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The green credentials of new-build homes

Super energy-efficient with A+ rated appliances, triple glazed and well-insulated. Let's take a look at the eco-credentials of new-build homes.

Words by: Nic Hopkirk

Senior Editor

New-build homes are more eco-friendly than their more traditional counterparts.

That’s because they’re designed to use a lot less energy, meaning your bills will be cheaper too.

Here’s why buying a new-build home might just be one of the best things you ever did to help the environment.

New-build homes consume less energy

Thanks to new stringent regulations, new homes are on average 60% more energy efficient than period homes. 

Research from the Home Builders Federation in 2022 found that new-build home owners save around £2,600 a year in energy bills on average.

That’s a lot of money that could be spent on something a lot more fun.

How do they do it?

New-build homes have energy efficiency built in from day one of their construction.

As a result, 84% of new build homes have an EPC rating of B or above, according to the Home Builders Federation. Meanwhile, less than 4% of existing homes reach the same standard - the average UK rating is D.

And there are a number of ways they achieve better energy efficiency.

For one thing, new-build homes are built with cavity wall insulation. 

That means the gaps between the inner and outer walls of your home are filled with things like mineral wool, polystyrene beads or polyurethane foam.

This helps to store heat in your home, bouncing it back into your rooms rather than allowing it to escape through draughts.

New-build homes also use high-efficiency heating systems to help to cut down on carbon emissions - and your energy costs.

Double or triple glazing, low energy lighting and dual flushes to reduce water usage are installed in many new properties as standard.

And when it comes to kitchen appliances, home builders will select A+ rated goods to keep energy consumption to a minimum.

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It’s all about location, location location

A new build family home in Surrey

Many new-build developments are established close to good public transport links, as it’s in a developer’s interest to appeal to those who might need to commute.

The ability to work from home has opened up the housing landscape, making living further afield a more possible option.

Many house builders have recognised this, and new-build developments near small villages with local train stations allow you to enjoy a more rural lifestyle and choose more eco-friendly transport options, while keeping you connected with town or city life.

What's more, house developers have also made it their business to include eco-friendly considerations into their landscaping and planning.

Tree planting, the creation of bee and bird-friendly environments and even hedgehog highways can be found in rural developments.

In fact, re-wilding the local landscape is increasingly becoming a key focus among many developers, who aim to measurably add to and improve the natural spaces around new homes to encourage birds and wildlife to flourish.  

New-builds are plugged into the future of transport

Aside from being situated close to local transport links, many new-build developments feature bike storage and electric car charging points as standard.

In fact, car charging points became a legal requirement for all new-build homes in 2022.

That means from now on, 145,000 electric car charging points will be created every year.

With diesel cars being banned by 2030, this will go a long way in helping the UK transition to a world with less fumes and pollution.

New-builds use Modern Methods of Construction

Using Modern Methods of Construction (or MMC) means building lots of the parts of a new-build development off-site, away from where the development is happening.

Instead ready-made walls, floors, roofs and even entire rooms are built in factories away from the site, and then transported to their end destination for assembly.

This means any on-site waste is virtually eliminated. And any waste that is produced from these elements of the build can be controlled and recycled. 

Modern Methods of Construction also help to limit the site noise and dust produced by on-site cutting and cleaning, since this bit happens in a controlled environment somewhere else.

Looking to the future: no more reliance on fossil fuels

By 2025, gas heating in all new-build homes is set to come to an end. 

Gas boilers will be replaced by renewable heating systems in all new-builds, as part of the government’s plans to achieve net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050.

Currently, 85% of UK homes use gas boilers to heat their homes. But alternatives are now coming into play, including heat pumps, heat networks, hydrogen boilers and electric radiators. 

Designed to both heat and cool the home, heat pumps are powered by electricity and don’t use fossil fuels.

The two most common types of heat pumps are ground-source and air-source.

Ground-source heat pumps

Ground-source heat pumps, sometimes called geothermal heat pumps, transfer heat between the ground outside your home and the air inside. 

Ideal for homes that have larger gardens, heat pumps soak up natural heat from the environment to heat our homes. 

They’re more expensive to install but are typically more efficient and cheaper to run.

Air-source heat pumps

Air-source heat pumps transfer heat between outdoor and indoor air, and are more popular for residential heating and cooling.

In colder climates, when the temperature outside drops too low for the heat pump to operate effectively, the system can also use a furnace to generate heat. 

Often called a dual fuel system, this is highly energy efficient and cost effective to run.

Successfully implemented in Denmark, heat networks are ideal for urban locations.

They supply heat from a central source, such as a combined heat and power plant, and distribute it, in the form of hot water or steam, through underground pipes.

This system is ideal for homeowners as it means you can keep your original boiler running and won’t have to shell out for a new one.

Hydrogen boilers heat the home with both natural gas and pure hydrogen. 

Hydrogen is non-toxic compared to most fossil fuels and doesn’t produce carbon monoxide.

However, for them to come into play, gas distribution networks will need to convert from natural gas to hydrogen for homeowners. 

Electric radiators can be self-installed and individually controlled in each room of your house. 

Some models even come with intuitive smart controls, like WiFi, Bluetooth and voice control. 

And while electric radiators may be slightly more expensive to run than gas ones, they do come with a range of energy-saving features, such as weekly programming, adaptive start times and open window detection to help reduce costs.

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