Tomorrow’s home is no longer about ramping up demand for gadgets and gizmos – the focus is now on sustainability. Stephen Penn looks at the latest design and build trends that are not only enriching our lives, but also nurturing our planet in the process

Stylish, smart, sophisticated. There’s a plethora of ‘s’ words to encapsulate the design and build vocabulary of the lucrative luxury homes market, but in recent years, perhaps the most significant shift in the expression mix is the focus on sustainability.

Incorporating natural resources, be it solar panels, oxygenating green rooftops or even geothermal cooling, not only make a virtue of design and build practices, but also significantly reduce energy consumption, cutting average household bills by as much as 30%.

“What unifies green-build today is a commitment to using new materials, ever-better photovoltaic cells and ultra-efficient insulation,” explains design consultant, Julian Partridge. “Developers are finally starting to embrace a sustainable approach, experiment with green materials finishes, appliances and passive energy design. It’s a really exciting time in the eco design journey.”

Heinz Richardson, board director of Jestico + Wiles, designed his own home, House 19, with a carbon neutral focus.

Nestled in the heart of the Chiltern Hills, this beautiful three-bedroom property constructed from local flint and black stained timber, sports dramatic floor-toceiling picture windows with panoramic countryside views, and a plethora of family-friendly mod-cons. Sustainability however, was key throughout the build process, as he explains:

“We’ve avoided all use of fossil fuels. Instead, we’ve incorporated a ground source heat pump and earth tube ventilation for heating water and central heating usage.”

The property also has a large thermal mass – with 50cm thick walls – to help regulate the temperature. In addition, photovoltaic panels adorn the roof to provide electricity, while rainwater is harvested and recycled for washing clothes.

“Homes like mine can be built fairly easily, but more awareness raising is needed that this choice is not only readily available but also 100% viable. Volume house builders will always look to keep costs to a minimum, so it’s down to government and advances in green legislation to make that step-change; a mind-set which isn’t moving ahead as fast as it needs to be.”

Sustainable-build practices have also resulted in a surge in prefabricated construction methods – with vanguard brand Huf Haus leading by example. The firm creates modular-style homes with close to zero carbon emissions, bespoke planned and built according to the wishes of individual clients.

Businessman, Tim Virdee commissioned the company to construct The Lake House, a stunning five-bedroom country house in the village of Plaistow, in West Sussex. The property’s geothermal heating system takes cold water from the lake which runs through 1.3km of piping and exchanges heated water into the taps, as well as heating flooring throughout the house.

“If everyone built using renewable materials - the difference would be transformational,” says Tim. “I’m mindful of energy efficient methods, which include good house structure, a low carbon footprint and limiting the use of electricity, but at the end of the day – a property is also a home - so comfort and style and a sense of belonging have to come into the equation too.”

Adhering to these style meets substance principles, home comfort trappings include a helipad and dedicated party room with fully-stocked bar, as well as a high-spec kitchen and broadband speeds faster than most offices. It is currently on the market for £4.5million.

“An ideal buyer would be a family that enjoys the outdoors – fishing and horse-riding, as well as regular entertaining,” he adds. “Our family no longer needs this much space now the children have flown the coop, but this truly is a special home with the ‘liveability’ factor. The sustainable aspects simply add to its intrinsic value.”

Green-minded home buyers are also wising up to the build practices adopted by the Passivhaus movement. Founded by physicist Professor Wolfgang Feist, their homebuilding approach is all about back-to-basics principles, adding insulation to keep drafts to a minimum and incorporating ventilation in an efficient way to control heat output.

Award-winning architectural design practice - Eco Design Consultants, have adopted these methods with their latest project - Carrstone, only the third building in UK to be categorised as Passivhaus Plus, due to the addition of solar panels.

Company spokesperson, Alan Budden says: “Passivhaus specialise in affordable, low energy housing. With the cost of UV panel installations coming down, we’ll be seeing many more residential projects of this variety in the mix. Going green has never been more en vogue.”

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