19. Green architecture and environmentally-conscious design
In recent years there has been a lot more emphasis on environmentally-conscious design and energy-saving technologies, driven both by the climate change agenda and rising fuel prices. Householders are presented with a bewildering range of options to green their homes and reduce fuel bills: these include solar hot water panels, photo-voltaic panels, wind turbines, air and ground source heat pumps, bio-mass boilers and micro-combined heat and power units. To complicate matters further, calculating the true costs and rewards for these technologies can be confusing – to work out the payback period (when the outlay for installation is recouped by reductions in bills) involves understanding the government ‘feed-in tariff’ reward scheme and estimating as accurately as possible what the energy saving might actually be – solar panels, wind and heat pumps in particular rely very much on the specific environment and aspect at the location for performance.
We have been involved in environmentally-aware design for over thirty years, long before it became newsworthy or fashionable, and can advise you on how to approach this subject in a way that is both appropriate and cost-effective, including consulting with specialists in the various available technologies if required.
At the heart of our design approach however, rather than relying on plug-in technologies simply to deliver energy more efficiently, is to design buildings that require less energy in the first place. Orientating rooms and windows for the optimum aspect for the path of the sun, incorporating sufficient levels of insulation and minimising heat loss through excessive ventilation are the most cost effective and unobtrusive means to minimise energy consumption and should always be optimised wherever possible before resorting to additional technologies.