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'ECO' HOUSE VERSUS 'NORMAL' HOUSE                     By Mark Fielding, 25TH May 2010
People ask me frequently: "how much extra does an 'Eco' house cost over a 'normal' house", - my answer is always "nothing!" - which usually surprises everyone, and it seems the general impression out there is that an eco house does cost more - which unfortunately is a belief that is not helping us all to improve our new housing stock.
Let me qualify; if you were building any new house would you not fill the wall and ceiling framing cavities full of insulation to maintain good comfort? the cost is generally just 2 to 3 % of the house cost so it makes good sense. An eco house is simply insulated to that same level because often there is no benefit insulating to higher levels unless heat losses can be significantly reduced through glazing (more than just with curtains) which is where heat loss is greatest.
To further qualify; eco homes often have more glazing on their north sides to utilise passive solar heating. Good quality Low E double glazing is an expensive component but rather than adding extra, the passive solar eco home is simply designed to redistribute the total area of glazing, putting most on the north side, moderate areas on east and west sides, and almost none on the south side. Thus no extra cost.
But wait theres more; The 'tack on' solar water heating panel is an extra expense you say. I say no, that if you were building any new home, why would you not include a solar panel to significantly reduce your power bills. The extra capitol cost of the solar system, usually less than 4% of the total house cost, stays with the value of the home and will be realised every day in power savings and upon resale of the home. Thus a solar water system is not an extra on the eco home.
I specify good quality curtains as part of the building performance design, because as mentioned, the large windows of contemporary home designs are their greatest heat loss element. Curtains significantly reduce radiant heat loss at night, not an extra expence on the eco design because your 'non' eco home should also have them - if you want to feel comfortable that is... - and isn't that the main point of a house?
If a home was appropriately designed from the ground up to offer comfort levels and energy efficiency to its occupants (both 'no-brainer' common sense features) and if it were also designed to be space efficient to save on materials and cost, (as everyone wants to save money) and if it were to be built using safe non toxic materials (for why would you want a poisonous house?) materials that were simple and natural (low embodied energy to reduce our carbon footprint) and sourced locally (as it makes good sense keep our own people and industries in work) - would you not have a good affordable house? why would you need to call this an 'eco' house? While others still consider these to be 'eco' houses, I design and consider them as 'Normal'.


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