We have chosen to focus ecohouse.live specifically on new-build homes, although the principles are equally applicable to retrofits.
In many ways retrofits might be seen as the more sustainable option. By working with the existing structure you are retaining its embodied carbon and applying the principles of circular construction. However the construction process for bringing an existing house up to the highest standards of energy efficiency are more complicated (and in general more expensive) than integrating them from the outset in a new-build house.
Building a new home to ecohouse standards, not just for energy efficiency but across a wide range of sustainability issues, is relatively straightforward. We can use readily available materials, proven technologies, and standard construction methods, and if all new houses were built this way we would benefit from the economies of scale. In the bigger picture of how the global economy transitions to net zero carbon, new-build homes are one of the simplest industry sectors to decarbonise.
And we do need more new homes. In Britain, the government has a target of building 300,000 new homes every year, and whilst it has failed to meet this target for a long time the figure is considered realistic by most organisations in the housing industry. Globally, it is estimated we will need 2 billion new homes this century.
But that doesn’t mean all new homes will be entirely new construction. Many commercial and retail buildings become redundant as lifestyles change, and the COVID19 lockdown is likely to escalate that process. These buildings are often in locations where it would be great to live, and upgrading them to ecohouse standards can generally be readily achieved as part of their adaptive reuse.
It also doesn’t deny the importance of retrofitting existing homes. By 2050, only 10-20% of the houses we will live in will have been built from 2020 onwards, the vast majority will be those houses that already exist. Many of these are historic buildings, part of the cultural fabric of our communities, and replacing them does not makes sense. Sooner or later all existing houses will have to be refurbished to ecohouse standards in the transition to net zero.
This is a wonderful article. Thank you!