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Sustainability and low energy housing


We have enjoyed a century when oil energy has allowed our society to develop the ideas of the industrial revolution to a degree of luxury which we now wish to retain.  Oil and natural gas are harder to find and we need to look for alternative energy sources and reduce our energy bills.  This need is aggravated by the fact that the remaining resource is not controlled by the UK and the UK Government needs to find its way forward – The Isle of Man needs to see an opportunity to develop its own strategy into the 21st century.


Sustainability includes making best use of our present buildings.  Older buildings built before oil are often more efficient than more modern buildings.  The majority of our buildings date from 1930 – 1980’s where most of the problems lie.  Airtightness as well as good insulation, together with efficient heating systems provide the way forward.


New buildings should be from sustainable sources and be built to provide a future adaptability or ease of reuse.  Building materials should be reusable if the building is demolished.


Low energy buildings are those using less energy.  They incorporate high levels of insulation and often use heat recovery systems on the ventilation.  By making best use of solar gain they can retain heat and can incorporate locally sourced energy (solar, wind, water power).  Lighting is low energy (not to be confused with low voltage, which is often high energy).  Materials should be selected as having a ‘low carbon footprint’, that is not requiring high energy to create them – high temperature is the usual culprit.  Bricks and blocks are often considered to have a high carbon footprint, although manufacturers are changing processes to cut down costs.


Environmentally safe construction involves using materials sympathetic to us.  Sheep’s wool insulation is a high performance material with many benefits over modern materials, cost is not one.  Paints are another material that can be selected without modern additives to avoid Sick Building Syndrome.  Often cleaning products are another source of irritation and the whole subject is fraught with mis-information.


The architectural press give some less biased information than trade literature and advertising.  APA Architects keep an extensive library of technical information on sustainability, low energy and environmentally safe construction and will try to give a balanced, informed view of these important issues.


If you'd like to discuss these issues further or have a project where you think we can help, please contact us .

 

 

 
 

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