Luxurious Eco Homes

With energy efficiency and green technologies at the forefront of everyone's minds we're all thinking about how we can improve the green performance of our homes. The usual methods of improving heat retention with double glazing and insulation as well as the possibility of utilising some green technologies such as boilers are something we can all do. However when it comes to building a new home, take a look at these magnificent green design masterpieces. Combining such luxury with such energy consciousness is a real achievement.

Crossway: Kent, England
This magnificent four bedroom family home is essentially one large timbrel vault and is situated in the lush Kent countryside. It was built with minimising the need for gas, water & electricity in mind whilst being light, airy and spacious at the same time. As well as using local materials and tradesmen to benefit the immediate area, it was ensured that green targets were met through the use of the highest quality insulation, triple glazing and total air tightness. Its design really is unique, the interior is magnificent and it's totally carbon neutral!

Lux et Tepidus: Toronto, Canada
This stunning 3500 square foot home is even aligned slightly out of joint with the passing street for better solar energy alignment, the exterior is constructed of structural insulated panels and all interior partitions made of wood-stud. A south facing, massively glazed wall maximises light and solar heat entering the house straight onto a slate covered masonry wall which provides thermal mass as well as looking stunning! This is a truly striking & luxurious property both inside and out and the eco features are engrained perfectly within the design.

Woods End: Norfolk, England
Set in two acres of woodland in the Norfolk countryside, this impressive 3000 square foot eco-home was the 2009 winner of TV competition 'I Own Britain's Best Home'. Built from the ground up by Amanda Barrington, the home costs only £500 a year to heat and fully utilises solar gain as well as the stunning woodland landscape and passing stream to do so. The simple & modern yet homely style of both the build and the interior fit the surroundings perfectly and it has won many design, architectural and green awards. This luxurious yet energy efficient project works seamlessly and is definitely worth the title of Britain's best home.

Heather's Home: Weatherford, Texas, USA
This amazing eco-build was the first home in the state of Texas to receive LEED for Homes Platinum Certification and amazingly for Texas the heating/cooling bill averages only $20 to $30 a month! Built at around $117 per square foot, the house features numerous green technologies including a rainwater collection system and a water heater that needs no tank and is powered by rooftop solar panels. Again the interior is stunning and all the eco-features are seamlessly engrained, another perfect example of luxury and sustainability working hand in hand.

The Costa Mesa Green Home: Orange County, California, USA
Another home to be the first to receive Platinum Certification, this time it's a first for Orange County in California. At a massive 5000 square foot it is the largest and possibly most luxurious of those featured and exceeds the local energy efficiency targets by a massive 40%! This stunning green project has optimised solar orientation and is built with sustainable materials throughout. It also features numerous energy efficient technologies including intelligent ventilation, a state-of-the-art green HVAC (heating, ventilation & air conditioning) system and energy star lighting. Creating energy efficiency in such a massive, contemporary and luxurious property is definitely a remarkable achievement.

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With the rising cost of energy and the need to conserve the planet’s precious resources, a sustainable home is becoming a highly favorable and more economical option.

So, if you are planning on building a home, incorporate sustainable principles on your home designs and house plans. There are many reliable home builders in Melbourne who will be pleased to assist you in achieving that goal. One of the most recognized green Melbourne home builders in Australia is Urbanedge homes.

Urbanedge Homes features Green homes which are known to demonstrate improved energy, resource and water efficiency which in turn reduces your household running costs and greenhouse gas emissions into the environment.

These eco friendly homes are designed to minimize the use of heating and cooling. Through careful solar orientation on the site, the sun’s energy is maximized throughout the year and natural ventilation methods are used to circulate air in and around the home. Effective insulation is used to prevent heat loss and heat gain through walls, roofs, and floors, whilst heat loss through windows is reduced through high-performance glazing.

As for your house interior and exterior designs, Urbanedge home builders guarantee that you will love your home and will stand out in your neighborhood. Their team of professional architects and designers will create modern home designs and house plans that fit your neighborhood block, lifestyle and budget.

If you also have ideas or designs you want to include in your home, Urbanedge will be happy to guide you through the process and assist you with the many things that need to be taken into consideration. They will help you select the exterior bricks, render and roof colors; doors and windows; flooring and all internal and external features as well as your home’s finishing touches.

Building a house with sustainable designs will not only help you achieve an environmentally responsible home that is cleaner and healthier for your family to live in, you will also be able to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle with cheaper running costs.

Know more about Urbanedge green and affordable homes at or visit Urbanedge display homes in Melbourne.

About the Author
A computer professional who works on the internet helping Urbanedgehomes increase its viewers through optimization. For world class Home builders visit us online at

Geothermal Heating

Just below our feet lies an energy source that can easily help us warm both our homes and hot water tanks. This energy source is known as thermal energy and can be harvested using specifically designed geothermal heating technology. This article will give you a better idea of how this natural energy source has come into existence and how geothermal heating systems actually harvest this energy.

But how does this energy under the earths surface occur? Thermal energy is caused by a number of contributors. For example, heat radiates out from the earths core and warms the ground. The earth also absorbs energy from the heat of the sun. The strength of this heat energy trapped beneath the surface of the ground will of course depend where you are in the world. It does not really matter where you are in the world though as geothermal heating technologies are able to extract heat from the ground however weak that heat is.

The concept of harvesting heat energy that is present beneath our feet is far from new. In the Roman Empire water heated naturally underground by geothermal energy was put to use to keep their spas hot. In effect this was the start of basic geothermal heating systems. This harvesting of naturally occurring geothermally heated hot water is still used today in some parts of the world. Iceland, for example, makes full use of this naturally occurring energy source using geothermal power plants.

Geothermal heating systems such as the Ground Source heat pump are now used across the world with much success. As the name suggests the Ground Source heat pump collects heat from the beneath the ground and literally pumps this heat around a home or property. Ground source heat pumps use a series of pipes that are laid underneath the surface of the ground. The loop of pipes are filled with a solution has properties to absorb geothermal heat energy directly from the ground. The solution is pumped through the loop of pipes, and gathers heat as it travels. The solution eventually passes through the heat pumps the heat exchanger part of the system where the heat is extracted and refined. This harvested heat is then used to directly warm living spaces and heat hot water tanks.

Geothermal heating systems are forecast to become even more popular with households across the globe. In general many people want to become more environmentally friendly and do their bit to help save the planet. Most people are also becoming increasingly frustrated at the incredibly high prices they are paying for fossil fuels such as gas and coal. Alternative ways to heat homes that are eco-friendly and cheaper to run, such as Ground Source heat pumps and other geothermal heating technology, are the ideal answer.

Would you like to discover more about geothermal heating technology and the benefits of investing in a heat pump system for your home? A good starting point is to visit one of the companies that specialized in geothermal heating and renewable heating systems. One reputable and well established company is called EcoVision. You can easily find their website. EcoVision specializes in all types of environmentally friendly technologies, including geothermal heating. The EcoVision website is probably the best next step for you to discover more information.

About the Author
Rich Stevens writes articles for EcoVision. Discover more information about Heat Pump technology and how Heat Pumps work on the EcoVision website.

Sustainable Windows

Aircraft designers have relied on aluminium for manufacturing aeroplanes for over 60 years, ever since this strong lightweight material was first discovered as a natural metal occurring in bauxite.

This was a huge improvement beyond the plywood, string and canvass that was used before and was essential for developing todays modern jets and the long flying distances we all enjoy today. This requires flying above 30,000 feet which needs a strong, light construction to withstand the pressure differences at such high altitudes.

For the past 30 years aluminium has also been used extensively in the design and manufacture of window frames in the UK Commercial market due, also, to its strength and lightness.

However, no matter how good and reliable any material or product is, there is always the possibility that one day, superior technology will move it aside and create something even better to come along and completely supersede it.

This is already happening, today. In the aircraft industry, Boeing's 787, so called 'Dream-liner' was the first to break tradition and turn towards innovative new technology that not only matches what aluminium can offer - but which goes some way beyond in terms of strength, durability, lightness and rigidity - and avoids the future possibility of metal fatigue.

'Fibre Reinforced Polymer' (FRP) is the generic term for high performance, light weight compounds which combine reinforcing fibres of glass or carbon into a tough and durable thermosetting resin, to generate composite materials of astonishing strength and capability.

Already used as the heat resisting nose cone on the NASA Space Shuttle, these FRPs are significantly stronger than steel, weight for weight and are often known by such names as GRP, fibreglass, carbon fibre and graphite. We are more familiar with them as the best material for producing golf clubs, tennis and squash racquets, fishing rods, motor cycle fairings, Formula 1 car bodies and disc brakes, Olympic vaulting poles - the list goes on.

According to Russell Maguire, Boeing's Technical Vice President, the new 787 will have 94% of its wings and fuselage made entirely from FRP composites, which will provide a lightweight one piece moulded body shell, thus no joints or rivets to deteriorate - and creating a lighter, more fuel efficient aircraft, generating lower carbon emissions and thus achieving a more environmentally friendly flying experience - helping Boeing to meet its corporate responsibility towards climate change.

Something similar is happening in the window industry. Climate change is heavily influencing the fate of aluminium in the UK Building Industry, too. Commercial windows in offices, schools, high-rise tower blocks, hospitals, care homes, etc, have predominantly used aluminium for 30 years, simply because no other material has been strong enough or suitable for these architecturally designed projects - until now.

As in the aircraft industry, FRP (pultruded GRP Fibreglass) has been found to be far better qualified than aluminium for window manufacture, due to its higher strength, durability and thermal insulation, which leaves aluminium floundering in its wake when chasing lower thermal U values and higher sustainability targets for some of our more challenging BREEAM projects. (BREEAM: UK Government inspired sustainable building standards to achieve higher environmental levels of construction - and lower carbon emissions when in use. Building Research Establishment, Environmental Assessment Model).

The advantages of GRP Fibreglass over aluminium don't stop there, either! The following list summarises some of the additional benefits:-

* Service life of 50 - 75 years is double that for aluminium * Thermal U values of 0.9 W/M2K are half aluminium's best (1.8) * GRP needs no surface protection, essential for aluminium to prevent corrosion in weather and coastal sea spray. * Both materials are supplied coated in any colour with a 25 year life * Aluminium can't be repaired/re-coated so poor appearance eventually demands replacement. Scratches and damage can hasten that end. * GRP can be repaired/re-coated any time, in any colour, providing another 25 years and requiring zero maintenance. * GRP cannot be bent or deformed like the soft metal of aluminium * GRP has negligible expansion even at high temperature. Aluminium is the opposite. * GRP carbonises in fire, protecting its structural integrity. Aluminium melts at 660C. * Despite the many benefits of GRP over aluminium - GRP gives better price and value.

So, no matter how good and reliable aluminium once was, there has come the day when superior technology is moving it aside, having created something even better to completely supersede it.

About the Author
Chris Dixon has spent 25 years pioneering GRP building products and is now a freelance Business Consultant working with Pultec Ltd, UK market leader of GRP Windows. Find out more about this new material, it's environmental credentials, and how it could improve the sustainability of your project, at => Chris can be contacted at '

Rainwater Harvesting

Housing associations who want to meet the guidelines of the Code for Sustainable Homes and to apply these high environmental standards to the homes they already have, this is a tough challenge. Even though there are a lot of choices on the market to increase a property's green credentials, using rainwater instead of mains water whenever possible is a choice that housing associations should think about more readily.

Half of the 160 litres that we use daily does not have to be quality drinking water. Use rainwater from the roof to supply outdoors, WCs and washing machines. A decreased usage of mains water is, after all, one of the required elements of the Code for new housing and cannot be side-stepped: 105 litres daily per person for level 3 and 4, & for level 5 and 6, 80 litres. So far the tendency has been to use water efficient appliances alone to meet the lower code levels and not consider rainwater harvesting until meeting levels 5 and 6.

However, now it is being realised that it makes sense to use rainwater harvesting from the start, in conjunction with water-efficient appliances. The official NGO, Waterwise, recommends changing behaviour as the best way to decrease mains consumption, however experience shows us that there are consumers who are not happy with small-size baths or low pressure tap flow. It is important not to put people off saving on mains water. Using rainwater is the way to do this.

=> The Code for Sustainable Homes Requirements.

The Code's water calculator formula for working out how to reach the daily litre consumption has been amended to mirror the new requirements of Part G of the Building Regulations, due next year.

An experienced builder and plumber can easily install a rainwater harvesting system without any specialist knowledge. The main components are the tank, pump, filter and mains back up. It's cheaper and easier to install a rainwater harvesting system in new-builds or major renovation projects rather than in a retrofit. In a new-build, depending upon the size of the tank and the type of mains back up accessory chosen, the cost of equipment for a 3- to 4-bedroom house typically ranges between £2,000 and £3,000. In a retrofit, however, installation costs would be another £1,000-£2,000 as it may involve additional manpower or equipment. Tank sizes for normal domestic use average between 2,700 and 6,500 litres and tanks should be put underground to keep water fresher. Tanks that are shared by multiple dwellings are possible, but ideally systems should supply each individual dwelling unit.

=> Rainwater Harvesting Systems.

Rainwater can either be pumped from the main storage tank directly to WCs, washing machine and outdoor taps, or to a small header tank in the roof space where it gravity feeds to where it is needed. The indirect system is preferred when used with Rain Director. For example, whenever a WC is flushed or the pressure drops in a direct system, the pump is activated. With a Rain Director in an indirect system, the pump only works when the rainwater header tank is completely empty, thus saving 8 times energy use and also prolonging pump life.

To comply with cross-contamination Building Regulations and avoid the possibility of a rainwater backflow into the mains network, plumbers have to make sure that there is an air break if they include a mains back-up device. Some rainwater harvesting suppliers now provide mains back-up kits where this air break is taken care of (by including a tundish, for example). In addition, the pipework has to be clearly marked as to whether it is rainwater or mains.

About the Author:
Rainwater Harvesting Limited supplies rainwater harvesting storage tanks, filters, pumps & management systems for private homes and businesses. Need important technical information and advice and thousands of product specifications? Go to . Download the rainwater harvesting tank size calculator at