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Sustainable Housing – Is Green building going mainstream?

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sustainable housing

A recent exhibition at London’s Docklands, showing green technologies and sustainable construction projects, attracted a huge number of visitors. Over 800 companies exhibited at Ecobuild 2013, which was held in February, and it is estimated that there were over 60,000 visitors.

Solar panel suppliers, builders, architects and product designers were all keen to show off the latest in sustainable technologies, and it seems that more and more of us are interested in what they have to offer. By comparison, attendance figures for the same event just a few years ago were only around 6,000 mark, and just over a hundred companies exhibited. So what has brought on this dramatic surge in interest in green technologies and sustainable housing developments? featured image via urban realm

Higher efficiency, lower bills

lower billsThe economic downturn has made us all more aware of the amount of money we spend, and over the course of a year our energy bills comprise a large portion of that. If a home is inefficient in terms of its energy usage then much of that money is being wasted. As the harmful effects to the environment of high carbon emissions become ever more apparent, and the costs of depleting fossil fuels continue to rise, it is only natural that our attentions should turn to renewable energy sources.

Solar panels and wind turbines, heat pumps and biomass boilers, solar thermal and better insulation all offer solutions to the problems of heating our homes, and keeping the bills down. One of the principle reasons why these technologies have not yet been taken up by the majority of homeowners in the UK is the perceived prohibitive cost of installation.

Sustainability as standard

And yet this is beginning to change. More and more of us are looking at adopting renewable energy measures as way of reducing both carbon emissions and energy bills, as can be seen by the numbers of people now attending shows like Ecobuild. The construction industry is starting to take note, and many builders are implementing green technologies into the fabric of new houses. With a large amount of space dedicated to innovative eco-housing solutions like PassivHaus (http://www.passivhaus.org.uk/), this phenomenon was clearly in evidence at the Ecobuild exhibition.

As quoted by The Guardian, John Acker, the director of policy at the UK Green Building Council said,

“Our housebuilders are saying they are seeing much greater interest in low-carbon technologies. As energy bills go up, architects and others are taking note of how energy-efficient these buildings are.”

People who are interested in buying a new-build are being offered the chance to pay back any extra mortgage costs via their now reduced energy bills, which makes sustainable housing an even more attractive prospect. With the Chancellor renewing the government’s commitment for all new homes to be zero carbon by 2016 in his March 2013 budget, it seems that the prognosis for the sustainable housing industry is very positive.

Incentives for adding green technologies

For those people who are not wishing to move home, but still want to improve their house’s energy efficiency and reduce its carbon footprint, the government has introduced a raft of financial incentives for adding renewable energy technologies.

feed in tariffThe Feed-in Tariff is available to those with wind turbines or solar panels for the home, and the Renewable Heat Incentive Payment scheme offers a grant to anyone wishing to use solar thermal, a heat pump or a biomass boiler to provide heating and hot water. Deciding which technology to adopt isn’t necessarily straightforward; one option for anyone thinking of installing solar panels is to use a solar PV calculator, which can provide an estimate of how much profit it is possible to generate.

The Green Deal is also a very important part of the government’s plans to boost energy efficiency across the UK, and offers a loan to cover the cost of installation which can then be paid back through the property’s energy bills.

With so many good reasons for making homes more sustainable it is little wonder that upwards of 60,000 people took the decision to attend Ecobuild 2013, and it is very likely that even more will be there at next year’s event.

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