Eco-Friendly Housing : It’s What’s on the Inside That Counts

Eco-friendly housing is a hot topic. From shipping-crate homes to tree-house constructions, the term “eco-friendly housing” typically conjures up images of innovative, futuristic construction techniques. While construction materials are a vital component of eco-friendly housing design, environmental concerns should not cease alongside construction. Designing houses which minimise our carbon footprints while we live in them, not just as we build them, is key to creating genuinely sustainable homes.

The average home in the UK consumes 4000 kWh of electricity each year, compared with an average of 1,5000 kWh in China, but dwarfed by the USA which consumes 12,3000 kWh a year, a figure accounting for more than 30% of all US electricity usage. What fuels these divergent consumption patterns? Firstly, home appliances draw extreme amounts of energy, with heaters and air conditioners taking 1st and 2nd place for the most energy-guzzling appliances respectively.

Chototel has minimised the need for such heating and cooling appliances with thoroughly insulated walls. Additionally, other household appliances such as ceiling fans and television sets have been tweaked to ensure that each room at Chototel consumes less than 120 watts at peak load, compared to a staggering 14000 watts for an average US hotel room. There are signs that insulation can go a long way in the UK, too. At Bedzed, the UK’s first large-scale sustainable community of 100 homes, for example, the homes are all highly insulated but also well ventilated, as fresh air is drawn into the building and pre-heated by outgoing stale air via heat exchangers. The result has been a 37% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from gas and electricity use than an average development of the same size.

Housing size also make a significant difference. Large houses in the UK, for example, consume 19000 of gas and 4,900 kwh of electricity each year, compared to 9000 kwh of gas and 2000 kwh of electricity for their smaller counterparts, resulting in double the energy bills. With households shrinking and people increasingly valuing convenience over square footage, this eco-friendly consideration aligns with current demographic trends and tastes.

Alongside the issue of power usage is that of power generation. While Bedzed in the UK has championed the use of photovoltaic panels to supply some electricity to the community, Chototel has developed a Closed-Loop Utility system which ensures the energy that power each Chototel is generated and managed using sustainable sources. How is this possible? The system is comprised of three main components: the biogas plant, the water-treatment plant and the PV and battery plant. Electricity at Chototel will be generated by solar power and stored in batteries. Water is generated from the ground, and a treatment plant recycles all waste water. The sewage treatment plant processes organic and fecal waste, and outputs water, biogas and fertilizer. This water is then sent to the treatment plant, the fertilizer is bagged and the biogas is both sent to the rooms as cooking fuel and the generator to charge batteries. This system ensures zero-waste is created in the management of utilities at Chototel.

Generating greater awareness of energy consumption must be encouraged alongside innovative energy generation systems. Did you know, for instance, that the average toilet flush consumes 13.8 litres of water? Chototel’s IoT technology system enables guests to track and manage their utility usage via an app, and make payments on a consumption basis. Similarly, at BedZed, water meters have been deliberately placed within easy view in every home. Reducing our energy consumption starts with understanding how we use it.

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