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Green Deal green-lighted

by Gordon Miller

The long-anticipated Green Deal has been green-lighted with the passing this week of The Energy Act into law. The enactment sets in stone the legal framework for the Green Deal, which will be launched in Autumn 2012.

The Green Deal has the ability to revolutionise the energy efficiency of the nation’s homes and businesses. It will help people insulate against rising energy prices, creating the opportunity to make homes warmer and cheaper to run.

The initiative is greatly needed. The Department of Energy & Climate change has published a report, the Housing Energy Fact File, that highlights that more than half of the 26 million dwellings in Great Britain have insufficient insulation.

The Green Deal is the first piece of legislation worldwide that will remove the upfront cost of energy efficiency measures (like loft, cavity and external wall insulation, draught proofing and energy efficiency glazing and boilers) making expensive home improvement affordable.

Householders will be able to borrow money at low cost interest rates on Green Deals to have the work undertaken. The newly formed Green Deal Finance Company has the potential to offer a better deal for the consumer and to support healthy competition amongst Green Deal providers including small businesses.

Significantly, the energy saving work undertaken will be repaid over time through a charge on the home’s energy bill. The repayments must obey a “golden rule” whereby the charge is no more than the expected savings, meaning householders should save from day one.

Chris Huhne, Energy and Climate Change Secretary, said: “When it’s introduced, the Green Deal will be as easy as ABC by making work affordable, providing bespoke independent advice and choice in the market from well-known and trusted high street names.”

High standards will be crucial from the first independent home energy assessment to getting the job done by qualified installers. All Green Deal participants will need to carry a “quality mark” so customers know they can be trusted to do a good job.

Anwar Harland-Khan CEO of Sustain Worldwide, an elite membership organisation of developers, houesbuilders and professionals committed to sustainability, said: “The coming Green Deal is a significant piece of legislation that will enable homeowners to make their homes more energy efficient with no upfront cost, which will benefit them financially through lower energy bills and later should they come to sell their property.

“Clearly, those homes that have significant energy efficient improvements will score higher on the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), which is mandatory when selling a home. Already, we are beginning to see purchasers take a property’s energy efficiency into account when buying a home. As energy bills rise, the launch of the Green Deal will push a property’s energy efficiency ever higher up the buyer’s ‘must have’ checklist.”

How the Green Deal will work for consumers

Gordon Miller is co-founder and sustainability & communications director of Sustain Worldwide. He writes for The Financial Times and The Guardian, co-founded and chairs energy and environmental awareness social enterprise The High Barnet Green Home Zone.

For more information about Sustain Worldwide’s members’ luxury sustainable homes, resorts and communities, visit or call  +44 (0)20 7754 5557

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Valuing Sustainability

by Gordon Miller

A home’s sustainability characteristics should be considered within property valuations, according to a new information paper, entitled Sustainability and Residential Property, launched 20 Sepember by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

The issue of sustainability is not currently viewed as significant to property market value. However, this is changing and RICS is suggesting that, should a home possess sustainability features, which are likely to have an impact on value, this should be reflected in a valuer’s assessment of the property.

Sustainability features can include a home’s energy efficiency rating, the materials used in its construction and other features such as an energy-efficient boiler. Although, elements such as a building’s proximity to public transport links and its ability to adapt to occupiers’ changing future needs could also be considered.

Sustainability, which covers a broad range of physical, environmental and social factors, is moving progressively higher up the coalition government’s agenda. It is likely that residential markets will become progressively sensitised to sustainability considerations. Therefore, RICS feels residential property valuers should be fully aware of the sustainability characteristics of buildings when carrying out a valuation. Also important is consideration of legislation and policy that can influence current and future value.

Ben Elder, RICS Global Director of Valuation, said: “Although market awareness of sustainability has risen significantly, attention is currently focused largely on a home’s energy efficiency, propensity to flood and carbon emissions. However, a property’s sustainable status can cover a range of social, environmental and economic matters that can potentially lead to changes in demand and therefore affect value.

“With the increased emphasis on green living and energy efficiency, it is highly possible that the market will need to adapt. This new information paper offers advice to our members, recommending that they are fully aware of sustainability policy and the characteristics of individual buildings when valuing property.”

Anwar Harland-Khan, CEO of Sustain Worldwide, an exclusive membership organisation of sustainable developers and industry professionals delivering sustainability, said: “We welcome the RICS information paper, while noting that in our opinion it is long overdue that the valuation industry recognised the inherent value premium in sustainable property.

“It stands to reason that today’s sustainable homes have a value premium. They are cheaper to run because they are better insulated and require less heating and mechanical cooling, and they are fitted out with ‘hands off’ energy saving applications. What’s more they will increase in value faster because these homes are more ‘future proofed’ than a conventionally built existing house that will require expensive retro-fitting.”

Gordon Miller is sustainability & communications director of Sustain Worldwide. He writes for The Financial Times and The Sunday Times and founded eco homes website and local energy and awareness social enterprise The High Barnet Green Home Zone.

For more information about Sustain Worldwide’s members’ luxury sustainable homes, resorts and communities, visit or call             +44 (0)20 7754 5557

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New properties save homeowners money on energy bills

by Gordon Miller

Energy provider E.ON’s recent announcement that gas bills will increase by an average of by 18.1% and electricity prices by 11.4%, with effect from 13 September 2011 underscores the huge rises in energy prices confirmed by the UK’s other major energy providers in the last month. 

However, homeowners in the UK who have installed solar PV are mitigating against the price rises.  They benefit from payments from the Government’s Clean Energy Cash Back Scheme, which pays homeowners 43.3p per KWh they generate. The average resident will earn (and save on their electricity bill) in the region of £1,100 per year.

Solar water heating panels

Homeowners who have installed solar PV will be interested to read new research by the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which finds strong evidence that homes with solar photovoltaic (PV) systems sell for a premium over homes without solar systems.

The research finds that homes with solar PV in California have sold for an average home sales price premium of approximately $17,000 (approx £10,500) for a relatively new 3,100 watt (kWh) PV system (the average size of PV systems in the Berkeley Lab dataset).

The Berkeley Lab research is the first to explore empirically the existence and magnitude of residential solar PV sales price impacts across a large number of homes and over a wide geographic area. The research analysed a dataset of more than 72,000 California homes that sold from 2000 through mid-2009, approximately 2,000 of which had a solar PV system at the time of sale.

Anwar Harland-Khan, CEO of Sustain Worldwide, which is an élite membership organisation of the world’s leading sustainable property developers and architects, said:

“The Berkeley Lab research supports our long-held contention that energy efficient and energy generating homes have a value premium over conventionally built existing homes.

“At a time when energy prices are rising rapidly, particularly in the UK, new home buyers with installed solar PV are saving a considerable amount on their electricity bills and can look forward to a higher sales price when they come to sell up.”

Gordon Miller is sustainability & communications director of Sustain Worldwide. He writes for The Financial Times and The Sunday Times and founded eco homes website and local energy and awareness social enterprise The High Barnet Green Home Zone.

For more information about Sustain Worldwide’s members’ luxury sustainable homes, resorts and communities, visit or call +44 (0)20 7754 5557

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A New Era in Home Heating? Renewable Heat Premium Payment

by Gordon Miller

The Government’s has today launched a new £15 million ‘Renewable Heat Premium Payment’ scheme. The initiative will open for applications on 1 August this year until March 2012. It is claimed it will support up to 25,000 installations.

The scheme will be mainly focused at around 4 million households in Great Britain not heated by mains gas. These residents have to rely on higher carbon forms of heating which also tend to be more expensive than gas, such as heating oil and electric fires to keep warm.

Climate Change Minister Greg Barker said:

Today starts a new era in home heating because we’re making it more economical for people to go green by providing discounts off the cost of eco heaters.

This should be great news for people who are reliant on expensive oil or electric heating as the Premium Payment scheme is really aimed at them.

Householders will need to ensure they have basic energy efficiency measures in place before applying for the grants, which will be available on a first come first served basis.

From 1 August, grants for the following technologies will be available:

• Ground Source Heat Pump – £1250 grant (for homes without mains gas heating)

• Biomass boiler – £950 grant (for homes without mains gas heating)

• Air source heat pump – £850 grant (for homes without mains gas heating)

• Solar thermal hot water panels – £300 grant (available to all households regardless of the type of heating system used)

Anwar Harland-Khan, CEO of Sustain Worldwide, a membership organisation of developers and architects, said: “The Renewal Heat Premium Payment scheme is a welcome initiative but in truth it’s a stop gap before the Renewal Heat Incentive scheme and the Green Deal are introduced in 2012.

“However, for anyone considering installing solar thermal before next winter why not grab what is effectively a £300 discount on the average £3,000-£5,000 purchase and installation cost?

The Premium Payment scheme will be run by the Energy Saving Trust. Householders can call 0800 512 012 or visit A factsheet on the Premium Payment scheme can be found here.

Gordon Miller is sustainability & communications director of Sustain Worldwide . He writes for The Financial Times and The Sunday Times and founded eco homes website and local energy and awareness social enterprise The High Barnet Green Home Zone.

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Sustainable Buildings: Raise high the green roof beams

by Gordon Miller

Constructing homes sustainably, i.e using materials, technologies and practices that have the minimum possible impact on the earth’s resources, is an exponential growth industry. From what was perceived as a minority ‘fringe’ world only a decade ago (how we laughed at Prince Charles’ green assertions in the 1990s – who’s laughing now?) it’s now mainstream, and worth billions to the global economy. But what does constructing homes sustainably actually mean?

The villas at Alma Verde Resort & Spa on Portugal’s Algarve use 94% less energy than conventionally built homes in the region.

In short, it’s perceived as lots of different things to a great many people with different convictions, agendas and interests. To some it’s all about preserving natural resources e.g. if you chop down one tree for lumber, then the sustainable thing to do is to plant another. For others that doesn’t go far enough. The tree should only be used locally because to transport it has a high ‘embodied energy’ cost i.e. it uses an abundance of fossil fuels – oil (petrol), gas etc to get it to its destination.

At the heart of this argument is the belief in the science of climate change i.e. that through the release of green house gases (CO2 and methane being the primary two, which is primarily brought about through the burning of fossil fuels: coal, oil and gas) the planet is heating up to a level beyond which humanity, fauna and flora cannot survive. En route to the apocalypse, sea levels will rise, drowning cities, famine will ensue, and civil conflict will break out. Some predictions argue that this will occur if the planet’s temperature rises 4 degrees above the current level.

Properties built by the MGM group in the French Alps are constructed to high levels of energy efficiency, known as BBC in France

Ok, so how do our homes impact on the domesday scenario? Well, almost 50 per cent of CO2 emissions are attributed to the built environment – residential and commercial buildings. In the UK the residential sector accounts for 27 per cent of CO2 emissions. This

is affected by a combination of newly built dwellings – including the embodied energy of e.g. making the brick that the house is constructed from and the energy required to get it to site e.g. on lorry – and the emissions from our existing homes.

Because 99% of our electricity and heat generation domestically in the UK is from fossil fuel based sources, our homes have a huge carbon footprint. The average household in the

UK emits 6 tonnes of CO2 annually; in the US it’s higher than 10 tonnes. We can reduce or CO2 emissions through a combination of using less electricity and gas, and by generating the fuel we need to light, power and heat our homes from renewable energy sources e.g. the sun, wind and water, which are carbon neutral and emit little or no CO2 when they are used to create electricity and heat.

So, in essence, that’s why building our new homes – there is a huge housing shortage of quality housing in the UK as well as elsewhere in the world – needs to be undertaken sustainably. It also explains why we need to what’s called ‘retrofit’ our existing homes: to make them more energy efficient which means beginning with air-tightness – in the UK the majority of heat (and CO2) is lost through un- or poorly insulated roofs and walls (in hot countries where there is an over-reliance on energy hungry air-con the homes need to be better built to remain cooler naturally).

Increasingly, new homes (spearheaded by those built by the members of Sustain Worldwide, a membership organisation of global sustainable developers) are being built sustainably. Such homes are significantly powered and heated from renewable energy e.g. solar PV and solar thermal panels, or ground source heat – all of which have a heavily reduced carbon footprint over conventionally heated and powered homes. Many of the homes are built using locally sourced building materials e.g. timber from a local forest that is sustainably managed.

These homes are also being built with an awareness to conserve water e.g. through the installation of aerated shower heads and taps; some have inbuilt grey water systems which once cleaned recycle tap and bath water to be used in the toilet and washing machine. Waste reduction measures are implemented – both to minimise building waste during construction – but also provisions are made to sort, reuse and recycle, where possible, once people are living in the homes.

Reduce, Reuse, recycle is not a bad motto to build solid foundations upon.

This article was contributed by Gordon Miller, sustainability and communications director of Sustain Worldwide. +44 (0)20 7754 5557

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Be water-wise: Saving water in the home

by Gordon Miller

Water, water everywhere, says the old idiom, but not a drop to spare.  The saying has never been more true, primarily because there’s more demand than ever before for the available water.  There are more mouths to quench than previously – approaching seven billion – and increasingly levels of agricultural and technological development worldwide require escalating volumes of water to grow crops successfully, and to ‘oil’ the machinery.

Porto Heli in Greece recycles swimming pool water

Recycling of water – including that from swimming pools - is an essential and standard practice at the Porto Heli Collection in Greece.

In the developed world, water comes from a tap.  We rarely give a second thought to how it got there, or where it ends up.  But we should because water is not just an issue about water, but also one of energy use and CO2 emissions.

Every drop of water we flush, pour or let drain away is treated before re-entering the potable water cycle. Treatment requires mechanisation in industrial plants that are powered by energy hungry and CO2 emitting – one of the greenhouses gases scientists say causes climate change – machinery.

So, your seemingly innocuous leaving of the tap running when you clean your teeth wastes water, impacts on the clean up process which in turn has an effect on the depletion of the earth’s resources and, some would say, the planet’s very sustainability itself. Gulp! In fact our “water behaviour” is responsible for huge volumes of wastage. For example, watering the garden from a hose, washing the car from a hose, having a bath instead of a shower, leaving the water running when washing the dishes and so on.

A grey water recycling system will be installed at Medina Palms Kenya

Rainwater harvesting and greywater recycling will both be practised at Medina Palms, Kenya

Most of those require ‘behavioural’ change as well as practical measures. The good news is there are plenty of products in the marketplace to assist you to save water.  Let’s start in the home. To reduce the volume of water from your taps and showerheads, buy an aerated showerhead, or fit tap aerators. In doing so you’ll also reduce your hot water bill because the less water you need to heat for your shower, the more money you’ll save on your gas or electricity charges. You’ll also reduce your household CO2 emissions, and water consumption, of course.

If you have a lever handle toilet, rather than the modern push-button type, the water volume – 7.5 or 9 litres – is greater than is necessary (6 litres and as little as 4.5 litres in new toilets) to evacuate the deposits. Instead fit a “save a flush” or a “hippo bag” or even a brick, which will displace one or more litres of water in every flush. Indeed, think about whether you need to flush every time. Some people use the ditty “if it’s light it’s alright (meaning no need to flush) if it’s brown, flush it down”.

In the garden, don’t attach a hosepipe to the tap and use potable water, but install a water butt to catch rainwater, and use that. A water butt costs from around £20, and is easy to fit. Think about the plants you put in your garden. Many Mediterranean species are more drought resistant than indigenous ones, so they will require less watering in the hot summer months when we traditionally experience the driest time. (And does it really matter if your grass goes a little brown? One heavy rainfall, and it’ll be back to its glorious green.)

You could even consider recycling your “greywater” – from your shower, washing up, teeth cleaning, washing machine etc – everything except that from with is dispelled from the toilet. Greywater treatment systems, which are usually ‘buried ‘ in the garden, cost from around £1,000 and can be retrofitted in older properties – although not always very easily as the pipework – which often goes under floors and joists – may need rerouting.

Increasingly, new homes (such as most of those built by members of Sustain Worldwide, a membership organisation of global sustainable developers) are fitted out with a greywater system. The measure – as well as others, and homeowners’ being “water aware” – is aimed at reducing the average Briton’s net water usage to 90 litres a day. Currently, it’s a huge 150 litres per person, per day. The impact of the 40% reduction will save water, decrease energy use and lessen CO2 emissions.

This article was contributed by Gordon Miller, sustainability and communications director of Sustain Worldwide.

+44 (0)20 7754 5557

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Energy Efficiency – staying warm without turning up the thermostat

by Gordon Miller

Now the weather has turned cold in the UK, our thoughts have turned to how we can keep warm – indoors as well as outdoors.  For many of us that simply means turning up the thermostat another notch.  But with reports of fuel price hikes of 7% and higher imminent, suddenly energy efficiency has become an even hotter topic.

MGM builds highly insulated apartments and chalets in the snowy French Alps

Starting with our existing homes, the key word is insulation. The idea is to keep the heat in and the cold out. 25% goes out the roof – so lay up to 270mm of insulation; 35% escapes through the walls.  Combat this by having cavity wall insulation.  If you have one of the 6 million solid brick wall homes, consider dry wall lining.

Windows and draughts account for 25% of heat loss in our homes.  So plug the gaps with filler, use draught excluders on your exterior doors (and don’t forget the letter box).  If you can afford it, think about double (or even triple) glazing.  If that’s too costly, secondary glazing is a cheaper alternative.

Next, find out how much electricity you use (or waste).  Buy, or rent from your local library, an electricity monitor.  These clever gadgets show you how much electricity you are using in the home. Flick the kettle on and you’ll see it costs a shocking 25p to boil water if it was to be left on continuously for one hour.  So fill the kettle only with the amount of water you need and don’t boil, walk away and then have to reboil.

loft insulation is an impoertant form of insulationLook at what you leave on standby overnight – do you need to?  Get a standby isolator or switch the items off at the wall (except the Sky box, which would then need reprogramming).  Don’t leave old style mobiles charging overnight as these ‘vampire’ gadgets continue to suck electricity even once the battery is fully charged.

Or take a look at a more permanent electricity reduction solution.  The VPhase is a new device that through independent testing has been shown to cut electricity bills (typically by 10%), reduce energy use and lower carbon emissions.  Find out how much money and CO2 you could save with the interactive tool at

VPhase uses voltage optimisation technology to reduce and manage the voltage coming into your home, making your electrical appliances use less electricity and cost less to run.  Unlike smart meters which require a change in behavior, the VPhase device works immediately, without any need for a change in lifestyle.

The unit costs around £250 installed when fitted at the same time as a fuse box, and can be quickly and easily fitted by a qualified electrician. The VPhase has a five-year warranty and with payback periods typically less than this it represents a risk free green investment.

If you’re considering buying a new house in the UK, you’ll find that they are at least 25% more energy efficient than houses build pre-2006 (and at least 50% more than a Victorian property and probably more) through legislation.  Housebuilders are achieving such greater efficiency by using better insulants when building,

sealing gaps better and by preventing thermal ‘bridging’, which allows the cold to travel from the outside in via metal pins or ties.

In some cases, the net result is homes that require little or no heating – even in winter.  The latest built homes don’t even have radiators installed.  Generally, energy efficient under-floor heating provides what heating they do require.  In other examples, mechanical heat ventilation recovery units recirculate rising hot air to keep the homes warm at ground level.

The homes at AlmaVerde, on Portugal’s Algarve, have been built to a year-round 26C interior temperature

In more temperate foreign countries, where many Britons choose to buy a holiday home, or retirement property, the same technology that provides heating in winter is reversed to provide air-conditioned cooling in summer.  If the electricity required is generated from a renewable energy source, such as solar, there is no in-use CO2 impact, and electricity bills can be negligible.

The housebuilders and developers who are the members of Sustain Worldwide ( are each building homes, resorts and communities around the world where energy efficient, eco-friendly and sustainably constructed properties and communities are the norm.

Sustain Worldwide Chief Executive Anwar Harland-Khan said: “The energy-efficient homes of today are stylish, beautifully finished, invariably with warm and light spaces for living. It comes as no surprise that sustainably built homes are now standing tallest of all, while the walls of conventionally built homes are starting to show cracks.”

This article was contributed by Gordon Miller, sustainability and communications director of Sustain Worldwide. +44 (0)20 7754 5557

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