Eco-homes:the future of house-building is sustainable and green

Green homes are now at the cutting edge of design with London leading the way, says Philippa Stockley

Saving the planet is high on the news agenda. So we’re all keen to be green, to recycle, wear eco-fashion, keep down emissions, and wash at low temperatures. But one of the biggest differences we can make is in house-building, whether fabulous one-off homes or larger developments. 

German energy efficiency 
We’ve all heard terms such as ‘sustainable’ and ‘eco-technology’ being used, but a passivhaus (a German term for a home that uses almost no energy to stay warm and healthy) uses the most rigorous system of all, with 30,000 ‘passive houses’ having already been built worldwide, including some in the UK ( Specialist architect Justin Bere ( designed England’s first certified passivhaus – in Camden.  

Sportswear for your home
The challenge now is to make environment-friendly homes also look easy on the eye, not a combination you would necessarily associate with common innovations, such as solar panels and plastic windows.

But modern eco-homes are fast following in the footsteps of neoprene performance-wear for cyclists and sleek racing cars. Architects are increasingly competing to achieve super-high performance in terms of heat-retention and sustainable building materials, while achieving fantastic, award-winning looks. 


Covering new ground
In fact, the constraints of building sustainable, energy-efficient homes actually drive better design. Look and build both have to be of the highest standard to ensure all targets are met. Think about it. Every part of the building has to fit together perfectly to keep warmth in, which encourages cutting-edge design. 

A key ingredient in a home like this is the use of glass. Triple-glazed, thermally efficient glass is often used on the south side of a property to maximise solar gain. 

Such homes are also built to minimise drafts, with a high level of insulation for the winter and windows open in summer to enable cross-ventilation. There may be ground- or air-source heat pumps, which use natural energy to warm the home, a bee-friendly, oxygen-producing green roof, and (rarely visible) solar panels too. 


Interestingly, natural materials such as timber, stone, brick, and glass all retain heat well, so architects combine them with avant-garde technology and materials to create spectacular results. Outside, special drainage can harvest rainwater to flush loos – but again you won’t see it. Ingenious.

One such example is Jestico + Whiles’ award-winning family home in North London, House 19. Super-modern, light, and glassy inside, with double volumes, it is clever as well as classy (, and shows what dazzling looks planet-saving homes can achieve.

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