Going Green: Eco-homes are a Growing Market in Britain

by : Elisha Burberry

With global warming's causes and consequences a daily topic in the media, it seems that everyone is jumping aboard the green train to 'do their bit' for the environment these days - and rightly so. One of the many initiatives of this overall green movement is the concept of eco property.

For a home to be classified as an eco, or environmentally friendly property, it must have a number of features that reduce the tenants' overall environmental impact. Homes are assessed using six criteria: energy efficiency, water efficiency, surface water management, site waste management, household waste management and use of materials.

In older properties, where major structural changes are unfeasible, other criteria can be used to make a property more environmental friendly and allow it eco status. Buildings that are constructed from natural materials, such as timber, use wool insulation and organic paints may will help it to qualify as green property. In addition, reliance on National Grid energy can be supplemented or replaced altogether by using solar thermal hot water heating systems on the roof, photovoltaic panels, a wind turbine or wood fired central heating.

Savings on water can be made by using rainwater for flushing the toilets, or a grey water system that collects waste water from sinks and showers and can be reused to water the garden. Additional energy savings are gained by higher than normal levels of insulation, large amounts of glazing to invite natural light and a passive solar orientation, where a house benefits from a southerly orientation gaining free light and heat.

Britain's housing stock is fairly ineffective in terms of its energy rating. On a scale of 1 to 120, the average house in the UK rates at just 45. All houses built after 1995 were built to new standards of 80 and in 2002 the minimum energy rating was raised further to 100.

In light of increasing environmental awareness, interest in green property has grown and there are now a number of estate agents dealing solely in green property. As might be expected due to the relatively new concept of eco homes, the current choice is limited, yet you can find green property in Kent, Herefordshire, Hampshire, Norfolk and even on the Isle of Skye.

It is expected that new government legislation that encourages the building of eco homes by granting tax breaks and VAT reduciton on energy efficient goods - such as low energy light bulbs and double glazing - will also lead to people converting their homes into more environmentally friendly zones. This will help to tackle rising energy demands, reducing CO2 emissions and ultimately global warming.