Ground Source Heat Pumps Can Work In Most Homes

Anyone can heat their home with energy that is absorbed from the ground. Ground Source Heat Pumps (GSHP) are buried in your garden and can reduce your energy bills by heating your water and your radiators, they can also heat your under floor heating if you have that installed in your home also. The way that it works is that benefit the surface the ground stays at a constant temperature of around 10C to 12C, this is through the year so even if it is the middle of winter you can still be heating your home through the GSHP.

A GSHP circulates water and antifreeze around a loop of pipes which is buried in your garden, this loop of pipes is commonly known as a ground loop. The heat in the ground is then absorbed into the fluid and is pumped through a heat exchanger which is located in the heat pump. The lower grade heat is then passed through the heat pump compressor and is concentrated into a higher temperature which can then heat your home. Ground loop fluid which then cools, passes back into the ground where it then absorbs more energy from the ground. This process then begins again, it is continuous while the heating is required. You can have a small amount of ground loop or a larger amount depending on the size of your home and depending on the size of your garden.

The ground loop can either be laid flat in your garden, coiled or if you are limited in space you can install a vertical loop into the ground about 100 meters in depth. Although heat pumps do use electricity when they are running, the heat that they extract is renewed naturally. They do not use high temperatures like boilers as their temperature is much lower over longer periods. Radiators powered by GSHP are never red hot to touch like boiler powered radiators so in winter they have to be left on all the time in order to heat your house adequately.

What are the benefits of GSHP?
1. Reduces your carbon footprint.
2. Lower energy bills.
3. Needs little maintenance once installed, unlike conventional boilers.
4. If you previously used oil, fuel deliveries are a thing of the past.

Is it suitable for your home? Consider these below:

· Is your garden large enough? It does not have to be a particularly large garden but it needs to be accessible for machinery to fit the ground loop. The ground also needs to be suitable for digging the trench.
· Make sure that your home is well insulated because GSHP are of a lower temperature than your traditional boiler. Draughty homes will not make the system work to its best ability.
· If your house is a new build then it will be cheaper than installing it in a older house as the installation will be built into the cost of the build.
· What fuel are you replacing? Heat pumps are not recommended for homes just on gas. Electric and coal systems can be replaced with GSHP and fuel bills can be greatly reduced.

It costs about £ 9,000 to £ 17,000 to install a system and of course the running costs will vary due to the different sizes of homes. Also how well insulated your home is makes a difference.

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Are FITs Going To Pay Long Term?

If you generate your own green power then you could be approaching yourself some cash as well as being eco-friendly. The government feed-in tariff (FITs) was launched last April and allows homeowners the chance to sell their home grown electricity and get paid for each unit that they produce. Payments are around 41.3p per kilowatt-hour (kWh) and this is more than three times the average consumer price. Some investors have taken note of this and bought wind turbines and solar panels to cash in. This has made to levels of subsidy unsustainable; investors have purchased large fields and covered them with photovoltaic (PV) panels. Cornwall council has just granted permission for the first scheme of its kind, the site is a former tin mine near Truro and many more look to be planned. These sort of projects look to be 2,000 times the size of small domestic ones and so there is a lot of money to be made.

The energy secretary Chris Huhne has now ordered a comprehensive review of FITs and so this may change the way homeowners generate their electricity. Homeowners receive payment for the electricity they produce either they use it or not. Small domestic generators earn more per unit than the larger ones. Of the power that is fed back into the grid, homeowners earn an extra 3p per kWh. In the UK 22,000 households have signed up for FITs and of these 22,000 95% of them are using PV panels.

Payments for FITs do not come from the government but from the levy on electricity bills. A spending review conducted last year placed a cap on FITs at £ 360million by 2014-15 and so as a result the energy departments are now taking action. It does not just affect solar power but all categories that come under FITs. These are wind, combined heat and power, biogas, hydro and of course PV. They will all be reviewed by the end of the year and if any changes to the tariff will occur it will take effect in April 2012. Mr Huhne has asked for a fast track system, to be completed by the summer, in regards to PV installations and anything over 50kW. The payments may be cut for these large scale projects.

That does not mean that domestic tariffs are exempt, FITs were supposed to be fixed until April 2013 but this has already been brought forward a year. Once you have joined the scheme you will continue to receive payments at your initial rate for the entire time of the scheme, although inflation may lead to adjustments. Therefore the message is that if you are intending to install solar panels it is better to do it sooner rather than later. The tariff for newly fitted solar systems falls by 8.5% every year so by 2021 it may be 18p per kWh instead of the 41.3p until 2013. So as the government reviews its incentives green households may be losing out in the future, even though the government promotes green living as the ideal way.

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Flexible Growth Medium – A Hydroseeding Contractors Perspective

For many hydroseeding contractors and erosion control specialists the development of Flexible Growth Mediums could just be the next big innovation; hydroseeding contractors can now hydraulically apply an erosion control solution that outstrips the performance of other techniques, offering superior results whilst achieving major labor savings.

FGM's are at the cutting edge of soil erosion technology, improving the performance of high quality Bonded Fire Matrix products and erosion control blankets. This has strengthened the position of specialist hydroseeding contractors in the soil erosion marketplace, who can now use the hydroseeding equipment they already own to carry out market leading erosion control works.

For hydroseeding contractors and clients the major benefits of this new technique include.

• Effective application-bonds directly to the soil
• Stellar erosion control-99% effective in major testing laboratories
• rapid turf establishment-vegetation can grow eight times faster than bare soil and twice as fast as blankets
• Quicker to lay and lower installed costs than blankets
• Seduced soil preparation required
• Safe for wildlife-no nets, threads or staples to snare wildlife or become caught in mowing equipment

Once a hydroseeding contractor has applied FGM it effectively acts to seal off the soil from the impact of rain and concentrated flows, to out performing erosion control blankets in rain simulation tests. Once applied the FGM is able to hold on to water and maintain air space, these results in superior and accelerated growth.

A combination of Thermally Refined® wood fibers, crimped man-made fibers and performance-enhancing additives form an interlocking matrix that creates air space and water-absorbing cavities to accelerate germination, reducing the impact of raindrop energy and minimize soil loss once hydroseeding is complete . After hydroseeding Water-resistant tackifiers and flocculants chemically bond the matrix to the soil surface, absorbing water and enabling superior vegetation establishment. Some FGM's are able to achieve 98% effectiveness just 2 hours after hydroseeding and are proven to be 99% effective once cured.

As with BFM's, Flexible Growth Mediums hydraulically using a range of hydroseeding equipment. This hydraulic application carries all of the cost saving benefits of hydroseeding and BFM products by keeping labor and ground preparation requirements minimal.

Recently Profile Products has introduced the new Flexterra high-performance, flexible growth medium (HP-FGM). This is designed to be used by hydroseeding contractors and is capable of achieving 600-percent greater primary seed germination and more than a 250-percent greater biomass than its predecessor, whilst being totally biodegradable.

The original Flexterra FGM, initially set the standard in the market and it was widely used by hydroseeding contractors; It led the march towards hydraulically applied techniques that could be delivered using hydraulic machinery.

Tests following EPA protocol concluded the product is completely safe for aquatic and terrestrial life forms and after hydroseeding it immediately bonds to the soil surface to reduce turbidity of runoff for up to 18 months.

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Saving Green Space Bad for the Environment?

Real estate developers have long been criticized as a threat to the environment and, many times, for good reasons. Suburban sprawl has certainly destroyed many open, green spaces and natural habitats. Forests have been cut down in exchange for big box retail and rows of overpriced McMansions. But, when it comes to urban development, there are examples where saving green space can do more harm then good.

Recently, the City of Philadelphia has begun to auction off many of their surplus properties. The economic picture for the City of Brotherly Love looks dim, much like the balance sheet of every major city in the country. Budgets are in the red, and promises made to pensions, medical care, and bloated payrolls will keep cities losing money for many years. So, it looks natural for Philadelphia to begin a process of selling real estate. However, many times, vacant lots owned by the City have been used by neighborhoods as parks where children play and events are hosted. For this reason, many residents are upset, and rightfully so, that developers may get there hands on these properties and quickly destroy green spaces.

Although one can certainly understand neighbors fighting against further development and preservation open green spaces, there are several larger issues to point out – both environmental and economic. For example, it is important to keep in mind that urban development is a gener option in and of itself. The more density there is in urban areas, the less suburban sprawl. That means more public transportation and less gas consumption. Smaller townhomes often use far less resources than larger suburban developments. In other words, keeping urban spaces open and green pushes development further out into the suburbs where resources are utilized less efficiently.

Philadelphia is one of the most spread out cities and one of the largest reasons is that for so long no one was able to build higher than William Penn's hat on the top of City Hall. This caused less density in the City, less population, less businesses, and less tax revenue. Although this law was finally repealed, the City is still trying to catch up and bring businesses back into Center City. Less density and development has hurt Philadelphia economically and made it tougher for the City to compete for jobs.

All economic decisions have tradeoffs and keeping these spaces open is really just causing another space somewhere else to get developed and suburban sprawl to continue. We should be embracing housing demand in urban areas because, in the larger picture, it is more sensible for cities economically and better for the environment.

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Rio Ferdinand’s Green Home

Footballer Rio Ferdinand is building a green home with the smallest carbon footprint possible. He has purchased a two acre plot on the border of Kent and Southeast London, just a few miles from the London estate where he spent his childhood. The house will be around 12,000 sq ft in size and will incorporated cut edge green technology and he hopes that one day the home will be his permanent base for his family once he retires from the game.

Rio Ferdinand is ambassador for the energy company E.on, they sponsor the FA Cup and encourage households to reduce their energy use which will not only help the environment but also save money for their customers. Ferdinand explains that while he was having meetings with E. on advisories he learned about energy-aware projects that they were involved in and so the footballer decided to incorporate these into his house building project. Once explained he describes himself as being a convert to green issues, the advisors that he had met worked along the project manager for his house to incorporate green technology into the build.

Ferdinand had photovoltaic cells instead of solar panels on the roof, low energy lighting and green roofs grown from sedum plants. The house is thought to be a traditional Georgian farmhouse style at the front and more contemporary detailing at the back. It will have a swimming pool, triple garage and of course a gym but will be kitted out with the best energy-efficient technology that money can buy.The house will have ground source heat pumps; they will draw warmth from the earth and will be used to heat the house. People who have used this technology before have mentioned how dramatically their heating bills fell once installed. The windows will be very large in the house and will be covered with a reflective film, the purpose of this is to stop heat escaping in the winter and in the summer it helps to cool the house. The house will have a combined heat and power system whereby homeowners can sell excess power that their home generates back to the national grid. The large gardens will be tailed using large tanks which harvest rainwater.

As Ferdinand became more aware of energy saving ways he adapted his Alderley Edge home to incorporate more green technology too. He has installed electricity monitors and energy light bulbs and has had his Manchester restaurant Rosso have the green once over too. Simply by becoming more aware of the green technologies has made adapt his homes to a greener way of living. Even if you do not have a footballers salary there are changes that everyone can make to their home that much greener.

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Foundations Of Conservation


The topic of this article is conservation of energy in residential buildings. When we talk about conservation we are not talking about little things like turning off the lights when we leave a room. We are talking about big things like the conservation principles of energy and matter that preserve our universe, the process of homeostasis that sustains the conditions for life on our planet, the laws of thermodynamics that order the distribution of energy in our universe, and the environmental processes that distribute the nutrients of life to every living creature on board. These principles and processes tell us how this planet preserves and recycles both energy and life.

Our choice is to either cooperate with, or oppose these laws. When we oppose, we are in a zero sum game against nature that we will lose. Buildings that cooperate with the 2nd law in particular, will collect energy, while those that oppose it will disperse energy.

Earth is an energy capture devise that maintains an average surface temperature of 59 * F, converts energy into its many different forms, and is the only known conservatory for life. She is our perfect model of how to collect, convert, and conserve energy.

Buildings can be designed to replicate the activity of the planet in order to collect and convert energy that can be conserved and recycled exactly as the planet does. Buildings can be designed to conserve and recycle, rather than consume and disperse energy.

The dominant ordering principle of our world, however, is the consumer economy. That is the matrix of our thinking, the index our vocabulary, and the most popular reality. The American home, automobile, and lifestyle are designed to burn energy as quickly as possible. Buildings turn tricks for the electric company by violating all of the principles described above. But the passive conditioning techniques that were abandoned because of the energy glut can be reinstated. The physics is still valid, and the practice is still common throughout the world.

Our species has attained escape velocity from Planet Earth, and hearsay has it that some will be moving to Mars soon. A few more have moved back into the woods and “off-grid”, but most people are not that tough anymore. For those leftovers that are still looking for a way out of a world that is pretty well both paved and electrocuted, there is the path of conservation that is based in equilibrium state conditions for energy. This is the Way of the natural world.

The organizational principle of any species is energy. Our species is energy poor! We think we do not have enough when in fact we have too much. We convert all of our resources into electricity because of its convenience. We have exceeded our energy budget, overextended our populations, and upset planetary homeostasis. We can reduce our electrical dependence by eliminating the need for air conditioning in rural low-rise homes.

Knowledge is one of our most precious resources. As expected, it is managed by those that manage the means of production. The reality that we know is as manufactured as any other product on the shelf. Product availability is determined by profit curves rather than by what benefits the people or the planet.

We do have options that do not even require collective action. They are simple, low-tech, no-cost house plans that the common man can build on his own individual building site.

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Beyond Traditional: Home Building Goes Green

With so many eyes looking toward how to reduce the harmful effects of our population's excesses on our planet, many people are looking for ways to go green in every aspect of their life. This also extends to the types of homes that are now being built. While traditional site built homes involve wood, stucco and / or brick, homeowners and builders alike are getting more creative using less traditional home building items, such as one home here in the South made out of straw bale. No, it's not owned by one of the three little pigs. In fact, the goal is to be less of a pig when it comes to the environment.

This little straw house was designed much like any traditional home. It has standard doors, windows and, of course, a roof. But the walls themselves were created out of straw bales (the remnants of grain harvesting) and a stucco mixture of sand, dirt and pigment (for color). It took approximately 240 bales to create this 1900 square foot home. And the homeowner has seen a significant savings in energy costs within just the past year of living in it.

A Traditionally built home's walls are only about 6 inches thick. However, a straw bale is 18-23 inches thick and solid. This helps regulate the temperature of the home, keeping it warm in the winter and cooler in the summer. The positioning of the home also helped keep energy costs down. By placing the side with large windows pointed to the south and using a ceiling fan to move the air around, the straw home was able to maintain a comfortable temperature inside (69 to 74 degrees Fahrenheit) even when temperatures dipped to 54 or soared to 95 outside. This allowed them to spend a grand total of around $ 500 on their utilities for the whole of last year.

While hay may be for horses, straw is definitely great for houses. I do not see the Big Bad Wolf coming around and blowing this one down anytime soon either. Recycling is a great start to helping our planet, but we have to think much broader. Owning a home is an important part of so many people's lives. Finding new and interesting ways to re purpose used articles as building materials or finding natural alternatives like this straw house can save us money while also helping save our planet. It's a win-win situation for everyone!

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Cordwood Houses – A Green Alternative

Cordwood masonry construction consists of taking uniform lengths of wood and stacking them to form some sort of wall held together by masonry. It's really that simple, but there are lots of variations.

The name “cordwood” comes from the material: uniform lengths of wood like the sort you'd find in a firewood stack, which, of course, is measured in “cords” and hence sometimes called “cordwood”. The technique is also called “stackwall” construction or “stovewood” construction.

The pieces of wood are stacked just as you would stack a pile of firewood, except that with each course you lay down two parallel lines of mortar along the outside edges of the stack. The mortar is rough 4 “wide. If you're using 24” long pieces of wood you end up with a space between the mortar, inside the wall space, of about 16. “This should be filled with some sort of insulation. can use fiberglass, rockwool, sawdust or just about anything else that will restrict air flow and heat loss.

If you're building in a remote area with little manpower remember: getting a 10 “thick 15 foot log you can be pretty tough. two people imagine how much easier it is to build the same 15 'long wall with 16 “pieces.

Before you begin building you need to collect materials. You will need a source of wood rounds, some sort of mortar materials (cement, lime, sand, sawdust and paper can be used, but other materials will work as well). If you're able to do yourself a favor and get a small cement mixer. You'll also need some lumber to frame windows and doors, and you'll need some sort of structure for the roof. If you can acquire whatever windows and doors you're going to use, all the better, as you'll be able to frame the rough in holes properly.

The wood should be dry, and de-barked. Remember that cutting, stripping and drying the wood to optimum conditions could be a three year project. Also remember that you can build with green wood if utilitarian shelter is the goal (you can build the cordwood mansion once you're established)

Like all building, you need to start with a foundation. The type of foundation depends on where you're building. Something that's going to be inspected and has to meet a building code will almost certainly require some concrete work, even if only sono-tube piers. A more remote area will allow you more flexibility. In fact, in a very remote area it would be feasible to dig a shallow trench along the perimeter of the building and fill it with rocks a few inches higher than grade level, and then start building the wall on top (the key in this sort of environment is to get past vegetative soil and into mineral soil – sand, gravel or hardpan – which will not deteriorate and move after you've built on it.

You could also right on rock, if a large enough space is available, or construct a frame of timbers or logs laid on top of large rocks. Keep an eye on drain, and remember that you can build a level interior floor afterwards, whether of wood or fill.

Once you have the foundation you can begin building the walls. Walls run from corner to corner, corner to an intersection with another wall, or between two intersections. Corners and intersections are structural opportunities. If you've created a frame of large timbers your structure should be solid before you start filling in the space. If you are not using a timber frame you'll have figure out how to tie corners and wall intersections together. It's possible to create interlocking corners, log cabin style, with lengths of wood long enough to be structural but small enough for one person to handle and place.

The walls can consist strictly of log rounds, of split rounds or a combination of the two. Placement of each piece of cordwood can be random or planned, in order to accomplish a tight fit and an eye pleasing design.

Doors and windows start by placing a frame on the wall at the lowest level of the opening, and then stacking and mortaring the cordwood to the side and then over the top of the frame. The frame can be temporary, and removed once the wall has set, or it can be the permanent frame to which the doors and windows get attached.

Thickness of the walls depends on climate. In warm areas thinner walls are acceptable, but the further north you go the thicker you need to make the walls. In some parts of Canada a two wall system (one exterior and one interior) are sometimes used.

The style of roof depends on personal taste, location, the environment and the structure. If snowload is high it makes sense to use a steep roof, if water collection is part of the plan then different materials will be needed, and a large roof will need a string structure to keep it up. One common character, however, is big overhangs. The less weather Touches the walls, the better. Make it a minimum of 16 inches.

Roofing material can be almost anything. There are tin roofed cordwood homes, as well as earthen roofed ones. Again, creativity, strength, safety and low impact are the goals. There are many solutions available.

Cordwood home technology has been around at least 1,000 years, and probably longer. They can be very affordable to build, and can be built by one person if need be. As such, they are an excellent option for someone going off grid.

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Green Building Products Will Get Your Buyers Attention – Success In The New Marketplace

The use of green building products even for remodeling has gained the attention of many in the past several years, what have been a challenge for most homeowners is knowing where to find eco-friendly building products. There are many companies that are promoting quote green and energy efficient products, but do they really live up to their claims? Substantiating these claims would make it easy to know where to look.

Lumber is necessary building material in most projects and if used in the right way can produce a tremendous amount of energy and environmental savings.

Sustainable Lumber Products

· Dimensional Lumber
· Wood Flooring
· Plywood
· Paneling
· Cabinetry

Green building materials as mentioned above can be produced using diverse materials from different parts of the planet. The question is, How can the average homeowner tell whether these materials they're selecting are prepared properly? Firstly, there must be a FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certificate to give the homeowner the confidence that they're purchasing a legitimate environmentally friendly product. FSC is a non-profit organization and operates independently, their certification process offers the forestry professionals a higher level of social awareness and responsibility for the environment. This certification is important to the homeowners; because it identifies that the wood that was used has been harvested in accordance with the standards that have been set by the forestry management.

Green Interior Products

Because of some products such as flooring, countertops and cabinetry which are used from raw material can also be considered ecologically friendly, although they may not have a certificate labeled on them. This also includes an array of other interior finishing. Consider bamboo and cork, they're rated at the top when it comes to green building flooring products due to their renewable nature. Notwithstanding, these raw materials are grown in certain countries in the world which means the transportation fees would me astronomical. Also the glue that is use to put these products together will emit VOCs. So, a homeowner needs to consider carefully when selecting those interior finishing.

Recycled and Recyclable

The products that are getting a lot of attention today are the recyclables; the marketplace is full of them. They are actually carpets and wall-coverings. Shaw and Mohawk which are two large carpet manufacturers in the US have come up with a solution to recover used carpets for recycling by removing the backing from them. The Vinyl wall-covering companies have also got into the field of recycling by creating products of such nature. Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams are two paint companies that have given serious consideration to their product by developing products that give little fumes and toxins. Green building products are available it all depends on where you are in the world, for it differs in the region or country you belong, homeowners have many options.

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Malaysia – Top 5 Green Properties

Eco-friendly properties are gaining a lot of attention worldwide, and in Malaysia, the Green Building Index which is quite similar to LEED of the United States are setting up courses and standards to help architects and designers understand and use their brain powers to create buildings that are safe for the environment. While some companies may target the Frost & Sullivan Malaysia Green Excellence Awards, which is supported by ZDNet Asia, acknowledges some of the most distinguished property developers, others may seek for recognition by overseas awards for green buildings.

1. GTower

One of the buildings with international recognition as being a green building is GTower. It is a new working concept, which combines offices, a private club and a boutique hotel called the G City Club Hotel. The building is the first certified green building in the country and was awarded the BCA Green Mark (Singapore's Building and Construction Authority (BCA) Green Mark Scheme).

The building is constructed with the idea of ​​cutting carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere, maximizing energy and water efficiency and to provide high standards of indoor environmental quality. It was given Grade A ++ by BCA. The first “plus” is for achieving an international standard of “environment-friendly” as defined by BCA Green Mark GOLD certification (provisional) and the second “plus” is for being a Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) compliant building and connectivity specifications.

2. KEN BANGSAR Serviced Residences

Ken Bangsar is the masterpiece of KEN HOLDINGS BERHAD, which is a reputable, award winning Green property developer. Its property division, KEN PROPERTY SDN BHD, was responsible to transform KEN BANGSAR into the Number 1 GREEN rated building in Malaysia, receiving the BCA Green Mark GOLD Award in July 2009. The GOLD Plus award was, at that time, the first and highest award for non-Singapore companies. In 2010, KEN BANGSAR was also announced as the winner of the Malaysian Green Building Index (GBI) Gold Award, recipient of The Edge's PAM Green Excellence Award 2010 and Best Green Developer 2010 title by New Straits Times.

The 15-storey luxury apartment is low density with only 80 units of freehold serviced residences at its dispense. Each unit is equipped with water storage heater, laminated Low-E glass and energy efficient air conditioning. The airy double volume lobby is kept cool and breezy by a system called CHEEL which recycles the condensate water from air-conditioning onto an evaporative feature wall. The heat pump harvest waste heat from the air cond units to produce hot water for the public washroom.

3. 1 First Avenue

1 First Avenue of Petaling Jaya with MSC Status is another “Green” property of the country. It is solely office buildings, certified as a Green Building by the Malaysian Green Building Index. It is a building with 25 stories of GRADE office tower, strategically located in the Bandar Utama City Center, just beside one of the largest shopping mall in Bandar Utama, the 1 Utama Shopping Center. The building has raised flooring for flexible provision of power supply, and a landscaped lobby at every single floor. It also has excellent ICT infrastructure, with dedicated power supply for secured IT UPS backup during power failure. It also has a dedicated secured telecommunications ducts.

4. Sunway Rymba Hills

Sunway City has always been trying to incorporate 'green' ideas into their projects, and by far Sunway Rymba Hills is probably the one with the most expectations to bring out the 'green' idea. As the name itself unfolds the idea of ​​the residential properties, this Sunway City property attempts to embrace the Lifestyle Of Health And Sustainability (LOHAS) philosophy. It is a gated and guarded low density leasehold zero-lot bungalow, developed within a 6.5 acre of private forest park. It claims to use green building materials, and includes a reading room and informative labeling of plants and trees. The project claims 60% of green spaces overall, and some units will also enjoy a Sky Garden which is great for garden parties or converted to a private sanctuary for a little quiet time. It is located not in any faraway land, but in the midst of the Sunway Damansara neighborhood.

5. 11 @ Mont Kiara

11 @ Mont Kiara, or MK11 is a project by Sunrise Berhad, and is said to be the country's first residential property to gain the BCA Green Mark award. It is built on 6.7 acres of freehold land with 338 units within its three towers of luxury condominiums. The 43-storeys luxury condominium is located within the high-end Mont Kiara area, and incorporates energy and water efficient systems and beautiful landscapes. There are a lot of facilities in the project: a lap pool, children's playroom, multipurpose halls, air-conditioned gymnasium, water jet splash pool, wading pool, sawna, children's playground, badminton court, squash court, half basketball court and tennis court .

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Affordable Green Homes

Green homes are made affordable in two different ways. The purchase price of the home itself can be affordable for most middle class families, and even people looking to buy their first house. The other way green homes are made to be affordable is the actual cost of living after you move in and purchase one of these very well built houses. When people buy a house that is meant to save them on energy costs, it will lower the impact on the environment that you will have as you live in your home, and it will significantly lower the amount of money spent each month on your bills.

The average price for a green home is 250,000. This makes these types of homes accessible to nearly every income bracket out there. Energy efficient homes can start as low as 140,000, making it a perfect option for a first time home buyer. Some of the green homes available can have a price tag close to the half a million dollar range, which is appealing to families that need a larger home, but still take advantage of all the positives and savings of a green home.

The other major selling perk of a green home that makes it very affordable is the fact that your monthly bills for energy, gas, and water will be much less per square foot than a traditionally built home. This can allow someone to live in a larger house but with the same monthly cost, or simply save money overall because you are receiving these savings each month.

The two major areas of energy savings when it comes to your monthly bills is derived from energy savings with your HVAC system, and savings from the way your plumbing has been installed. Your HVAC system will run less often, yet keep your house at more than a constant temperature when it is built by a green home builder. All the plumbing in your house is installed properly with no leaks, and the pipes are all located to waste less water. Both of these systems are significantly cut out wasting energy in your home which will directly translate into dollars saved.

Green homes have the special character of helping out your environment and community, and also helping out the homeowner each month by not wasting energy. This makes the home very appealing for any family, and makes these types of houses very affordable overall, for almost any income level.

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‘Lost Tribe’ Discovered Living Off The Land In Wales

Lost middle-class tribe's 'secret' eco-village in Wales proves that Eco Straw Bale homes embody the essence of living simply and sustainably.

The Preseli Mountains of West Wales: Brithdir Mawr, a community of roundhouse known as Tir Ysbrydol (Spirit Land).

Pioneering: Eco-bucketer Emma Orbach is facilitated planning has been approved

Who would have thought that a 'secret' eco-village could exist in the countryside of Wales, for years, without anyone knowing !? Well, it did and has! Unbeknown to anyone until recently, this village was undiscovered and is occupants lived their lives without any interference from the outside world.

That is the simplicity of this style of building and living: very minimal cost, using local, natural resources available, growing their own food, using only solar power and living off the land.

Discovered by a survey plane, happening on the area, and probably a very observant pilot, they were finally exposed. After close scrutiny by the planning department, it was realized that planning permission had never been applied for in the past. So, a long drawn out battle ensued and the residents were facing being evicted and having to bull doze their homes.

Thanks to Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority's 'sustainability' policy, these roundhouses have, after a decade of battling with the authorities and red tape, been given the green light, so to speak. They no longer have to demolish their homes that they have been living in for over a decade.

This style of building, although very primitive, does certainly embody the essence of 'simple' living. So, it is possible, depending on how much you want to do it and what you are willing to give up in the form of 'creature comforts'. This group of people were living their dream of reducing their 'carbon footprint' on the earth and living as simply as possible. They built their own straw bale homes with living roofs and lived off the land. They probably would have remained 'secret', had the survey plane not happened up them.

It begs the question how many other people my being living 'under the radar' so to speak, and out of the prying eyes of building officials. If there are other communities like this I say “Good on them” and just leave them alone. These people were not hurting anyone and by the looks of it, not dependent on society to sustain them. Maybe more of us could take a leaf from their book and try to live more simply ?!

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Living Off Grid in British Columbia

Going off grid is becoming increasingly attractive, especially to people who have not done it yet. There are ls of reasons to consider going off grid.

First, it's more sustainable and has less impact on the environment (most of the time) than modern, urban living.
Second, it offers a simpler lifestyle.
Third, it requires less money.
Fourth, it may offer more security, especially if the current financial crisis becomes worse.
Fifth, its kind of romantic.

All that said, its not easy. If you're ready to take the plunge, British Columbia is a great place to do it if you like fantastic scenery, you are not afraid of bad weather from time to time, you like wild and remote areas, freedom and hard work.

BC has many different areas where you can go off grid. The first is the coastal area, either on the Mainland or on Vancouver Island. You can be by the sea and enjoy a moderate climate. Temperatures will seldom go below freezing, but there will be lots of rain coming in off the Pacific during the winter. As a plus, marine scenery is outstanding, and there is plenty of opportunity to enjoy crabs, salmon, cod, halibut and prawns (you'll need a boat).

Once you cross the Coast Range and get into the Interior of the province you will experience more blue sky, but in the winter you'll also get colder temperatures, and in some areas, much more snow.

The Okanagan / Kamloops area is dryer, and warmer, year round, with the understanding that as you climb in elevation it will get colder.

The Kootenays are snowier, generally, and more remote. Large valleys between mountain ranges define this area, which is fairly remote even though its in the southern part of the province.

The Cariboo / Chilcotin is in the center of the province. Winters are long, but the area is huge, with thousands of lakes and rivers. Its great cowboy country. If you want horses and a log cabin, this is the area for you.

North of Prince George the province becomes very remote, in ways that someone from the Lower 48 of the US or Europe might find hard to imagine. Let's just say its really remote, with few roads, and really long winters.

Let's say you pick an area. Now what? If you're going to live off grid you need shelter, heat and water, not to mention food. Water and heat are not a huge challenge in most of BC. There is lots of fresh water and that creates lots of potential heat on the mountain side in the form of trees. That means lots of wood cutting, however, and splitting and stacking. Wood that you cut in the summer and let dry is more enjoyable than wet winter wood.

Shelter is a different challenge. No matter where you are in BC you can die from the cold in a few hours during the winter if you are not prepared. You absolutely require somewhere to get warm and dry. That could be a tent, or a trailer, or a camper, or a cabin, or a yurt, but you will need something. If you do not bring it you'll have to build it. Building off grid is very hard.

Here are a few things to remember: most off gird sites in BC are not within walking distance, or for that matter, easy driving distance, to a building supply center. If you're driving off a grid in a pick up truck with a trailer, then you're halfway there. You can load up on tools, nails, chainsaws, generators and redi-mix. However, if you're using a boat to access your build site, or worse, a horse, a plane, or walking, it can be very hard to get heavy stuff where you need it to be. You'll either do without or be very creative.

Do not get me wrong – people have done it many times, and you can too, but its hard, and progress will be slow.

Some options are:

  • Finding a property with existing buildings.
  • Building in stages before you take up permanent residence.
  • Using a trailer, bus or camper as a base.
  • Making a small shelter that is weather tight and then making use of tents and taps to keep equipment and supplies dry.

Other things to consider are that you will not have power tools off grid unless you bring a chainsaw or a generator, at least until you get your micro-hydro, solar or wind system set up. You also will not have electric lights or satellite access to the internet to get questions answered (unless you plan for that).

On other words, do not under estimate the challenge.

If you're still willing to try it you have to ask: where do you get the land?

Can you just squat? As a matter of fact, yes you can. BC is huge, and you can easily get yourself lost. However, if someone owns the land, or wants to log it, or guides in it, you might get kicked out. Its a risky business.

You can also rent a place, but the market for that is very unorganized. It is not easy to find someone who has property who will rent it to you for a long enough term for you to make the improvements you'll want.

That leaves buying, which you can always do. The issue is price. Waterfront properties can be expensive, but they can also be very reasonable. Smaller places cost more per acre, but large remote acreages can sell for less than $ 1000 per acre. You can find out about property for sale by simply starting with Google. There are lots of for sale by owner sites catering to rural BC. You can also contact me for help – again, Google me; I'm easy to find.

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Environmentally-Responsible Homes

Even if you're sick of the term “Going Green”, it's likely that you are at least aware of the benefits of preserving our resources and trying to do our part in keeping the Earth clean on a certain level. Environmentally-responsible homes are a great way to start this process, especially if you're having your home built for you. A few things here and a tweak or two there can do wonders for you in the long run. Here are few advantages of setting up your new home in this fashion:

Save Money: You may not realize it, but adapting your home to the environment around it and taking steps to ensure efficiency really does not cost much more than standard procedures. Even if there is a slightly larger monetary cost at the outset, you will find that within a few months, you have already made up the difference in efficiency. In today's economy, many people worry daily about their future financial situations and what the road holds for them three years down the line. You can realistically save thousands of dollars in a few short years by attuning your home to environmentally-responsible standards.

Breathe Better: If your home is environmentally friendly, the air inside will be free of much of the debris and harmful particles that are in everyday homes. This can be especially beneficial in homes that host the elderly or individuals with inherent breathing problems such as asthma or emphysema. There are ventilation systems with earth-friendly filters that are much more effective than the current systems, and they are available for less than you may think.

Less Maintenance: As you build your home, planning ahead is key. We've all seen the implementation of numerous city councils and planners around the country, and how year by year they are taking steps that demand environmentally-friendly homes. Many have told the tale of being required to upgrade something either in their practices at home or at their business that did not meet “industry standards” anymore. Seeing the current trend and taking action now rather than later can save you a bundle. It's much cheaper to install such products initially rather than having to take down existing schemes and replace them later.

It's not that serious and it does not have to cost that much. All it takes is a little planning and a little initiative and you can have an environmentally-responsible home that will save you loads in through this next generation.

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Save Your Money/Energy With Solar Panels!

In troubled times like these when saving money can be essential to keep your head above the water, a long-term solution for a French property has revealed itself to be successful: solar panels. With greenhouse effect campaigns, it is worth introducing green technology to save money as well as energy.

There are two types of solar panels:

-> Photovoltaic solar panels

It produces renewable solar electricity for either stand alone or grid feed systems. These tools are easily connected making them ideal for battery charging, camping and remote power applications. The photovoltaic may be connected in strings for higher voltage. If you invest in your home and your energy future with on-grid connected PV solar panels, their typical life span is of 30-40 years. But solar panels in general have never made much financial sense as their purchase is very pricey.

-> Solar Water Heating

Unlike PV solar panels, solar water panels are far cheaper. Furthermore, they look discreet (as you can see on the photo opposite). These panels heat domestic water; they are reliable and provide unrivaled performance. For the average household, a 2sqm solar panel is sufficient to produce domestic hot water for the majority of the year. For hot tubs and swimming pools, larger or multiple solar panels systems can be used for larger cylinders. A solar panel's installation is like converting a car into a hybrid. After the initial investment, your car or in this case your home will run efficiently and cheaply for the next 30 years.

Cost comparison: taking into account that a given house has electricity, is equipped with an oil heating system and a wood-burning stove:

Price * without solar panels: € 1,100 per year

Price * with solar panels: € 472 per year

-> Cost of installation

It is by no means expensive contrast to what we use to hear everywhere. Depending on the brand of panels, a couple of solar water panels could cost between £ 4,300 and £ 5,000 (between € 5,000 and € 6,000). You should receive a grant of around € 1,000 and € 2,200 in the form of credit d'impots * . It's similar to a heat pump: the installation cost is about € 13,000 but you are granted € 4,000 of credit d'impots , meaning it'll really cost you € 9,000.

Energy-efficient systems still need to be improved in terms of their characteristics and efficiency but are definitely opening a new era for energy saving and the development of green properties.

* Depending on the conditions of the company you buy your solar panels from.

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