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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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New Initiative Launched to Improve Energy Efficiency and Sustainable Housing

by Sarah Halloran

One of the most cost effective methods of cutting emissions is through improving energy efficiency in the UK’s existing housing stock.  Whilst on the surface this might sound quite easy, it’s actually quite a challenge.  Four out of five homes in the UK are owned privately and to date nobody has been able to successfully deliver an efficient method of managing a large scale retrofit project such as this.  One initiative, the Government’s Green Deal, is designed to help, but there are many hurdles to jump in order to make this a success.

Whilst more and more homeowners might be focusing on recycling and being more self-sufficient, there is still major work to be done to encourage improvements to energy consumption.  Switching off the odd light switch here and using less water there is a great start, but simply isn’t having a dramatic impact on improving energy efficiency nationwide.  With this in mind, a new initiative is being launched to address the challenges faced by homeowners on a financial and advisory level.

Refit West is a revolutionary new scheme which as assisted private homeowners to reduce how much energy they use in their homes, whilst Forum for the Future has formulated a practical model that will see whole houses being retrofitted across the country.

A report, released by Forum for the Future, entitled ‘Update from the front line: real homeowner retrofit journeys and barriers the Green Deal must overcome’ shares insights and experiences of the customer journey and highlights areas that still need to be addressed by the Green Deal initiative.

Forum for the Future has been working on a pilot project together with a small number of other pioneers in Bristol and the West of England.  This project hopes to make this region one of the most sustainable in the UK.  The project has taken a broad spectrum of properties filled with homeowners who are committed to improving the energy consumption and efficiency of their properties.   The experiences of these homeowners will help the Department of Energy and Climate Change and the Energy Saving Trust in their development of a nationwide scheme for energy efficiency.

Despite the best efforts of the Government and environmental agencies, residential carbon emissions have fallen by only 6% since 1990.  That’s a worrying statistic when you consider how many initiatives and advertising campaigns there have been during this time.  However, the work of the Forum for the Future is essential to ensure we meet our national carbon reduction targets.

It’s really important, says Forum for the Future, to empower homeowners, giving them all the information and cost effective options they require to improve energy efficiency.  This includes designing effective solutions, ensuring suppliers offer value for money and quality services and solutions, and to build confidence and trust in the emerging market.  Working with Refit West, Forum for the Future has developed some innovative financial models that will help homeowners to invest the necessary capital costs required for retrofitting their homes to make them more energy efficient.

In order for this initiative to work, it’s important that key elements are in place including providing financial incentives, creating demand amongst homeowners and ensuring a professional workforce with the necessary skills is available to carry out the refit works.

In time, Forum for the Future aims to create a replicable model that can be rolled out across the whole of the UK and to increase the demand by homeowners for energy efficiency works.

A recording of the webinar held by Ben Ross and Refit West homeowner Chris Priest on 25th March is now available on the 2degreesnetwork website for registered members of 2degrees.

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Barnet residents paint the town green

by James Cole

I’ve come across a couple of fantastic projects recently where people are doing their bit towards living more sustainable lives – that is, living in a way that recognises that our petroleum fuelled days are numbered.  Both on the roads and at home.

Energy sustainability is one of biggest challenges of the current age and rather than taking the view that some other clever bugger will invent a way to power a Range Rover using old Evian bottles, residents of High Barnet are organising themselves.

The High Barnet Green Home Zone is a not-for-profit project run by volunteers and sets itself the task of raising awareness and reducing energy consumption in the borough.

A team of volunteer ‘Street Champions’ visit residents and help them measure their energy use and waste production and look at ways to reduce both.  According the organisers simple things such as joining a car share club can reduce travel costs by around £2500 a year whilst helping reduce your fuel consumption and carbon footprint.

The home is a great place to start when looking at your own carbon footprint as it uses massive amounts of energy in the form of electricity and gas – the majority of which is produced from fossil fuel reliant systems – and it costs you money!  So the more energy you can save the more money you can save – what more incentive do you need!

Search for houses for sale in Barnet on The Big Property List

Find out more at the High Barnet Green Home Zone website

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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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The advantage of sustainable homes

by admin
Modern sustainable houses can be luxurious

L’Amanadier, located in the Atlas Mountains, nr Marrakech, Morocco

GREEN is the colour of choice for new homes.  Movie star Leonardo di Caprio is building an eco home on his own private Caribbean island.  Julia Roberts and George Clooney too are green devotees.  Brad Pitt has been involved with constructing several in New Orleans.  Even Manchester United footballer Gary Neville is trying to build an eco home in the hills outside Manchester.
The reason green, eco or sustainable (the words are used interchangeably) have become the new luxury is for many people a combination of our growing awareness of climate change (images of polar bears stranded on melting ice flows is potent), and a general groundswell of opinion that we need to be just a little more aware of how increasingly scarce are natural resources are becoming.

So, how, you might ask, do our homes have an impact on melting ice flows?  Well, our homes account for 25% of the CO2 – a greenhouse gas – emissions that scientists say is contributing to irreversible climate change.  The effect is not only melting ice flows but rising sea levels, increasing outbreaks of drought and famine, and some say the upsurge in other natural phenomena like tsunamis.

For some of us the issues are a little less high blown.  In these straitened times, simply saving a few hundred pounds a year on your heating and electricity bills is a big incentive to make one’s home more energy efficient.  Inexpensive ways to reduce bills, lessen CO2 emissions and create a more pleasant temperature include laying more insulation, and choosing energy efficient appliances.

Modern eco-houses can be luxurious

PGA Catalunya, just outside Girona, on the Costa Brava, Spain

When it comes to new homes – either in the UK, or overseas – and whether you are buying a permanent home, a holiday retreat, or building up your investment portfolio, sustainable design and build represents the future of global property.  The sustainably built homes of today are stylish, beautifully finished, invariably with warm and light spaces for living – and in many cases they look just like a conventional house.

Those who understand this philosophy when buying a new home are in an enlightened and beneficial situation. Their homes will have cleaner air and a more pleasant temperature for comfort and well-being; if the paint and furniture is made from non-toxic materials it’ll be better for their health and their children’s too. So, not only is there a feel good factor, there’s a beneficial long-term legacy to leave the next generation.

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

Sustain Worldwide’s member developers are creating many of the leading sustainable homes, communities and resorts in the UK and worldwide where you can purchase permanent, second/holiday, retirement and investment properties – places where you want to buy a home, and build a life.
Sustain Worldwide +44 (0)20 7754 5557

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Peek inside London’s most Sustainable Homes

by admin

If you’re interested in Sutainable Housing, architecture or design then you’ll be very interested in Open House London this Autumn when 700 houses in London will be open to the public.

The event is organised by the architecture organisation Open City and takes place over the weekend of 18-19 September 2010.

bt tower open house londonThe initiative is a simple but powerful concept: hundreds of great buildings of all types and periods open up their doors to all, completely for FREE.  It is a truly city-wide celebration of the buildings, places and neighbourhoods where we live, work and play, and is your opportunity to get out and get under the skin of London’s amazing architecture’ says the Open House website.

The ‘open houses’ range from small private home to major lndmarks such as the BT Tower and there will be lots of events such as cycle tours, architects talks and neighbourhood walks to interest and inspire you over the weekend.

Here at The Big Property List we’re particularly interested in the Sustainable Housing element and there should be plenty of eco-homes on show boasting sustainable designs such as The Coach House, 39 Parkholme Road, Retro-eco House and Zero Carbon Loft.

If you’re visiting any of these sustainable houses over the course of the weekend, why not email your pictures and notes to admin (at) and we’ll publish them here on our blog?

For the full list of open houses you can visit the Open House website or order a guide to see what is available near you – some venues need to be booked in advance.

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