Energy efficient buildings – how important are they?

With sustainability and energy efficiency rising up the priority list for many developers and homeowners, there has never been a better time to take a more considered approach when specifying products within a project. Here, we’re talking to Craig Phillips about his latest project, his 'dream build', and the role energy efficiency has played in this.

How important was energy efficiency to you when you were designing your latest property, Craig?

In the building industry as a whole, whenever I talk to someone that is doing an extension or a new house build, I always tell them to think about the energy performance of a house at the design stage and not to make it an afterthought. When you’re working on a project, whether it’s a renovation or a new build, it’s very important to get the windows, door and insulation right as these are some of the key ways to ensure your building is as energy efficient as possible. By investing in this, you’ll be able to run the property on as little energy as possible, cutting down on gas and electric bills in the long run.

What steps have you taken to ensure the energy efficiency of this build and any build you have worked on?

I own a few properties that I have renovated, which we let out to people and when building these we installed insulation that was better performing than the recommended levels to help the energy performance of the building.

In terms of the windows, obviously where possible always use double or triple glazing. Roughly 10% of heat within a home is lost through the windows, but this can be reduced if the correct products are used. Energy-efficient windows that use coated glass to prevent heat escaping through the windows are more thermally insulating which improves the energy efficiency of the home and can help save money on energy bills.

The back of my new build has also been designed in a v shape to ensure maximum levels of natural light can enter the property. I was also lucky enough to have enough land to be able to orientate the property so the back of it would benefit from natural sunlight. We then installed 27 large windows and 7 bifold doors, with lots of this glazing at the back of the property, so we could benefit from the natural heat and light from the sun, which would be magnified by the windows and help light and heat the building.

Thanks to the additional heat I’ll get from my large windows and bifold doors, I’ve been able to install a heat exchange system within the property. This will essentially draw the heat out of the rooms that experience a lot of natural sunlight and eject it over to the parts that do not get as much natural sun or heat.

At the front of the property, which won’t get as much natural sunlight, I’ve used longer more narrow windows. This allowed us to adopt a more modern and contemporary aesthetic, whilst retaining some privacy as it is road facing.

We can make a house as energy efficient as possible but we can’t control how the homeowners run their property. If you run your underfloor heating all day and don’t have energy efficient windows for example, you won’t notice an improvement in energy usage.

What advice would you give to contractors that want to incorporate energy efficient products into a project?

I’d always tell people to get advice from their architect if they’re not sure. With this new build, I’ve had to have Standard Assessment Procedure (SAP) calculations. This is a test to assess and compare the energy and environmental performance of buildings to make sure that any new developments will meet Building Regulations.

Our architect has managed this and has worked out the energy performance of every bit of material used within the build, with the style and type of windows and the actual glazing used playing a big role in this. They’ll also consider the type of brick and blocks we have used, as well as the insulation around the window.

If anyone is planning a renovation or working on a new build, I would recommend having SAP tests planned in the early stages of the build so when you’re sourcing materials you know what to ask for and you know what levels of performance you need from each particular material. It’s impossible to go back and replace the bricks, for example, with a more energy efficient product.

I’ve found it quite interesting as even with 29 years in the building industry under my belt, I’m still learning new things every day. There are always new products coming out that work best in conjunction with other products, or installation methods that can improve the energy efficiency of a building.

How high is energy efficiency on your agenda? Do you have more and more customers requesting this when working on a project? Let us know in the comments below!

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