Ecohomes – The Future in Construction

July 9th, 2010 by Clive Fenner

Sustainable construction is currently one of the hot topics on the lips of all building industry professionals, and for good reason.

We are all familiar with the impacts on the environment from vehicles, aircraft, industry and the like, but are we also aware our homes account for 28% of the total carbon emissions in the UK. According to the Energy Saving Trust it would take a forest three and a half times the size of London to absorb the CO2 our home release in a year.

Illnesses such as asthma and allergies are on the rise, because of the changes in air quality and hazardous chemical emissions in to the environment.

As individuals there is an air of general dissatisfaction and sense of powerlessness against influencing change.

If we were to live a life that was fully sustainable we would have to make considerable changes to the way we live and work. We have to think realistically about the methods and solutions we can adopt and find a compromise without impacting unrealistically on our day-to-day business.

Where we do have the power to influence change is through construction. We can make our offices and homes more sustainable through the construction of energy saving buildings, using eco-friendly products that have a positive and long-term impact on the environment.

Ecological construction means to create a structure that is beneficial or not harmful to the environment. This type of green building is efficient in its use of local and renewable materials, ease of construction and the resultant energy saving aspects on completion.

Norman Piette is renowned for its up-to-date provision of services, implementation of new technologies and for championing innovations within the industry and it is in response to the requirement for more energy efficient construction that we launched a new branch of our business – Ecohomes.

Ecohomes offers low energy and low carbon buildings that combine highly insulated and low impact building materials with renewable sources of energy that will produce homes and developments that easily meet and often exceed current building regulations.

Designed for life, construction methods such as Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) and timber frame can be used for traditional and modern buildings and use a high proportion of components that are manufactured in Guernsey.

These applications can be used to good effect in the residential, commercial and public sectors and the flexibility of design can maximise internal space without compromising on external aesthetics. This construction doesn’t cost the earth – literally.

The low running costs coupled with these sustainable construction systems are swifter to build than traditional masonry projects, which means they reach wind, watertight and first fix stages earlier than other construction methods. This is an attractive prospect for the builder and end user alike.

They can also be finished with a wide range of materials such as granite and blockwork which fit in to Guernsey’s traditional environment and of course can be sourced locally.

There is a misconception that making a building eco-friendly is a costly process. This was perhaps true a decade ago, but certainly not now.

The construction of green properties or redevelopment of existing structures has become more cost effective than ever because of the development and invention of eco-friendly products. In truth there is now no real difference in the cost of a traditional or eco-friendly build.

Also there is clear evidence that, once the primary expenses are covered, the efficiency of the structure and its renewable capacity will further reduce maintenance and operational costs.

Their unparalleled energy efficiency, high build speed and low site wastage make them the obvious choice for the construction of residential, commercial and public properties.

We live in the perfect environment to fully enjoy the benefits of solar energy. Guernsey’s geographical position and climate provides relatively long hours of sunshine over the course of the year which means we are well situated to take advantage of this clean, low carbon energy.

Solar energy systems incorporate the latest condensing boiler technology, underfloor heating and the traditional radiator system. Electric heating systems and other heat sources can also be integrated within the design. The solutions, such as those provided by Ecohomes are able to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by up to 400kg per year and reduce hot water heating costs by up to 60% annually.

Sustainable construction won’t end our environmental problems, but is a giant step towards minimising our carbon foot print. It provides a starting point through which architects and property developers can be encouraged to ‘think green’. It is natural that this thought process will filter through from those working on site to the end user.

Ecological construction is not a fad and will become increasingly popular. It is the next generation of construction and the eco-friendly solutions are continuously growing and, as with any project leaning towards the future, the possibilities are unending.

Clive Fenner is Managing Director of Norman Piette Ltd.  This article was published originally in the May 2010 issue of Business Brief magazine.

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