Eco-friendly building: a guide to your options

October 3, 2012 / No Comments

Sustainability and the environmental impact of construction are two topics that have become increasingly important in recent years and there’s no reason why self-builders can’t do their bit to help.

green building Eco friendly building: a guide to your options

If you are in the early stages of designing and planning your own property, take a look at these eco-friendly building materials and techniques that will help ensure your finished home is as green as possible.


Using a timber frame for your home, and featuring wood elsewhere in the design, can be a good way of making your property eco-friendly, provided you buy your timber from a sustainable source. Look out for the Forest Stewardship Council logo on any wood you purchase, as this will denote that it has come from a managed forest and that it has been grown and felled in a sustainable manner.

Where possible, use UK-grown timber, rather than wood that is imported and, if you can, see if reclaimed wood could be a viable option, as this is even more green than its new counterpart. Among the easily-available types of wood in the UK are the Douglas fir, Scots pine, Japanese and European larch, European ash and European beech.

Check that the wood you want to use is suitable for the part of the building you intend to install it in, as some species can’t be used for exterior work, while others are best suited to structural uses.

Structural insulated panels

Structural insulated panels (also known as SIPs) arrive onsite premade and simply need to be erected within your property’s frame. They are already filled with insulation, which will save you a job, and are usually quick to install. The disadvantage to these is that they need to be very precisely fitted and construction costs can be more expensive when you use them.

However, homes tend to be very energy efficient when these are used for the walls, so this can make the disadvantages at the building stage worthwhile.


As we’ve mentioned insulation in relation to SIPs, it’s a good idea to elaborate on this and talk about how to insulate your home in general. Aside from now needing to fit proper insulating materials in order to comply with the UK’s building regulations, it’s worth it to see your utility bills fall and know that the temperature of your home will be well controlled.

There is a wide variety of insulating materials on the market, from glass wool fibre and expanded polystyrene to phenolic foam and polyurethane foam with CO2. Choosing the most appropriate one for your eco-friendly self-build scheme will depend on the type of house you are constructing. To make sure you get the best-possible insulation with the least environmental impact, take the time to do a life cycle assessment of each of your options.

Green your building site

Everyone knows building a house requires the use of a selection of heavy machinery, most of which isn’t terribly good for the environment. You can do your part to minimise this impact, though, by planning the construction process well to reduce the amount of time you need to use individual pieces of equipment for, and by choosing the most environmentally-friendly options open to you.

For example, Speedy Services has oil-free compressors available for hire, which are much greener than their standard counterparts, but are just as effective and even have low running costs.

If you’re building your own home, are there any eco-friendly materials or practices you’re planning to adopt?