Home Energy/Environment How to Build a Legally Green Home

How to Build a Legally Green Home


With a global shift in attitudes toward the environment and sustainability, many people are paying more attention to their footprint than ever before. From the cars we drive to the companies we purchase from, sustainability has become a hot topic over the past few decades.

This topic has extended into the construction industry. Since the late 1990s, the UK has been looking for ways to implement green practices in building and to ensure that new construction projects are built to have minimal ecological impact.

Due to these efforts, more than 13,800 buildings ranging from private dwellings to business premises and offices in the UK are certified green buildings. If you’re looking to build a legally approved green home, read on to see what is required.

UK Certifications

The first step in undertaking a green build is understanding what certifications you must obtain during building and once it is complete. In the UK, a number are available, with two being the primary options for residential use. Each of these are briefly outlined below:

  • BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) is the most widely recognized assessment in the UK. After assessing various parts of a building, the system allocates a rating to each building. The higher the rating, the better the sustainability of the home.
  • HQM (Home Quality Mark): Assessing the overall quality and green performance of construction, the HQM measures a building’s sustainability to give a rating. Offered by BRE, the body that issues BREEAM certifications, HQM is the second most widely used in the UK.
  • Passivhaus: Established in Germany, Passivhaus is an internationally recognized standard. Houses certified by Passivhaus must focus on comfort and energy efficiency. Specifically, they must be designed to use minimal energy during winter and summer months for the heating and cooling of the building.
  • EPC (Energy Performance Certificate): EPC ratings range from A (the highest level) to G (the lowest level) and depict how the building uses energy. These certificates are commonly required when buying or selling a property and can significantly influence its value.
  • UK Green Building Council: Focusing more on guidance regarding sustainable practices during construction, the UK Green Building Council also issued certifications for green buildings.

As mentioned above, BREEAM and HQM are the two primary certifying agents used when certifying a building as green. Each tests various aspects of the building, with a few differences.

Certification Requirements

Constant revisions are being made to the requirements for a building to be certified as green. As such, it is best practice to contact a specialist in the field and liaise with them as to whether or not your current practices, designs, or buildings fulfil requirements.

That said, we have outlined the areas BREEAM and HQM look at when making assessments below. Each assigns points toward a building’s green certification, with a minimum of 30 points needed to achieve the lowest certification.

These areas are:

  • Building health and wellbeing: this takes into account the internal air quality of a building. Alongside this, it also looks at the thermal efficiency of a building to stay warm or cool, the acoustics of a building’s design, and the visual comfort offered by the lighting provided by the design.
  • Management and maintenance: this relates to the building process and identifies proper quality control on behalf of the teams responsible for completing construction.
  • Energy efficiency: Under energy efficiency, this certification looks at how much energy is required to run the building and where this energy comes from (e.g., renewable sources like solar).
  • Transport and accessibility: part of the certification looks at how accessible the building is and what transport options surround it. Buildings with sustainable transport options (such as public transport) nearby receive a higher rating.
  • Water use and management: looking at how the building consumes water, this section of the certification also looks at any water-saving methodology used in the building.
  • Material use and waste management: again focusing on the building stage, this looks at what renewable or recycled materials were used in the building process. It also looks at how waste management is undertaken.
  • Land use and ecology: making the most negligible impact on surrounding ecosystems will grant a higher rating in this area. Points are also added for any green spaces the building creates through clever design or landscaping.
  • Pollution: this component of the certifications looks at the pollution a building generates, including light and noise pollution.
  • Safety and resilience: exclusive to the HQM certification, this looks at the resilience a building has regarding natural disasters such as floods and heavy rainfalls.

Is it Worth Building a Green Home?

With the above factors playing a part in the certification of a green home, many people are put off the idea and ponder if certification is worth the effort. The reality is that these homes come with multiple pros and cons.

The cost is one of the most significant cons of building or owning a green home. Between ensuring that every requirement is met and the considerable cost of sustainable or recycled materials, the cost of these builds is often substantially more than a regular build – so much more, in fact, that many times only those with excessive savings or those who’ve won significant lottery or casinos.com windfalls can afford them.

Despite the cost, these buildings offer several advantages, such as reduced utility bills due to sustainable power sources, lower heating and cooling costs, and tax incentives that can give you a monthly break on your bills.

Aside from all this, green buildings traditionally attract much higher selling prices when going to market – making the initial cost worthwhile in the end. For those looking to develop properties to resell, this is particularly important.

More than these factors, the knowledge that you’ve built a building that is eco-friendly and kind to the environment is priceless. As such, despite the red tape and requirements that must be fulfilled to have a home certified as green in the UK, it is certainly worth the effort.


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