Sustainable housing guide

Making the UK’s homes greener and more energy efficient is an essential step in mitigating the UK’s contribution to climate change. Creating energy-efficient houses can not only help combat climate change, it could also means we need less energy to power and heat our homes.

🕑 8 minute read

Newly built homes are designed to meet certain standards of energy efficiency. But you can do your bit whatever kind of property you call home – not just to help the planet, but to save on bills too. Read on to find out more about the green housing revolution.

What counts as a sustainable home?

A green rating should meet the requirements set out in the Energy Performance Certificates (EPC) rating. These ratings are ranked on a scale of A-E. On this scale, a green rating is one that’s ranked C or above. This means the builders, homeowners and landlords have taken the necessary steps to make the property as energy efficient as possible.

Source: Rightmove

While most builds focus on adding energy-efficient tweaks to fairly conventional designs, there are a number of bold approaches happening around the world and closer to home which are redefining ‘green’.

If you want to find out how green your home is right now then try our Home Energy Saving Tool.

Examples of renewable green homes

One of the key measurements of the EPC rating is the carbon footprint. A carbon neutral build produces zero CO2 emissions – it can even be carbon-negative. This is achieved by using renewables like solar panels to power the home and building it to be as energy efficient as possible.

Passivhaus design is a set of standards that new builds follow to make the most of passive heat sources like the sun, as well as clever use of insulation and ventilation. A house built to meet the Passivhaus Standard can be comfortable all year round. Because it won’t drive up energy bills to keep at a comfortable temperature, it’s thought to reduce carbon emissions by 80%.

Source: Passivhaustrust

How to build more sustainably

Developers who design and build more sustainable homes consider lots of different aspects of the process including where materials are sourced and how much carbon emissions the build itself will produce. The following will all be taken into consideration during the build, to make the finished property as energy efficient as possible:

  • Hot water and heating from a renewable source.
  • Insulation, ventilation and airtightness.
  • Levels of natural light.
  • Solar orientation – basically being ‘south-facing’.
  • Double- or triple-glazing.
  • Absorption of solar heat.
  • Collecting rainwater and greywater.

These are just some of the things designers and developers consider when building more sustainable homes, to allow future occupants the chance to live comfortably while lowering their carbon footprint – and their energy bills.


Steps you can take to make your home greener

Homeowners in conventional builds may not have the budget to bring their homes up to Passivhaus standards, but there’s always a way to make your home ‘greener’ and more energy efficient.

How to increase the energy efficiency of your home

  • Cavity wall insulation or solid wall insulation. Depending on when your home was built, there may be additional work you can carry out to keep heat from escaping through the walls.
  • Loft insulation. The Energy Saving Trust estimates that your home loses a quarter of its heat through the loft if it isn’t properly insulated.
  • Upgrade your boiler. Boiler technology has come a long way. You could use much less energy to heat your home with a newer model.
  • Solar panels. Whether it’s to heat your home or the hot water tank, using solar energy is good for the environment – and your bills.
  • Double glazing. Older homes may not have double glazed windows fitted as standard. Fitting double glazing keeps the heat in while cutting down on the draughts.

Source: Energy Saving Trust

As well as these larger jobs, there are smaller things you can do to make a positive change.

  • Buy energy saving bulbs. For every 60 watt bulb in your home, you could save up to £9 per bulb per year (based on a 660-lumen bulb running for 445 hours a year).
  • Make the most of your smart meter. Seeing how much energy you’re using in real time can give you the push you need to save energy where you can. Turn off your appliances rather than leaving them on standby or turn the thermostat down a couple of degrees. You’ll soon see how much of a difference it makes.
  • Draught insulation. Even fitting draught excluders underneath doors can help trap the warm air in the rooms where you need it most.

Source: Ideal Home

Applying for assistance

There are a few schemes providing financial assistance for making energy-saving improvements to homes. Take a look at our Discounted Home Improvement article.

The Energy Company Obligation scheme is an agreement between local councils and energy suppliers to improve the EPC of homes by carrying out insulation work and upgrades to boilers and heating systems. If you’re claiming benefits and live in private housing, or live in social housing, get in touch with your housing provider to discuss your options, or contact the energy supplier directly.

Households that install solar panels will benefit from the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG). Under the scheme, energy suppliers must pay customers for the excess energy they’re sending to the grid via their solar panels. A three-bedroom home that has installed a 3.99 kWp solar panel could earn £112 per year. That’s not much of a dent on the average cost of installing solar panels (£6,500 according to the Energy Saving Trust), but you’ll also be saving money on your energy bills.

Source: Money Saving Expert

Does making your house greener increase its value?

Research shows that certain home improvements added a lot of value to a property. Draught-proofing a home, despite costing just £200 on average, is thought to add more than £3,200 in value. Installing an electric vehicle charging point, meanwhile, costs £800 but adds £2,636.

While there’s some good value in adding these things to your home, they can be expensive. Solar panels, for example, require significant investment that will take years to recoup.

There’s also apparently limited increase in value if you’re selling a home that’s EPC-rated A or B. The premium on price is under 2% when compared to a D-rated home.

Source: Rightmove

Thinking of these improvements as more of an investment in going green rather than a money-saving solution might be the way forward.

For homeowners, that means carrying out improvements where budget allows, and potentially investing in larger projects if the aim is to increase value for a future sale.

If you’re a landlord, it might be good to know that a November 2021 survey says many tenants would pay more rent to live in a greener home. A third of renters would pay 5% more rent, while 8% would consider a one-fifth increase in their rent.


The rise of the ‘green lease’ shows that landlords and tenants are willing to work together for a greener cause.

Take a look at our article for more about the steps you can take to make your home more energy efficient.

Updated April 2024