Thursday, 19 September 2013

The Eco-Houses Breaking The Mould

Forget those frail attempts on Grand Designs and suburban roofs plied with solar-panels, if it isn’t a worm riddled compost heap or an air-source heat pump we’re not interested! These are those houses that go so green they’re like nothing we’ve ever seen before. If your pockets are deep then take inspiration, if your interest is purely in the rubbernecking category however then be sure to take a look at these futuristic gems out of sheer curiosity. Seriously, everyone should understand the dynamics of a composting toilet.

Of course where possible we’ll be pointing out any tips, tricks or cost-effective installations you can utilise in your own home.

Hockerton Housing Project

When we first visited this development it was very much in its infancy and it made a refreshing change to see a community of eco houses as opposed to one state of the art house in the midst of ten acres of ground. The Hockerton project is the UK’s first earth sheltered eco housing development with the rear of the properties completely earth sheltered for excellent heat retention.

This means that all of the windows are south facing, ensuring that the development fully optimises solar energy. But of course this is old hat eco-design and this development uses its south facing facade to regulate temperature throughout the year. During the winter months the sloping roof allows the sun to penetrate deep into the building whereas during the summer months the houses shade themselves.

Hockerton home owners have expressed their reliance on the elements as the wind produces electricity through a wind turbine, the sun brings solar energy and the rain acts as the water supply. The materials used to build the house are even super-green with PVC-free wiring, pipes and methane (harnessed from landfill sites) fired bricks. Oh, and water saving WCs and low energy lightbulbs of course. Combining green design and creating a haven for wildlife is very much central to the Hockerton design and the roofs are also covered with soil for insulation and habitat creation.

Equinox House

Another soil adorned roof, this Bulgarian ‘Equinox’ House is really something quite spectacular. Designed by Ignatov Architects, believe it or not, the Equinox House’s cross section proportions are set by the Quinox and Solstice solar angles. Wow. The aim is to ensure the building makes the most of natural light and sun positioning throughout the seasons. As you could probably guess from that roof the super insulated building also comes equipped with triple glass and solar panels for passive heating and cooling.

The building was built using local materials and labour in order to mitigate pollution and transportation and an intelligent bio-active wastewater treatment turns waste into dry bio-compost and irrigation water.

Eco Arch, Kent

Go on then let’s feature a Grand Design’s creation! Like it or loathe it this house certainly packs an aesthetic punch and there’s more to that curved roof than initially meets the eye, it's comprised of thousands of ceramic tiles for excellent insulation. Aside from the tiles the roof also utilises an ‘eco-roof’ with soil to allow grass and flowers to grow. How beautiful would a collection of daffodils look in spring we wonder? Again we’re also seeing those vast south facing windows for passive solar heating.

Recycled materials are also fully utilised to insulate the property, with newspaper used to insulate the walls and crushed glass bottles used to retain heat in the flooring.

We think these eco-designs really break the mould for their unique methods of utilising solar heat, natural daylight and in the case of Hockerton Housing project, creating a true community with a passion for green living. Please feel free to suggest any designs you think really break the mould, no project is too big or small to show true innovation in environmentally-conscious living.

Victoria is writing on behalf of REC Resource and Environmental Consultants, specialists in air quality consultancy and stack emissions testing.

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