WHAT ARE THE EIGHT MOST IMPORTANT ECO-FRIENDLY FEATURES FOR LUXURY HOMES TODAY? UELI SCHNORF AND PHILIPP PETER, OWNERS OF WETAG CONSULTING, GIVE US THE ANSWER.
A home can be luxurious, historic, glamorous, spacious and even pleasant. But can it also be designed in a sustainable and ecological way? According to some of today's most innovative designers and builders, these two aspects can also be integrated. Eco-consciousness does not necessarily mean 'doing without' something. On the contrary, elegant and enchantingly beautiful homes all over the world are now equipped with green roofs that harness geothermal energy and make use of solar panels all year round.
Technology that is currently considered 'eco-friendly' is likely to become commonplace in the coming years. Many companies that were founded decades or even a century ago to produce glass, ceramics, chemicals and electronics are now riding the wave of eco-design. Obviously, each country pays attention differently, but let's see how the "eight best eco-friendly features" are regarded internationally:
1. Sustainable and locally sourced materials
It might sound surprising, but the number one eco-friendly practice is not new at all. Before international shipping became commonplace, 'local manufacturing' was simply the method by which all builders built houses with a choice of stone, wood, straw, or local clay, depending on the resources that were abundant in a particular region. To reduce the carbon footprint of current construction practices, architects and contractors are seeking local solutions to new design challenges.
2. LED lighting
Electricity has dramatically transformed the look and feel of interiors at night, replacing the soft glow of candlelight and gas lamps with the bright illumination of much-demanded incandescent bulbs. Lighting is once again undergoing a radical change, thanks to advances in LED technology. LED bulbs are significantly more energy efficient than 20th century filament bulbs, which means that a home's carbon footprint can be significantly reduced without turning off the lights. Philips, for example, founded in 1891 and now a world leader in LED lighting, also produces LED light fabrics called Kvadrat Soft Cells, which can add an atmospheric glow to any interior without the need for a fixture.
3. LEED certification
In Switzerland it is called Minergie, in the international sector LEED certification has become a synonym for environmentally friendly building practices. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a green building certification programme of the US Green Building Council, which recognises the efficiency standards of a project. More than 150,000 homes worldwide are LEED certified, a number that more than doubled between 2011 and 2013, according to a report by the US Green Building Council. MInergie can include the latest conservation and environmental technologies to provide a clean and healthy habitat, such as indoor humidity control, filtered drinking water, HEPA air filters, solar energy and geothermal energy.
4. Gardens and orchards
The pleasure and relaxation of tending a garden is a proven way to clear your mind and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. And there's an added bonus; gardens are good for the planet as well as the gardener. With the growing interest in organic produce, home gardens have become a feature of luxury properties, where a scaled-down version of the farm-to-table concept can be brought right into the kitchen. Gardening promotes the cycle of growth and decomposition that keeps the soil healthy, and growing plants produce oxygen, as well as the ingredients for a fresh salad, apple tree or vineyard. Like vegetable gardens, orchards surround a house with fresh, green air, provide natural shade and permeate the air with the delicate scents of fruit and flowers.
5. Green roofs and walls
The first "green roof" may have been the famous Hanging Garden of Babylon, but it wasn't until the early 1970s in Germany that technology caught up with aesthetics and green roofs became a viable design option. Today, luxury homes have incorporated green roofs and balconies for a mix of efficiency, natural cooling and aesthetic and scenic beauty.
6. Solar Panels
Utilising the sun's inexhaustible energy, rooftop solar panels provide a lightweight and cost-effective way to increase a home's 'passive' energy, storing energy for future use without the need for time-consuming processes. Solar panels can also be attractive. Sweden's SolTech Energy produces beautiful glass tiles that allow builders to create energy-efficient, solar-powered homes that draw inspiration from a classic architectural style. Solar energy is one of the most interesting innovations in ecological design.
7. Total home control technology
Today's green homes are not only sustainable, but also smart. Fixed touch screens, or a mobile phone, can control light, heat, irrigation, sound and more. They are perfect for those who spend their time between multiple homes, as they allow homeowners to remotely program home features, even with precision, so energy is not wasted, whether a home is empty or inhabited.
8. Geothermal heating and cooling
Like solar panels, geothermal heating and cooling elegantly harnesses the forces of nature to provide optimal indoor conditions all year round. This technology allows homeowners to make the environmental impact of the most luxurious home relatively small, even though its design has a great aesthetic effect.
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