Friday, 11 March 2011

Green Tips for Sustainable Living

My Interview with George Clarke

Another part of my amazing day with Harveys at the Ideal Home Show was having the opportunity to interview George Clarke, the architect and interior designer behind the remodernisation of 1 Coronation Street.  I asked him to explain to me what he considered to be the best advice for us in order to be more eco-friendly in our homes.

George was very passionate about the concept of sustainability.  He said that although the highly aspirational carbon neutral new build eco-homes on Grand Designs are fantastic, they are clearly out of the reach of the average person.  In Great Britain there are 25 million homes, many of which are unsustainable Victorian terraces such as the Barlow home on Coronation Street.  Using this iconic old house as an example for what could be done to make your home more eco-friendly gave out an important message.

He said that although homes like the Barlows' are steeped in nostalgia, they are generally hugely ecologically inefficient.  This is costly to the homeowners and to the planet.  But George said that there were simple steps that could be taken which are affordable and which will improve your carbon footprint and reduce your household bills.

  1. His first piece of advice was to double glaze.  Not only would it make your house warmer and quieter, it also reduces the heat lost through the windows.
  2. If you have a boiler that is over 10 years old, get it changed for an energy efficient model.  Old boilers are unsafe and can cause carbon monoxide poisoning in some instances which can be fatal.  Only 40% of the gas used is actually converted into heat.  They are very wasteful to both your pocket and to fuel reserves.
  3. Use energy saving light bulbs.  The old style bulbs use electricity to produce only 10% light to 90% heat. The heat is just are paying for something that is not even used!
  4. Insulate your loft as thickly as you can!  George quite rightly said that you wouldn't go without a nice, warm, thick coat in the treat your house the same.  Do as much as you can saves cash in the long run.
  5. If you do any modernisations, take advantage of the situation and add cavity wall insulation wherever you can.  It keeps the heat in and makes your heating work more efficiently for you.
Sound advice from George indeed.  Remember there are grants available to help with these some of these costs in some instances. (Just Google Energy Saving Grants for more information.)

Another step you can take is to install Solar Panels.  Even if it just tops up heating your water, it is a great step towards more sustainable living.  The government's Feed In Tariff gives you payment back for any excess energy created that is returned to the grid.  This could provide a fixed tax free income and save money off your household bills.

George talked me through a couple of his favourite features in the modernised, sustainable Corrie House. The kitchen and dining room had been knocked through to create a larger, airier living space.  The glass frontage allowed the light to stream through and made a wonderful architectural feature to the terrace. 

The worksurface in the kitchen was made of recycled glass bottles from London's pubs and restaurants and from Tube Train windows.  The effect is a sparkling, unique design that adds real magic to the kitchen. 

One of George's favourite pieces of furniture was a desk and chair in the revamped bedroom.  It was made using timber from sustainably felled trees and a material made out of compressed recycled coffee grounds sourced from coffee houses around the country!  What a fabulous use of Starbuck's waste!

It was an absolute pleasure to hear George enthuse about his work at this year's Ideal Home Show.  I'll certainly be thinking long and hard about any areas where I can make my home more sustainable.  We might not be able to make our houses completely carbon neutral, but we can certainly make differences that will be beneficial to us and to the environment.


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