House building is taking a greener turn, if recent government policies are anything to go by. That means the days that architecture, house design and construction of homes in the UK were completed without consideration to the environment, and the larger issue of global warming, will become a thing of the past.
But how does one make house building ‘green’, and how will environmental issues remain at the fore amid an ever continuing demand for housing from a growing population – particularly in a more turbulent property market? We look at big issues surrounding green house building.
Green Housing: Politically Important
Gordon Brown’s stance on house building and solving the housing shortage in the country has meant it’s become one of his flagship policy areas. Gordon Brown has committed to:
- Ensure that construction targets of three million new homes are met;
- Ensure that all new homes built are carbon neutral by 2016;
- Support the design and construction of ten ‘eco towns’, to include 200,000 environmentally friendly and sustainable homes;
- To make the reduction of carbon emissions to combat the effects of the greenhouse effect a priority;
- A continued policy of building, where possible, on brownfield rather than Greenfield sites, and the preservation of green belt land.
- Materials: from bricks to wood to how much plastic is used – house builders need to ensure they’re using the most sustainable (not just the cheapest) material option, including recycled products
- Eco-design: architects need to incorporate greener housing solutions, including insulation, double glazing and energy efficient white goods
- Recycling facilities: larger developments need to take into consideration the location and size of on site recycling facilities
- Renewable energy: solar panels, wind turbines, rainwater harvesting – a green home needs to generate its own energy as standard
- Green imagination: 2008’s Housing Design award went to Oxley Woods in Milton Keynes, whose 78 home scheme incorporated green features into the design including an ‘eco hat’ – a solar hearing panel and recovery system secured to the roof able to recycle heat from ‘stale air’
Building Green Homes: The Challenges
The targets and commitments are certainly impressive on paper, but in reality, architects and builders have a challenging job on their hands to transform the house building industry into a sustainable model.
The main issue is the difficulty in scaling what is only currently a successful small scale proposition. Individual eco homes developed by green minded architects – or even larger eco housing developments such as BedZED, the UK’s biggest green housing community – have succeeded in following eco friendly principles when it comes to home design, yet it is far more difficult to do the same for bigger housing projects.
What Architects And Designers Need To Do To Make Housing Greener
Making house building carbon neutral involves several different layers that architects and designers need to bear in mind:
Will The Property Downturn Affect Green House Building?
As the credit crunch tightens its grip, the housing market has taken a significant downturn, which has inevitably impacted share values of several major house building firms and weakened the industry as a whole. A surplus of new build properties in some areas means tough times are still ahead – but that shouldn’t necessarily impact the long term proposition of the building of greener homes. The government have recently put together a ‘rescue package’ of upfront payments for developers to ensure that their ambitious house building targets are on course, even during tougher market conditions.