Sustainable Living Environments

Sustainability Experts

Designing an eco-friendly project maybe simpler than you thought?

Thankfully, building green has cast off its once hippy image and now is widely used and incorporated within architecture, helped by spiralling energy costs and increased ecological-awareness. With the introduction of homes now coming with an energy rating,building green is not only planet friendly, but is a major marketing tool should you ever sell your property.

There are now numerous natural avenues to wander down if you’re building from scratch or renovating. One of the hardest things about building an eco home is deciding exactly what ecological factors are most important to you.

Do you want low energy bills?
To create a natural environment or just want a smaller carbon footprint?
Or just what is the most ecological and environmentally friendly way of building?

This is where it gets impossible to quantify, and it’s often simpler to strive to keep the embodied energy of your home, its energy use and environmental impact as low as possible.

Some of the most well-insulated building techniques – structural insulated panels (SIP’s), insulated concrete formwork, etc – score highly on low energy use and high insulation, but use manmade materials, with a high embodied energy. Below we will explore a range of natural building techniques and materials.

Planning your project…

The most important consideration when planning your green build is design, and using your plot to make maximum use of natural resources. Positioning and layout are crucial: for example, to make the best use of the heat from the sun, make sure your house sits on a north/south axis for maximum solar gain, which could cut around 5% from your heating bills. Existing trees, hedges and hills on site can be used as protection from wind and rain so your house won’t have to work as hard to keep the cold out. Once you are ready to draw up plans, make sure it’s done with the help of an experienced green architect or consultant who can advise you how to build an airtight, thermally efficient building, on the best possible orientation.

Techniques and materials…

Man-made building materials such as bricks and concrete have a high embodied energy: that is, use a great deal of energy in production, and even more once transport to site is taken into account. If used in abundance, they will give your house a large carbon footprint before it’s even built. By using local natural materials, you’ll not only have a low carbon footprint but a healthy living environment, too. There is a huge variety of materials and methods to choose from, depending on the final look you are trying to achieve, the amount of work you want to do yourself and what materials you can find locally or from a reputable source.


Sustainability in design is becoming ever more prominent in both the minds of our clients and the regulation makers at all levels from European down. However, these regulations are very complex and often require a far more comprehensive response than a token solar panel on the roof.

The SDA Approach

We look at all aspects of sustainability from the outset of a project. We consider the orientation of a building to maximise passive heating and cooling measures. We can also advise you about where materials are sourced from; whether from a local source or transported greater distances with associated financial and environmental costs. Some materials are themselves recycled or bi products of another industry.

We can discuss with you the pros and cons of installing energy saving features such as solar thermal systems or ground source heat pumps but we will also ensure that you have considered the more basic measures; loft insulation, double glazing, draft proofing etc which can make an enormous difference with relatively minimal outlay.

Within the practice we aim to minimise our own impact on the environment; where possible, we prefer to communicate electronically and produce all drawings in this format.

Freezeland Farm – Case Study

One such example of our sustainability understanding is a project undertaken in a remote part of Haigh Hall, Wigan, Lancashire where mains electricity and water were the only energy options available as access to the property was difficult for any stored or mains supplied fuels. In this instance the ground around the property was available for laying a Ground Source Heat Pump of sufficient size to handle all heating and hot water demands from the property.

This was supplemented with a photo-voltaic array to a suitable roof with heat recovery system, partially grant funded, which helped to reduce the electricity burden of such a stand-a-lone system. With the added benefit meaning that a percentage of the electricity demand of the property can now be generated on site and help off-set any power cuts locally, which in a rural area such as this can still be a problem.

The insulation used was produced from locally produced sheep’s wool and straw bales, this has been something of a success story for a product of no real commercial value to farmers prior to this. The stone for the rebuilt walls was locally sourced to help compliment the original building and also reduce the ‘carbon miles’ of supplying this material.

The building has been planned so as to maximise solar thermal benefits, using morning and evening sun to help heat the inside. This project will be completed in October 2013 and we will be producing a detailed feature project upon completion.

Alternative Sustainability Products

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