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Top tips for eco-friendly homebuilding

The key to eco-friendly design has always been about using materials and technology that provide for the current generation without taking anything away from the next.

The sustainable mind-set has certainly become a big part of the construction industry and there are plenty of options for those wishing to design and build an eco-friendly dwelling. If you're thinking about designing a sustainable home or making your existing home more eco-friendly, here are some ideas you might consider.

Effective insulation can help to retain natural warmth in your home saving on heating bills. There are many different types you might consider using. Many insulation companies choose to use spray foams which expands to fill every nook and cranny to make a perfect airtight seal. Different types of foam insulation have different environmental credentials so it's best to research the exact type you want to use.

Some spray polyurethane foam (SPF) insulation also contains diisocyanates, and dermal or inhalation exposure to these chemicals can cause health risks if they are not properly installed or handled. For this reason, many choose to use alternative insulation products like Fiberglass (batt) and Cellulose.

Water Systems
Installing water saving plumbing is a great way to make your home more eco-friendly. Installing a 6 litre water saving cistern can save between 20% and 50% of water per year. You might also consider a dual flushing toilet where the user can choose a 4 litre flush with the small button or a 6 litre flush with the larger button.

Low capacity baths can save between 15-28% of water. A standard bath holds around 175-210 litres of water whilst a low capacity bath holds on average 149 litres. You might also consider fitting flow restrictors to your faucets and shower. These reduce the maximum number of litres per minute to save water whilst still maintaining adequate pressure.

Traditionally, septic tanks have always been the go-to means for disposing of onsite wastewater when municipal sewage is not available. However, Biofilters offer a more eco-friendly means of disposing of wastewater.

These systems use naturally occurring bacteria to process wastewater resulting in a cleaner effluent that won't contaminate the surrounding soil or water sources. These can also have less impact on natural surroundings. For example, the footprint of the Clarity Biofilter system can be up to 75% smaller than a traditional septic system, meaning less excavation and clear cutting to make room for it.

Renewable energy sources
You could consider adding solar panels to your roof or a wind turbine in your garden. In the correct conditions these can produce enough energy for your household and more besides which you could be reimbursed for. These can be an expensive initial investment but can add huge value to your property and save you a lot of money in the long run.

Building materials
There are a huge range of sustainable renewable materials which you can specify for every part of your home from bricks and roof tiles to furniture and fabrics.

Take flooring for example. Bamboo, linoleum, cork or reclaimed hardwood flooring can be an excellent eco-friendly alternative. Bamboo flooring looks modern and stylish and the bamboo used to make it is a renewable resource which grows extremely quickly without the need for pesticides or fertilisers.

Linoleum is also enjoying a resurgence thanks to its green credentials. Made from linseed oil, pine resin, wood flour or jute, most linoleum is non-toxic and biodegradable, although buyers should avoid synthetic versions containing polyvinyl chloride (PVC).

You might also consider using reclaimed wood flooring taken from disused buildings or renewable alternatives like cork flooring. Cork is mildew and water resistant and also shock absorbing which is great for tired feet although can be more susceptible to scuffing. Cork is being used less in wine bottling so buying cork flooring also helps to support the industry.

These are just a few of the steps you might take towards making your home more eco-friendly. The key is to think carefully about the materials you're using and the systems you're installing. When designing an eco-friendly home, it's always best to work with an experienced architect or developer to help determine the most appropriate sustainable solutions for your property.