ECOLOGICALLY SUSTAINABLE DESIGN
The 20th century witnessed the dawn of a throw-away society. Little then did we realise how drastically mounting consumerism from an exponential growth in world population would impact on our fragile planet.
It has become obvious that modern society cannot continue to function responsibly by grasping unethically at limited resources. It’s a simple fact of supply and demand. Land fill and toxic waste have become widespread by-products of industrial and domestic life, and with declining natural resources per capita innovative ways of recycling or preserving our assets with an ethic of ecological sustainability are constantly being sought.
Why Do We Need It?
The Principles of Eco-Friendly Design
These are not short term solutions, and if a holistic approach is adopted initial outlay may seem proportionately high. The long-term savings / benefits will, however, eventually prevail.
Making your Home Healthier / More Sustainable
Eco-conscious Design Planning
Energy: sources and production.
Being relatively simple to install, the latest designs of solar panels are becoming less obvious and unattractive. This eco-friendly and highly efficient approach to energy production has an unobtrusive impact on the environment. There is little to not like. Hot water optimisers, night time energy savers and boiler boosters, with benefits to both save money as well as earn from what is channelled back into the grid are all good incentives, topped off with government grants aplenty.
Modern solar panels are being engineered within individual roof tiles and are virtually indistinguishable from ground level.
Ground source heat pumps harness heat from underground through the use of loops of pipes filled with water and anti-freeze. Heat is then channelled to a property where it is converted for domestic use in an eco-friendly and cost-effective manner. As with solar panels, there are Government funded Renewable Heat Incentives (RHIs) with an ability to both earn money and gain subsidies.
Air pumps operate on a similar basis, and can also service air-conditioning.
Recycled newspaper, cotton, wool and various other by products are now treated for use as fire-retardant, effective sources of insulation.
Green roofing has become increasingly popular, both from an aesthetic, eco-friendly and insulating perspective.
Double or triple glazed wooden windows for good insulation from locally based sustainable sources may appear costlier, but put work back into the local community and are more green that UPVC. Hollow blinds can be added to trap air and help insulation.
Low energy appliances with good ratings can use 10-50% less energy than standard models. Fridges placed in shady areas use less power to keep cool and some models allow for the by-product of heat to be harnessed for use by dishwashers. Condensed detergents use less packaging and incur a small carbon footprint via transport costs. Energy star washing machines use less water than standard and washing at 30oC can drastically reduce energy output and cost.
Although constantly on, an Aga is energy efficient, heats living space and can also heat hot water.
Install low flow showerheads and toilets. Flushing can account for 30% of indoor water use. Leaking taps and toilets can waste hundreds of litres per day.
Furniture is often replaced after 7 years. From an energy perspective this is highly inefficient so longevity / recyclability of furnishings should be a paramount consideration upon purchase. Avoid the trap of following transient décor fashions and opt for classic furniture with clean lines which can be updated with woollen cushions and throws or reupholstered (polyester is less eco-friendly). Repurposing old products is a more responsible and sustainable way of existing, plus labelling them ‘vintage’ has become de rigeur. Non-toxic paints should always be employed.
What about Upcycling and Down-cycling?
Recycling waste, either within the home (as compost or to create heat) or at local depots is accepted nationwide. The more this can be developed in the long term the better for our planet. PROBIO is a Hartlepool based firm which exports large-scale waste in bales to Scandinavia to create Refuse Derived Fuel.
Repurposing furniture through remodelling, reupholstering or repainting can be cost efficient and is certainly far less wasteful than purchasing anew.
An ugly brown sofa upcycled with Annie Slone chalk based paint and wax.
Developments in Sustainable Housing
This Danish zero-carbon active house is the embodiment of affordable sustainable housing: Its roof is covered in solar panels and cells, so effective insulation and heat exchange systems enable the house to be kept warm and electrical appliances running without leaving a footprint on the world's resources.
New Ecological Design Innovations
Commercial Air Conditioning Systems
Across the UK BT recently installed “adiabatic” air conditioning systems via “Groestar” (linked with the Chinese leaders in this field: “Airsys”).
These systems employ water to cool air as opposed to a gas cooled coils. While A/C water systems can become dirty after a period of time, these new systems no longer produce the ozone depleting gas R22. No copper is needed for coils either and these systems will soon be available for domestic installation.
Updated September 2022