Oliver Heath is a great proponent of smart eco design in the UK. He has worked with clients ranging from IKEA to Opel; in 2011 he was instrumental in the construction of a house at the Eco Build show in London that was made entirely from recycled materials. His advice is frequently sought after from leading broadsheet newspapers such as the Observer and has featured on the BBC on several occasions. He is a regular columnist for the Grand Designs magazine and in and has written three books, the latest of which Urban Eco Chic is now published in 7 languages.
I recently had the opportunity to meet with Oliver and get some tips and advice from him on how we can move towards sustainable homes and communities, here are his thoughts.
The first thing Oliver mentioned was the need for a strategic and well thought plan for educating and building awareness about the benefits of sustainable living. Outlined below are the four points that he feels are key to this process.
- Aspiration, this is through good design and forward thinking that will encourage creative design encompassing the lessons of responsibility and sustainability. The more grand projects that are brought to the public’s attention the better.
- People getting first-hand experience of eco homes. This is something that Oliver actively does, inviting the public into his home to get lessons and inspiration for the use of space and light.
- Connecting communities through online and offline projects that allow people to share goods and work together.
- Accessing the finance and logistics of a switch, this would largely take the form of grants, loans and incentives to encourage green building projects.
The idea is that these four points will create a social climate that will encourage and lay the foundation for socially and environmentally responsible design. As Oliver mentions there is a lack of creative thinking that has lead people to believe that an eco-home is must be an eco-hub.
With this in mind I wondered what steps the average person can make, perhaps whilst considering more drastic and ambitious changes to homes the steps that every person can make with relative ease. Oliver had some clear ideas; they varied from the simple and well known steps such as changing to energy saving light bulbs and the process of writing down on a regular basis what electricity is used, to more creative and innovative ideas. Below is a breakdown of these everyday steps.
- Insulate the home and create a draft reduction strategy. As we are aware a well-insulated home can make massive changes to the temperature levels and with this in turn the levels of consumption.
- Consider efficient appliances, our everyday appliances are often the ones that cause us to use the most energy, considering what appliances to keep in our homes and the frequency that we use them is a step that all should do.
- Use water reducing items, again a step that can effectively reduce the amount of money that the average household spends and consumed with little effort.
- Optimize natural light, this will be effective in allowing homes to stay well lit for longer period of the day, thus in turn eliminating the need to have the lights on during the day.
- Use low energy light bulbs, low energy light bulbs and led lighting last longer and also use substantially less energy.
Finally, as I had a leading eco architect, I couldn’t resist asking what he felt the homes of the future should include, Oliver kindly obliged, with four clear visions to work towards.
- Connected, the idea here is to make your home the power station for more of your lifestyle needs. Oliver does this by using the solar panels to generate the electricity he uses to power his electric car. It goes further than this however into an idea that your home should provide you more information, feedback information on consumption to allow you make smarter decisions. This information should be fed to you from multiple locations and at seamless reactive speeds.
- Smart materials are something that Oliver is looking forward to, these are surfaces that capture energy allow it to be circulated and properly distributed around the home.
- Connecting communities, this is using our ability to connect with neighbours on an integrated digital platform. On its most basic level this will allow us to make requests, such as borrowing a ladder, this will cut down waste. It could also be harnessed to make larger community shops, cutting down the need for multiple people to be using cars at the same time.
- Better ventilation and clean air, this is a large design focus, allowing outdoor spaces and indoor spaces to blend with ease and comfort for a healthy living environment.
A guest article from Alex Vasili.
Alex writes on all issues of the green agenda and is a member of The Eco Experts.