Climate change and our response to it is a subject that’s constantly in the news. As a consequence, the ecological impact of how we build and renovate properties is the subject of much debate.
As a property investor, you may be keen to invest in more ecologically sound projects; however, there’s still much confusion over the definition of ‘eco property’.
WHAT IS AN ECO-PROPERTY?
Simply put, an eco-property is a house that minimises its impact on the environment. But there are many different ways to do this; there’s not a single conclusive example of an eco-house.
The basic principle is – the design, construction and general running costs of the property should try to balance out when it comes to ecological loss and gain.
ENERGY-EFFICIENT RUNNING COSTS
Any property will have a standard of values when it comes to energy efficiency related to running costs.
Heating is often the first thing we think of. How efficient is the property when it comes to energy consumption through hot water, electricity, lighting and heating? Each of these factors can be addressed, from installing new boilers to fitting LED lighting throughout a house.
However, heating can only be efficient if the property is insulated. Insulation is a key factor in improving thermal performance. It has a big impact on reducing bills and carbon emissions.
Fortunately, there are now plenty of natural, eco-friendly insulating materials available such as cotton, cork, and recycled plastic that are renewable, non-toxic and biodegradable.
USING SUSTAINABLE RESOURCES
We’re all aware of our overuse of fossil fuels, which is why it’s vital to look for renewable alternatives.
Solar panels, biomass boilers and heat pumps that enable self-generation of energy are now commonly used. Although the initial outlay can be costly, these solutions do pay for themselves over the long term.
Water is another area that should be considered in an eco-property. Has the house been designed to reduce consumption and harvest rainwater?
There are different ways a property can make use of rainfall to collect water for the garden, washing the car, and use in toilets. In addition, low flow taps and showers as well as water-efficient appliances including dishwashers and washing machines, can all reduce water consumption.
Combined, these methods can save gallons of water.
ECO-FRIENDLY BUILDING MATERIALS
As well as a property’s energy efficiency, there’s also the question of what materials have been used in its construction.
Knowing where the materials have been sourced is key. For instance, has the timber been certified by the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC)? Have any plastic products been recycled? We’ve already mentioned the natural materials that are now being used for insulation.
The idea is to keep the carbon footprint as low as possible. This is very difficult to quantify. How green a property is will depend on the amount of carbon dioxide produced in the manufacture and transportation of all the building materials used in its construction.
TAKING AN ECO-FRIENDLY APPROACH
At present, we’re all part of this shift towards more ecologically sustainable living – and property investment has a role to play. Standard housebuilding methods are changing, and energy consumption is more closely monitored than ever.
Whether it’s purchasing a property that’s been built to be more environmentally friendly or installing solar panels on an existing house – there’s a growing number of property investors moving towards more ecologically sound investments – and this trend is likely to continue.
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