Green is the new black: why you need to eco-chic your home now
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With turbulent times for the environment ahead, meet the enterprising Highgate group who are helping homeowners go green
With one of the world’s most outspoken proponents of climate change denial in the White House, there’s all the more reason to do your bit for the planet now by eco-proofing your property.
Staunch defenders of the environment the Highgate Society Sustainable Homes group are putting on a series of talks to help residents make good environmental choices for their homes. The chaired panel events will provide practical advice from local experts about how to make incremental changes in residential homes.
Cara Jenkinson, one of the organisers, firmly believes that the foibles of owning a period home are not sufficient reason to shy away from taking action.
“Our emphasis is on how you can make your home low carbon, cheap to run, but without compromising on character,” she says.
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A recent report by the UK Green Building Council suggests that 25 million UK homes need to be refurbished by 2050 in order to meet targets. The UK is committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 per cent by then, relative to 1990 levels.
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Cara Jenkinson believes that current legislation is inadequate.
“Government regulations don’t do enough in so many ways,” she says. “There’s been a real pull back of the government in recent years.”
2015 saw the culling of the Green Deal, a loan scheme that flopped due to low take up and a high interest rate, and the retreat from zero carbon homes targets.
Luckily eco-chic gadgets and smart homes are being developed to help in the fight against climate change.
This technology doesn’t come cheap, but savvy users could make big enough savings to make eco-gizmos worthwhile. BT claims that its Hive thermostat could save users up to £130 a year on heating bills, whilst Tado claims up to 31 per cent could be saved using its technology. The actual savings made will depend upon the user.
“If you have a reasonably regular pattern of life, actually having something that you can control from your mobile probably isn’t going to make that much difference,” cautions Jenkinson.
Users who lead unpredictable lifestyles but are app-savvy are most likely to find the technology to be worth the investment.
“If you’re a young person that might be going out and you’re not sure if you’ll be in the next night, then yes I can see you’d be on your phone,” she concedes.
But are they just a gimmick? “Smart meters and real time monitors get people really excited and then the novelty wears off,” Jenkinson says, arguing that results rely on properties already being well insulated before going gaga for gadgets. Overall though, Jenkinson accepts that gadgets are a step in the right direction.
“If it gets people engaged in their home management and their home heating, that’s a good thing.”
Besides reducing energy costs and environmental protection, making your home eco-friendly could be good for your health, explains HSSH member Jackie Jones.
“Everybody does it for different reasons,” she says. “It’s not just about the energy; there are a whole lot of health and wellbeing problems [from pollution]” she says.
Improved air quality and draught reduction could have a big impact on respiratory conditions.
The difficulty is persuading people to invest in more expensive measures like double glazing and solid wall insulation. Subsidies, Jenkinson argues, are often criticised since they target the middle classes, but she believes that they are worthwhile.
“The obvious solution is loft insulation,” she says. “If you haven’t taken it up to your 300mm of loft insulation already it’s a no brainer.
“At the end of the day we need to do something to get people insulating their homes because if we don’t we’re not going to hit our targets.”
Dermot Barnes, managing director at Ecodomus and a speaker at the event, argues that the time is rife for retrofitting.
“There has never been a more important time to act as energy bills soar and increasingly erratic weather patterns become the norm,” he says.
If residents are unsure how to begin making improvements, HSSH will be able to arrange house visits to properties that have invested in environmental measures. Previous examples have included the Belsize Park home of John Doggart, chairman of the SuperHomes network, which aims to make properties more energy efficient.
“The more people that come to the event the better chance we have of people taking action and making a positive difference, however small, to the environmentally unbalanced lives that most of us lead,” says Barnes.
Elspeth Clements of Clements & Porter Architects will chair the panel, which also include specialists from Sleeman Heating, Integrated Heating, window expert John Rudge and water sustainability specialist ech2o.
Creating an energy-chic home will take place at 7pm on Wednesday 15th March at The Highgate Society. Tickets are available free via Eventbrite.
To find out more, visit highgatesociety.com.