Thursday , 19 January 2017

Ultimate Guide to Green Up Your Design

This is the ultimate guide to help you implement environmental features into your design at an early stage so that your building is at one with its environmental credentials. I guess you could look at this as a checklist that you look at over again in the initial stages of your design. Many things won’t apply to your specific building, and many will. So use it, or lose it!

Building Elements

Wall Construction

  • Sustainable material choices
  • Pre fabricated elements
  • High thermal mass
  • Low thermal mass
  • Recyclable materials
  • Recycled materials
  • Easily constructed
  • SIPs (Structural Insulated Panels)
  • Air permeability
  • Modular foundation systems

Wall Insulation

  • High levels of insulation
  • Recyclable materials
  • High recycled content
  • Airtightness

Ground Floor Construction

  • Materials
  • Recyclable materials
  • Recycled materials

Roof Construction

  • Sustainable materials
  • Durable mateirals
  • Low U-Value
  • Green Roof – intensive or extensive – consider uses and benefits

Green Roof

© Kapu | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos


  • Low U-Value

Windows/Roof Lights

  • High performance
  • Low U-Value
  • Triple glazed Low E

Active Ventilation Strategy (mechanical)

  • MVHR (Mechanical Ventilation and Heat Recovery
  • Termodeck
  • Ground-Air heat exchanger system for controlled ventilation

Electrical Lighting

  • Low Energy Lighting
  • PV Panels to provide electricity
  • Wind energy
  • Reduce light pollution on any external lighting schemes

Low energy light bulb

© Ronfromyork | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

Electrical Lighting Zones/Controls

  • Incorporate varied lighting controls such as motion sensors to reduce energy consumption

Primary Heating System

  • Biomass systems
  • CHP (Combined Heat and Power)
  • Ground Source Heat Pump
  • Air Source Heat Pump
  • Hydrogen Fuel Cells
  • MVHR
  • Underfloor heating, are your floor materials right for this, is your building high or low thermal mass? Which would work better?

Primary Heating Controls/Zones

  • Zoned thermostat areas to create better control of energy usage

Water Heating (plus Controls/Zones)

  • Solar water heating
  • Point of use water systems if there is minimal requirement for hot water within the building
  • Zip taps for hot water instead of kettle
Image from Zip Hydro Tap

Finishes and Materials

  • Floor finishes etc could incorporate reclaimed or recycled materials
  • Cladding could incorporate eco/sustainable materials
  • Consider the embodied energy of your materials

Building Management System (BMS)

Management system that can control, monitor and optimise the buildings mechanical and electrical equipment like ventilation, lighting, security and fire systems. It is good for controling internal comfort conditions, managing zoned areas, monitoring and targeting of energy consumption and so on.

Water Systems and Appliances (Supply)

  • Aerated taps and dual flush toilets to control and minimise water usage
  • Rainwater harvesting systems
  • Leak detection systems
  • Specify high efficiency appliances (Dishwashers etc.)

Water Systems (Waste)

  • Recycling of grey water
  • Reed beds
  • Waterless urinals

Passive Design Strategies

Look at Passiv Haus strategies and ethos for a good introduction to passive design.


  • Thermal mass
  • Passive Solar Design


  • Solar orientation
  • Solar shading strategies
  • Roof overhang, solar shades
  • Thermal mass
  • Allow for occupant control over window opening (this creates instant cooling when occupants require)
Image from Maple Sunscreening


  • Design for natural daylight
  • Solar orientation
  • Surfaces to reflect light but not dazzle


  • Cross ventilation
  • Wind catcher for natural ventilation (Monodraught)

Site Specific Elements


  • Make sure requirements of Building Regs Part M are met

Recycling and Waste

  • Provision of internal and external recycling facilities
  • Reduction of construction waste schemes see WRAP

Cycle Storage

  • Encourage people to leave their cars at home and provide suitable cycle storage

© Mpalis | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

Outdoor Space

  • Landscaping and ecology
  • Maintaining or enhancing existing landscape and ecology


  • Is your building adaptable
  • Is your building affordable
  • Use FSC Certified wood
  • Use durable materials
  • Always strive for high building performance

Case Studies:

Lion House, Alnwick

ZEBRA (Zero Emmission Building Renewing Alnwick)

Lion House Case Study 1 Lion House Case Study 2 BREEAM Lion House Study


The Kingspan Lighthouse

First UK Zero-Carbon (Code 6) House

Lighthouse Website Lighthouse Factsheet

Both of these case studies have extensive information about how they were designed and all of the environmental features that have made them so successful.

Note: This list is not exhaustive – I’m sure you will find other things to green up your design, if you do please feel free to share them below!


Check out our guide to Eco Architecture Websites post for more information

Also have a google at these:

  • Code for Sustainable Homes
  • Building Regs Part L
  • Energy Trust Enhanced Construction Details

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Maple leaf

© Venakr | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

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