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Top Twelve Eco Tips

Guide to Sustainability

Stuart Samuels Managing Director of Alpha Building Consultancy has 32 years of experience in the Construction Industry, and has seen ‘GREEN’ as the way forward for many years.  He first saw houses being constructed from Hemp in the late 1990’s and this sparked an interest in sustainable construction.  He has been a SAP Assessor since 1995, and is a Licensed BREEAM Assessor for Code for Sustainable Construction and Eco-Homes.  He is a Member of the National Green Register and Refurbishers Register.                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

1. Recycle/Reuse
Throwing something away and replacing it uses more energy than getting it repaired.  Consider how much energy is consumed when a building is demolished and a new one is built.  Recycling not only building materials, but also household items including furniture, linens, household packaging etc, can help save carbon emissions.

2. Shut Down/Turn Off
Leaving equipment on standby means it is still using power, turning non essential things off saves energy.  Energy saving plugs are now widely available to help with this, they are a sound investment.

3. Air Permeability
Doors and windows which do not have a snug fit allow numerous cold drafts, which mean that your heating system will have to work overtime to compensate.  By building new property without this problem, energy will be saved.  Buildings now have to be tested to comply with rigorous Building Regulations to make sure of this much can also be done to draft proof older property.

4. Temperature      
Wearing different clothing to keep warm rather than relying on changing the thermostat can reduce energy consumption and save money.

5. Natural ventilation
Using natural ventilation reduces temperature without the need for energy guzzling air conditioning.  Allowing the occupants of buildings easy access to windows to give them control is very effective in providing a comfortable environment.

6. Insulation
Improving the insulation in a building has the twofold advantage of reducing heat loss in winter and preventing heat gain in summer.  This means less fuel is needed to heat and cool the building during its’ lifetime.  Insulating the outside of walls and roofs allows the thermal mass of the building to 'absorb' the changing internal conditions.

7. Controls
Efficient control of a buildings heating and cooling system can ensure that energy is not wasted.  Matching the central plant to demand will improve efficiency.  Thought should be given to orientation of buildings at design stage, to maximise the benefits of heat and shade.  Providing control zones within a building will also save energy by allowing temperature to be regulated according to need.

8. Light Pipes
A light pipe is a super reflective tube which carries daylight from a transparent roof mounted dome down into a room through the attic, allowing internal spaces to benefit from natural daylight so reducing the need for artificial light.


9. Shading
Keeping sun out of buildings is essential to reduce heat gains through windows and to meet the maximum allowed heat gains of 35w/m2 in Part L of the Building Regulations.

10. Work From Home
Commuting to and from work wastes time and fuel.  Working from home is a viable option in many jobs these days, especially with the advances of the internet, video conferencing, and telephone systems.

11. Rain Water Harvesting
If rainwater is harvested into a tank rather than allowing it to flow into drainage system, it can be used for flushing toilets.  This reduces the amount of fresh mains water used and limits the rate at which surface water is discharged into drainage systems.

12. Solar Water Heating
Solar hot water collectors absorb the sun’s energy, which is then used to heat the water which comes out of the hot taps.  A 1m2 solar collector can provide a peak heat  output of 700 watts.  The sun collectors are commonly roof mounted  and face south.  The hot water is stored in a cylinder which is usually backed up with a boiler or immersion heater.