Reduce your carbon footprint with clever energy conserving ideas from these sustainable homes that combine ecotech with stylish design

carbon positive house welad house tunbridge wells kent

Image: Baufritz

Are you aiming for a home that meets Passivhaus standards, with higher than normal levels of insulation and airtightness? Or perhaps you would like to design a carbon-neutral house with solar panels, a heat pump or biomass boiler to save money on future energy bills. Then again, you may want an affordable, low-impact home made with only natural and recycled materials.

Whichever route you choose, these real-life examples show there is no need to sacrifice style for eco-friendly substance.

New-build clad in sustainable oak

new build sustainable eco friendly home

Image: Peter Feeny

On the outskirts of an Oxfordshire village, this new-build clad in sustainable oak was designed by Peter Feeny Architects to maximise the relationship between architecture and landscape, and to be as environmentally friendly as possible.

A Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery (MVHR) system is supplemented by a wood pellet boiler. Solar heating panels, housed on the garage roof, provide an additional heat source, and photovoltaic panels are located in the garden.

Thermafleece slabs with 85 per cent wool content, fitted within wall and roof cavities, offer insulation, while high-performance, vapour-resistant SIGA sealing tapes used on frame-and-panel joints and abutments within the external walls create a high level of airtightness. 

Eco-friendly period cottage

eco friendly sustainable cottage in the lake district

Image: Ben Cunliffe

The facade of this cottage, nestled in the Lyth Valley of the Lake District, is the only original element of the building. Behind it is an eco-friendly new-build designed by Ben Cunliffe Architects, which worked closely with the Lake District National Park Authority.

During the course of the works the roof was replaced and two of the four external walls were taken down and rebuilt. New floors allowed for underfloor heating powered by a ground source heat pump and borehole technology, while the new roof improved headroom and assisted with the alteration of the layout.

The building is super-insulated throughout and the highest quality windows were installed. A sedum roof adds to the insulation and reduces surface water run-off. Local materials were used where possible, including Burlington Slate on the cottage roof and local stone cladding. 

Renewable, low-carbon constructed home

eco friendly home in west essex

Image: Sawdust

Hillside, nestled in the Kent Downs, is a modern approach to a traditional agricultural building, designed by Derek Rankin of RXArchitects for Simon Pack of Coast Pro Developments. Clad almost entirely in renewable cedar shingles, its large areas of glazing were positioned to limit unwanted heat gain and keep the internal spaces airy with cross-ventilation.

The super-structure, formed from a Kingspan-insulated timber frame system, was prefabricated off-site; factory-fitting the insulation reduced waste and it achieves high levels of thermal performance. A recyclable insulated beam-and-block substructure was used in place of a mass concrete-poured slab.

The low-carbon construction, combined with passive solar design, an air source heat pump and photovoltaic panels, ensures the build is highly sustainable and comfortable – Simon doesn’t need to turn on the heating and only occasionally lights the wood-burning stove.

Self-sufficient Forest Lodge

eco friendly forest lodge new forest

Image: Pad Studio

Forest Lodge is a home with a difference: it is mobile and was built to comply with the Caravan Sites Act 1968. The owners, who had been living in a static caravan for 15 years on their stunning plot in the New Forest, approached Ricky Evans at PAD studio to design a low-energy building with a strong connection to the landscape.

Importantly, it wasn’t meant to feel like a mobile home. For a build cost of £300,000, Evans came up with a prefabricated, chestnut-clad design with large amounts of glazing that exceeded the owners’ low-energy aspirations.

It meets the rigorous Passivhaus standard and is essentially self-sufficient, thanks to photovoltaic panels on the roof that generate electricity, and an air source heat pump, which provides hot water for an underfloor heating system.

A sewage treatment plant manages waste and rainwater, collected in an underground storage tank for watering the garden.

Energy-independent new-build

eco friendly three bedroom home in hove

Image: Koru Architects

This three-bedroom family home in Hove, East Sussex by Koru Architects was designed by practice director Mark Pellant for his family. Constructed with a cross-laminated solid timber frame, other natural materials used include oak panels for cladding and flooring, zinc roofing, wood-fibre and hemp insulation, recycled glass for kitchen worksurfaces and lime-based natural paints.

A rainwater harvesting system provides water for the garden tap, washing machine and dual-flush toilets. Passive solar design, high insulation levels and energy-efficient appliances and lighting mean the house consumes half the energy of a typical UK home.

The heating is powered by solar thermal panels and a woodchip biomass boiler, and solar photovoltaic panels generate more electricity than needed – the surplus is exported back to the grid. To top it off a green sedum roof provides a wildlife haven. 

Off-grid living

energy efficient house in north west scotland

Image: Echo Living

Two Flowers, designed by Echo Living, is a small (40sqm) off-grid house in north-west Scotland that sits at the edge of a loch. Larchand corrugate-clad, its twin curved roof echoes local agricultural buildings. Prefabricated for efficiency and low waste, the house is heated by wood burners, powered by solar panels on its south side, super-insulated with sheep’s wool, double-glazed throughout and has a compost toilet.

Planning permission was granted with the stipulation of a driveway with parking for two cars and that the corrugate cladding should be black.

Carbon-positive home

carbon positive house welad house tunbridge wells kent

Image: Baufritz

The key to the design of five-bedroom Weald House near Tunbridge Wells, Kent was the owners’ desire to build a healthy family home. Architect Robert Lumme at timber-frame eco-specialist Baufritz created a home that blends harmoniously with its surroundings through the use of building materials – mainly pale render and larch cladding – that will weather naturally.

The house is carbon-positive – it locks away 50 tons more CO2 than is released during manufacture and construction, including emissions from transportation and the running of the house for the first five to 10 years.

The 37cm-thick complete solution walls are constructed almost entirely of timber, while the patented scrap wood shavings insulation and triple-glazed aluminium timber-clad windows give the house excellent thermal insulation. Solar panels on the roof power the heating system. 

Words: Lucy Searle


To see our full list of our top 10 amazing sustainable self build homes, pick up a copy of the May issue of Grand Designs magazine or download your copy from Pocketmags. 


Are you currently working on a sustainable self build project? Tweet us @granddesignsmag or post a comment on our Facebook page



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