As high-end residential architects with vast experience in designing and delivering sustainable buildings for our clients, we’re excited to hear from increasing numbers of homeowners looking for sustainable solutions. Indeed, for many of our clients this has now become a core part of the design brief.
Before exploring exactly which technologies can be integrated into your building to make it more ecologically efficient, it’s important to define your needs, and understand exactly what makes a building sustainable or ‘green.’
What makes a building ‘green’?
Generally, we refer to a building as ‘green’ when it’s located, designed, built, renovated and operated according to energy-efficient guidelines. Importantly, these buildings will have a positive environmental, economic and social impact over their lifecycle. And to ensure this we generally focus on four main areas: materials, energy, water and health.
Using the combined expertise of HollandGreen plus our ecological consultants Mesh Energy, we can ensure your sustainable project runs smoothly, from conception to completion. Allowing you to enjoy an energy efficient home that is both beautiful and functional.
How can I understand what’s available for my build?
To explain how HollandGreen can guide you through your sustainable technology options, take our recent contemporary and energy efficient extension in Reigate, Surrey. This ambitious project involved the substantial demolition of existing parts of the building, and the addition of a sizeable new contemporary extension.
Image Source: HollandGreen Architecture & Interiors
Considerations when planning a sustainable build
First we helped the owners identify their priorities in building a sustainable dream home. For example, are you particularly conscious of using specific reclaimed or sustainable materials and reducing your carbon footprint? Or are you more interested in significantly reducing your long-term annual running costs – and reliance on oil and gas?
Once we had answered these questions, we went on to establish the necessary steps to help achieve their desirable, appropriate sustainable design.
With our close collaboration with Mesh Energy, we then identified the most appropriate levels of investment to achieve this design. This covered both materials and technologies – identifying at design stage how to best take advantage of the natural environment of the site (local climate, sun study, tree study), down to the technologies (MVHR, PV, Air Source Heating).
We work closely with Mesh Energy to outline specific technologies and factors to be considered in any new design. The ecological feasibility report produced by Mesh Energy breaks down the processes that we have chosen for the project.
For example, in Reigate, our client wanted to understand the likely increase in heating demands after the works were completed. They also wanted to know how photovoltaic panels could help reduce the electricity costs.
Mesh Energy prepared a detailed report that identified the increased heating demands of the proposal, and suggested a suitable high efficiency boiler to meet these increased demands. We supplied the roof plans to identify the most suitable location for the installation of PV panels, and to highlight any subsidies available. The running and upfront costs of the processes were also identified.
Our estimated energy savings and payback period included:
- Heating – the space heating and hot water requirements for the proposed extension and dwelling upgrades were estimated to be per 37,955 kWh year based on mains gas heating. This equates to around an annual cost of £1,320.
- PV – while it was only possible to place a small number of panels, the output was improved by using panels with a high output (in this case 330 watts per panel). The proposed four-panel system would produce around 1,254 kWh per year, which equated to 32% of the properties annual electricity demand.
We helped guide the client through the report, giving it architectural perspective and explaning how this saving could be be integrated into the building, giving options along the way.
Finding the right products for you
After reviewing the ecological survey and establishing your needs, alongside the innate ecological capabilities of your home design, our expert team and Mesh Energy consultants will help you select a package of products to provide you with a desirable return on investment, while meeting your day to day needs.
The four most common technologies integrated into our designs are:
- Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery (MVHR, also called heat recovery ventilation or comfort ventilation) provides fresh filtered air into a building while retaining most of the energy that has already been used in heating it. MVHR extracts the air from the polluted sources, for example kitchens, bathrooms, toilets and utility rooms, and supplies air to the ‘living’ rooms, such as bedrooms, living rooms and studies. The extracted air is taken through a central heat exchanger and the heat recovered into the supply air
Image Source: Orange House Renewables
- There are two main types of solar PV cells that are suitable for domestic use. Monocrystalline(made from a single silicon crystal) are more efficient and more expensive, and often a bit smaller. Polycrystalline (made from many silicon crystals) can be up to 20% cheaper, which makes them more financially attractive for larger roofs. However, they’ll produce less electricity than an equivalent rated mono system. A 3.8kWp PV system is likely to produce a little over 3,000kWh of electricity each year (the average UK household uses about 6,000kWh per year).
Image Source: Acorn Electrical Supplies
- Air source heat pumpstransfer heat from the outside air to an indoor space via the wet central heating systems, heating radiators and providing hot water. The pumps work like a refrigerator, which means they can also work as a cooling system in the summer months. Air source heat pumps are usually placed outside a home, office or building where there is adequate space.
Image Source: ESP Energy
- Ground source heat pumps (GSHPs) use pipes buried in the garden to extract heat from the ground. This heat can then be used to heat radiators, underfloor or warm air heating systems, and hot water in your home.
Image Source: Green Building Advisor
The perfect mix of technologies
The desired level of eco-efficiency can usually be achieved through a mixture of sustainable and traditional methods.
In our Reigate project, we closely collaborated with our client and Mesh Energy to identify the perfect mixture of technologies to reduce the running costs of the considerable increase in building size.
A holistic approach that delivers results
It’s essential at this stage to adapt a holistic approach to the design, combining expertise and deep understanding of sustainable processes with architecture.
Through this approach, not only can we meet the minimum performance requirements of our clients, but we can also ensure that their overall experience of their home was enhanced. Through the adequate sizing of the boiler, installation of the PV panels, and strategic use of glazing, their new home was an energy efficient, enjoyable space with superb views of the garden.
Image Source: HollandGreen Architecture & Interiors
Choosing the right installation team
Another important consideration at this stage of your project is installation and service. To deliver lasting reliability and high levels of customer satisfaction, your energy solutions need to include certified and quality products that are understood and supported by local installers.
The technologies we select collaboratively with Mesh Energy and our clients are designed not just to hit the target performance, but with consideration for their long-term operation, maintenance and end user experience. We ensure you are equipped with enough resources to comfortably to operate on a daily basis.
If you choose to carry out the works independently, it’s important to take the time at the outset to find the right installer for your renewable products. This will save you a considerable amount of heartache and money. So look for tradespeople who are well trained, familiar with the products they are installing, and understand the subtleties and best practices of a particular product’s installation method.
At HollandGreen, we integrate all selected installers and suppliers for the sustainable solutions as part of our tender package for your project, providing you with a shortlist of suitably qualified contractors and suppliers. Once the tenders are in we analyse them and help you choose the right contractor, installer and supplier. We also ensure that the installer is able to meet government set product installation and quality standards, according to the Microgeneration Certification Scheme.
Our Contract Administrator also keeps a careful eye on your project to ensure the build reflects the sustainable vision you chose, facilitating the smooth installation process and avoiding misunderstandings and potentially costly mistakes.
Keep communication open
As with any architectural project, there’s one final, essential element to a successful eco build: good communication. From our first house consultation to the site visits, we make it our priority to facilitate communication between all parties.
Regular on site meetings between the key trades, and a running communication on project schedule and necessary changes enables us to keep your project running smoothly – and help you build the green home of your dreams.
Working with experts like Mesh Energy, we are eager to help you avoid the common misconceptions that sustainability and energy efficiency is a complex and treacherous journey, and make the process as smooth and enjoyable as possible.
Planning a sustainable home build or renovation?
As leading high-end residential architects with vast experience in designing and delivering sustainable buildings, we provide architecture services throughout London, Surrey, Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Berkshire. We’d love to help you plan your sustainable home build or renovation. Find out more about how we work or get in touch for an initial meeting with Ben Holland or Stephen Green.