What is “eco”-building?

“Eco”-building (also called ‘green’, ‘environmental’ or ‘sustainable’ building) refers to construction that does minimal damage to the environment.

We create low-impact, long-life buildings using as much sustainable and recycled material as possible. We also enable our clients to offset the carbon footprint of their projects.

Keep reading to find out more.

How we “eco”-build:

1) Minimise the carbon emissions produced during the construction phase. This includes materials, methods, fuel and equipment

2) Minimise the carbon emissions and ongoing recurring energy the building requires across its lifetime. This includes energy bills, general upkeep and maintenance

The total carbon emissions involved in both these construction and maintenance processes are called the building’s total embodied energy calculation.

Unfortunately, all building work has an impact on the environment. (After all, even driving to a site involves fuel!) This is why we are careful when we use words such as “eco” and “green” building, and tend to use phrases such as “environmentally-conscious” or “eco-conscious” instead.

The benefits of our sustainable approach:

  • Long-life buildings that require minimal maintenance and have low energy costs
  • We can empirically measure the benefits of all the sustainable installations, methods and materials that our clients have invested in by calculating the total embodied energy
  • Our clients can offset their carbon footprint (for example, by tree planting or creating living roofs)
  • We offer employment and education to individuals from troubled circumstances. This means that our clients rebuild lives, not just structures. Find out more on our Giving Back page.

Learn more about our methods and processes

Minimise impact during the construction phase
  • On-site recycling – rather than throwing them away, we recycle any usable materials such as bricks and tiles. As well as minimising the amount of new materials, we have less waste to transport and leave at refuse centres. One example of this is the Embercombe Education Centre.
  • On-site sourcing – we will source raw materials like clay, sand and timber from the site itself if possible. This means that not only are we making the most out of the land itself, but we’re reducing fuel emissions related to transportation of materials
  • Reclaiming – we reclaim materials from other building and demolition sites and scrap yards
  • Restoring – we preserve and restore original structures and features. Whilst many developers find it easier (and cheaper) to simply demolish existing buildings, we believe in preserving quality and historical structures. A great example of this is our conversion of a Victorian house, located in Devon, into five modern, environmentally-sound flats
  • Using sustainable materials and methods – the Irebuild team are accustomed to using a wide variety of low-impact methods and materials, including ancient cobb building, Pulverised Fly Ash (PVA), and insulation fashioned from recycled materials
  • Buying local – as well as sourcing our materials locally, we employ local subcontractors. As well as supporting local communities, this greatly reduces the fuel emissions involved in transportation

 

Minimise a building's ongoing carbon footprint
  • Insulation – well-insulated walls absorb the sun during the day and create a heat sink. This keeps a building warm during the day and cool at night. One of our projects, Otter Farm, is so energy efficient that the building doesn’t even require central heating, (though the family opted for luxurious underfloor heating to keep their feet warm on the tiled floors!)
  • Cob walls – cob is an ancient Devonshire building material composed of a mixture of straw and clay. As being environmentally-friendly, it is a great insulator and will keep a home warm without the held of radiators
  • Living roofs – these are flat roofs covered in foliage, creating a roof garden. These help improve biodiversity, reduce surface run-off when it rains, minimise the need for air conditioning in the summer, and also provide insulation in the winter
  • Windows – triple glazing collects and retains passive solar, creating optimum efficiency
  • Thermodynamic solar panels – these soak up energy from the sun to produce hot water and heating
  • Focus on quality – we want our buildings to require minimal maintenance and upkeep. This is why we focus on strong walls, expert carpentry and installation, and quality materials
How we offset our carbon footprint

Once we have calculated the approximate carbon emissions involved in the construction and maintenance of a project, we can offset some of these costs by planting trees, grasses, flowers and shrubs. This enables our clients to counteract their carbon footprint and know that they are helping the environment.

For example, at Otter Farm, we created two living roofs.

Caring for wildlife

We work around and with the surrounding landscape. We are happy to adapt our designs, schedule and methods to help protect the native wildlife and foliage.

Building with a social conscience

As well as caring for and respecting the environment, we also believe in using our projects to offer opportunities and education to vulnerable people. We also host Environmental Education Days for our clients’ local communities.

You can find out more about this on our Giving Back page.