big thing in the construction industry right now and are the bread and butter of most modern designs. As well as retaining fantastic thermal properties, they allow for a lot of flexible cladding designs and this is a pretty much a prerequisite of contemporary design.

SIPs will keep heat in your house like no other type of insulation — and this will subsequently compliment any of the other systems that have been deciphered through the course of this guide.

Hot Tubs: Making the Most from the Ultimate Garden Luxury in Winter
Garden furniture

The thought of tip-toeing out into your garden half-naked in the middle of winter might be enough to send shivers down your spine in itself. However, some people are more than happy to do it and with the UK temperatures being surprisingly high for this type of year, it would be fair to say that more and more hot owners are taking to winter use.

Of course, if you don't have any plans for jumping in until the summer periods, it's probably better to completely power it down for a few months. However, if you're in the other boat, here is a selection of tips that will ensure that your hot tub is going to withstand the perils of winter...

Conduct a stock check

First and foremost, it's important to get your stock in order. What we're referring to here is all of the hot tub water cleaning chemicals that you tap into throughout the year. Most people order these online now and if you are part of this group, you won't have a problem. However, a lot of high-street outlets are immediately under the impression that winter signals the end to hot tub usage, so don't think that you'll be able to pop to your local store when supplies run low.

Preventing contamination at this period of the year is even more important than ever, but don't immediately think you’ll be able to obtain the chemicals at the drop of a hat.

Guard against the big freeze

The beauty of modern hot tubs is that most contain a freeze protection system. This does exactly as it says on the tin; it prevents any serious damage to your system if the temperature drops considerably and threatens your hot tub mechanics.

Many years ago, before advanced features were installed in these devices, low temperatures could result in the pipes freezing over. Suffice to say, this usually spelled disaster, but with the aid of freeze protection systems it means that the tub water is always regulated and guards against the pipes becoming susceptible to the elements.

Assess your cover

Take a look at the gardens featured on this site and you'll notice one thing, all of the hot tubs are top of the range. However, this will count for absolutely nothing if the owner decides to opt for a budget cover.

It might sound like a meaningless accessory at first, but one could argue that the cover is almost as important as the tub itself. A decent one will insulate the water and keep the heat in — which is essential to prevent any dangerous freezing to parts.

Therefore, make sure yours is up to scratch. If in doubt, either buy a new one or treat the surface to at least give it extra protection from the wintery conditions.

Turn off the jets

If you're not the most energy-savvy hot tub owner out there, there's every chance you leave the air jets running for long periods of time. When it gets to winter, it's time to snap out of this bad habit — it will cost you an arm and a leg.

In summer, the difference won't really be noticeable, but allow your water to become consumed with freezing cold air and the system will have to work extra hard to regulate the temperature.

Monitor the levels

You can have the best cover, the best freeze protection systems and the best storage in your back yard — but there will be substantial changes in temperature to your water throughout winter. This can unfortunately affect the water levels considerably.

This is probably the biggest winter-related problem with hot tubs, and also one that few people realise even exists. If your water levels do get too low, the heater pump runs the risk of not being able to reach the water that is in there. This can cause the whole pool to freeze over and needless to say, this is a time-consuming and costly issue to rectify. Running into the garden, whipping off the cover and finding a block of ice in there is hardly the most enticing way to use a hot tub in the middle of January, after all...

Keep the temperature steady

And finally, if you haven't got the message already, make sure that the water temperature remains at a decent level throughout the season. Rather than simply heat the water up when you jump in, it actually works out cheaper to mildly heat it indefinitely. Additionally, in a bid to reiterate what has also been touched on throughout the post, it again minimises the risk of a big freeze and a big repair job to your whole tub.

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