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In the latest in our series focusing on sustainability, we asked Ashleigh Clarke Architects to tell us all about building an eco-friendly home.

What does sustainability mean in terms of architecture?

As architects, we have a responsibility to design eco-friendly buildings that enable people to live sustainably and make the best use of resources. That includes light, heating and water, as well as the actual materials we use.

We believe in sustainability throughout the architectural process. There are considerations of social and environmental sustainability from start to finish. This stretches from how we recycle at our architectural studio, drinking Fair Trade coffee and using environmentally-friendly material, right down to how we operate on site during construction, to minimise our environmental impact. We have made conscious efforts to reduce the amount of printed paper used and resort to electronic devices to produce drawings wherever possible.

How important is sustainability to you as a business?

At our studio, we like to think of ourselves as sustainable architects. This means minimising the negative environmental impact of buildings by efficiency and moderation in the use of materials, waste and energy resources. The energy required to construct and run our buildings is responsible for 40% of the Earth’s carbon emissions. In the UK, it’s closer to 50%.

We use natural materials where possible, especially when renovating or extending Grade II listed buildings. Using local Cotswolds stone, for example, creates synergy with the surrounding buildings and the environment. The Cotswolds landscape commands respectful, sympathetic architecture. This fusion of contemporary modern architecture with existing traditional structures is often described as brave or innovative. For us, it is as important that they are environmentally friendly. Our aim is to design homes that look at home with their environment.

What advice would you give someone who wants to ensure that their project is sustainable?

When it comes to building a sustainable home there are several things to consider.

Eco-friendly insulating materials include materials such as sheep’s wool, cellulose (recycled newspaper) or wood fibre. These can be reused and recycled and are fully biodegradable. Sustainably sourced timber, blockwork, brick and pre-fabricated systems, which are made off-site in a factory, are all viable options to consider.

Dense materials such as brick and concrete offer high levels of thermal mass. During the day they absorb and store heat while at night the heat is slowly released. This helps to keep your home at a comfortable temperature. For the best of both worlds, many prefabricated timber builds can be clad with blockwork or brick. Interior elements such as a polished concrete floor will offer similar benefits of warmth.

Is it possible to incorporate recycled or restored materials into a design to make it more sustainable?

Yes, absolutely, it is possible. We try to incorporate as many recycled materials into our designs as possible in order to make them more sustainable. Examples include reclaimed wood, glass insulated panels and recycled metal.

The possibilities are endless when it comes to designing an eco-friendly home. Building sustainably will benefit those living there as well as the environment. In the long run, it will save money, lead to better health and help conserve the environment for both current and future generations.

“Sustainable residential architecture is an increasingly important topic. We aim to reduce the environmental impact of a new build through the entire process until the client walks through the door.” – Ashleigh Clarke, Founder and Architect

The Energy Saving Trust is a website that gives guidance on energy efficiency options that can be considered when building an eco-friendly home.

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