There are few more pressing issues in today’s society than how to address climate change. COP26 in November 2021 left us all in no doubt that things have to change, and fast. Biodiversity loss goes hand in hand with climate change and is just as important as slowing global temperature rises.
Yes, it’s a big problem, and it would be easy to feel despondent about it. But there are plenty of interventions that you can make in and around your own home to improve biodiversity and sustainability and make a difference.
Here’s nine ways to get you thinking.
1. Add a bee brick to your home
We start with one that’s close to home. Last month, news hit the press that Brighton and Hove Council had approved a planning condition that new buildings above five metres must incorporate “bee bricks” into their design.
Bees are vital for pollinating the plants we need for food and that form habitats for wildlife. But they’re under threat due to habitat loss and the use of pesticides.
The bee brick is perforated with different sized holes making it the perfect home for solitary bees.
We just love the pure simplicity of this solution so why wait to be told to incorporate them? A bee brick can easily be retrofitted into your house to make it feel just as homely to bees as it does to you.
2. Install a bird or bat box
A more well-established intervention is the installation of bird and bat boxes. These are often required through planning conditions when development proposals will result in the felling of trees or loss of other habitats such as derelict buildings.
But it’s not just major developments that benefit from these boxes. As well as on trees, you can attach bird and bat boxes to homes of any age and era.
3. Install a green, brown or sedum roof
Sedum roofs, the most common type of green roof, are typically installed on flat roofs. They mostly comprise low growing succulents because their shallow roots mean they don’t need a lot of growing medium, so limiting the additional load added to a building.
Not only are they specially designed to offer new habitats and food sources for pollinating insects, beetles and spiders, but they also help in reducing the rate of water run-off into mains drains or soakaways, so reduce flood risk. On top of all that, they’re very low maintenance and look good too.
So if you’re tight on outdoor living space, then a sedum roof might be the perfect opportunity to maximise your biodiversity creds.
4. Convert your roof space for a bee hive
Flat roof space such as balconies and terraces aren’t just good for sedum roofs. In densely populated areas with limited open space, people are looking up.
Rooftop hives are becoming increasingly popular, and are a clever alternative to maximising biodiversity where space is lacking, though there are some obvious practicalities to consider associated with managing your hive and harvesting your honey safely.
5. Install a water butt
Another easy addition is to fit a water butt at your home.
Rainwater captured in water butts is typically used for your garden but they can also be rigged up with your greywater supply (ie for use in your toilet), though you do need to consider how much energy systems like this actually use compared to the water saved.
It’s more than a money saving measure; water scarcity is more of an issue in the UK than you might expect with our inclement weather. Water shortages have obvious impacts on biodiversity, so a water butt can help you minimise your water usage, protecting the environment and saving you money.
6. Install photovoltaic panels
Reducing your energy demand is absolutely key to minimising your impact on the environment. Not only because of the obvious reductions to greenhouse gases themselves, but because this will help protect the critical habitats of species such as puffins, dolphins and Atlantic salmon that are all found living in UK waters and are adversely impacted by global warming.
Roof-fixed photovoltaic (PV) panels are an unobtrusive way to generate your own electricity, and work even on cloudy days. With the right positioning, the average UK household with solar panels can generate up to 1,000kWh/year, which works out at about a quarter of its average energy demand. And you can get paid for the electricity you generate and don’t use.
7. Double up on your insulation
Heating our homes represents 9.7% of our total UK carbon footprint – bigger than the contributions made by car fuel, electricity, construction and agriculture.
The government has set aside £3.9 billion of new funding towards decarbonising our buildings in response to commitments made at COP26. But, they’ve also closed previous grant funding schemes like the Green Homes Grant scheme.
With or without the government’s help, retrofitting high quality insulation to your property can save you money in the long run.
8. Use glazing to maximise natural solar gain
Of course, another way to reduce your energy demand is by designing your house so that it needs to be heated less.
This can be in small ways, such as strategically positioning glazing (bi-fold doors and skylights) to maximise the effects of natural solar gain so that your house heats up more quickly. Or, it can be in larger ways, by thinking about the orientation and positioning of windows when you embark on a home remodelling.
9. Make your home remodelling count
If you’re thinking of undertaking more major refurbishment work at your home – or you’re building a new home from scratch – look at the whole project from an environmental perspective so you can reduce your carbon impact effectively whilst achieving an outstanding end result.
Orient your main living spaces and glazed areas towards the south and west to maximise natural solar gain.
Consider using sustainable building construction methods to maximise your insulation and therefore your home’s energy efficiency.
Source local materials and avoid carbon-heavy materials like concrete where possible.
Incorporate energy or water saving technologies and habitats within the design from the outset. A coherent and well thought through design, rather than retrofitting measures in, is always the best route to take if you have the opportunity.
We love helping our clients achieve beautiful homes that also minimise its impact on the environment. At the Denes in West Sussex, we are helping our client achieve their dream home in a way that is almost entirely energy self-sufficient and packed full of sustainable design measures.
So, if you’re about to embark on a remodelling of your home, and you want to make it count, we’d love to help you build your dream home and minimise your ecological footprint.