First-time buyers on a tight budget need no persuading that it makes sense to live in an energy-efficient home. With so many borrowers stretched to the limit, keeping the household bills down is as essential as seeking out the cheapest mortgage. Indeed, energy savings could be the reason you manage to get a mortgage in the first place - lenders look more favourably on borrowers buying into a green housing development where monthly outgoings are low.
"Affordability should not be judged solely on how much a property costs to buy, but what it costs to run," says Andy Warman of Octavia housing association.
Arguably, housing associations are ahead of private developers in the delivery of green homes. New building techniques and bold architecture are being embraced, alongside a retro theme - an emphasis on self-sufficiency, reminiscent of the Fifties when post-war austerity and scarce resources triggered renewed interest in allotments and energy saving.
Making the grade
Launching next month is the capital's most energy-conscious housing development yet. Oberon Court, close to the Olympic zone in east London, scores top marks on a green housing standard that grades properties on a scale of one to six (six is the highest).
Super insulated and triple glazed, the 33 apartments are virtually airtight, greatly reducing heat loss. Solar roof panels generate electricity for the communal areas, resulting in lower service charges. Apartments use an EcoPlay system that recycles bath and shower water for toilet flushing, lowering metered water charges.
The homes are for private sale and shared ownership. Prices from £240,000. Contact L&Q (0844 4069800; lqgroup.org.uk/sales-and-rentals).
Sustainable properties close to Olympics site
Vermilion is the first phase of an ambitious £3.7 billion, 10,000-home regeneration project at Canning Town, located between Canary Wharf and Stratford. Much is being made of its "sustainable" architecture, which includes green (planted) walls and roofs that drain rainwater into a hi-tech watering system feeding fountains, ponds and multi-level communal eco gardens, and encouraging habitats for bird species that have traditionally nested around the River Lea and the Thames.
The 21-storey tower will have 271 apartments, available before next year's Olympic Games. Prices will start from £180,000. Call Hamptons International on 020 7758 8481 or email email@example.com.
At another Docklands scheme called Waterside Park, apartments have reduced outgoings via a district heating system. Prices start from £210,000. Call 08458 719994.
A low-energy Swedish construction system called ModernaHus has been used at a scheme of 108 flats in Brixton, resulting in homes that are 44 per cent more energy efficient than standard dwellings. Water consumption is much lower too - typically 105 litres a person a day (against the norm of 212 litres).
Flats are triple glazed and have underfloor heating, powered by a central biomass boiler, while on-site allotments will allow residents to grow their own food.
Called Fabrik, it is a redevelopment of a derelict warehouse at Coldharbour Lane. Notting Hill housing association is selling the flats on a shared-ownership basis. Prices from £182,000 (£45,500 for the minimum 25 per cent share). For more details visit nottinghillhousing.org.uk/fabrik.
Scandinavian design is also the inspiration for the latest phase of homes at The Hamptons, Worcester Park. Called Providence Place, the new buildings at this 60-acre, 645-home estate are said to be reminiscent of grain mills and quayside warehouses and make use of natural timber and warm-coloured rendering.
Through the "feed-in" tariff, owners get paid for each unit of solar energy generated regardless of whether they use the electricity or not (typically over £300 per year). Apartments cost from £249,950, houses from £389,950. Call St James Homes on 020 8337 3425.
Period property conversions
Top energy ratings are harder to achieve when refurbishing older properties, especially listed buildings where there are restrictions on structural alterations. At Greengate House, near Canary Wharf, architects overcame this hurdle by retaining only the handsome Edwardian façade and creating 64 new apartments behind, around a landscaped courtyard. Eco-friendly architecture includes "green" roofs and biomass boilers.
The historic frontage makes for an impressive sense of arrival, while once through the door the modern architecture behind springs a surprise. Originally a YMCA hostel, the building was later a theatre and then a university art and design faculty.
Shared-ownership apartments start at £170,000 (the minimum share is 30 per cent, or £51,000). Contact 0844 406 9800 or visit lqgroup.org.uk.
Lenders who recognise green credentials
Green mortgages are not widely available, but there is a government push to get lenders to offer discounts as part of its Green Deal initiative. Co-operative Bank, Norwich & Peterborough and the Ecology building society are the three main lenders offering cheaper rates if your home is energy efficient or if you are borrowing to invest in, say, solar heating.
These lenders also look favourably on "carbon-free" housing developments - such as Graylingwell Park in Chichester, the UK's largest zero-carbon scheme. This 85-acre parkland estate has 750 new and converted homes, allotments, a farm shop, small business premises, live-work units and artists' studios. A former hospital, the re-landscaping includes 1,428 new trees, including fruit trees, jogging tracks and cycle routes. There is also a car club.
Domestic boilers are not required in the home and excess power generated from the district heat and power plant is fed back into the National Grid. Homes use 33 per cent less water than usual. Houses are priced from £298,995 to £314,995. Call Linden Homes on 01243 781494 or visit graylingwellpark.com.
Shared-ownership homes are on offer through Affinity Sutton housing association. Prices start from £62,500 for a 25 per cent share and a deposit of £3,125 is required. Call 0300 100 0303 for further details.