Howard Liddell of Gaia Architects provided a lively discussion about the realistic and cost effective ways to improve energy efficiency in buildings. He criticised “eco-bling” such as microgeneration as little more than green washing of buildings and promoted the less popular but much more effective eco-minimalism of airtightness and super insulation as effective methods of energy efficiency for homes. The perception that green houses cost more comes from the addition of this eco-bling to green homes, however a low-carbon, energy efficient house does not have to cost more.
Howard compared the payback on an eco-bling house and an eco-minimalist house in order to illustrate his point. If a designer spent £21,000 on PV cells and wind turbines for a house the payback on these additions is 100 years but the life expectancy is 20 years. However if £8,000 is spent on air tightness and insulation the payback is 5 years and the life expectancy is 50 years. The facts about the correct approach to take are there, however the difficulty lies with making air tightness and super insulation sexy and therefore more popular than microgeneration. Building rating systems such as BREEAM and BER are flawed as they insists on the presence of microgeneration, therefore such rating systems should be re-evaluated.