We all know that more needs to be done about climate change, and we all can make changes to our lives to reduce our carbon footprint. Maybe you recycle, take the train instead of the car or buy your electricity from an energy company which provides 100% renewable energy.
These are all great steps to take, but one of the biggest contributors to our carbon footprint is something we often don’t think about as being very polluting. Our homes.
The house we live in has a huge effect on our carbon footprint. How it’s built determines how much energy you will use on heating, and where it is also has a big impact. If you live several miles away from your place of work, and especially if you are also far from public transport, your carbon footprint from travel is going to be far higher than if you were living near your workplace.
It takes over 50 tonnes CO2 to build an average UK house
What your house is built from also has a huge effect on its carbon footprint. Most houses in the UK are built out of brick, with a concrete foundation. It takes a quarter of a tonne of CO2 to create a tonne of brick, and even more for steel and other house elements.
As a result, a typical masonry house in the UK takes between 50 and 80 tonnes of CO2 to build.
To put that in context, the average person in the UK has a carbon footprint of five tonnes of CO2 per year- so building just one new house emits as much CO2 as someone living an average lifestyle does over a decade!
But we can’t just not build new houses. We have a housing crisis in the UK and the government has a target of building 300,000 new homes every year to keep pace with rising demand.
The solution is to build new houses with materials that store carbon, rather than require carbon to produce. Timber does exactly this, and is also an excellent insulator, conducting far less heat than brick or steel. That means building new timber houses emits only a small fraction of the CO2 generated by building traditional masonry houses.
New ways of building also mean the carbon footprint of living in a house can be dramatically reduced, as well as the carbon footprint of building it.
We build Citu homes to extremely high standards of insulation and airtightness, and combine this with mechanical ventilation heat recovery systems to recycle heat from appliances and keep it within the home. This reduces heating needs massively. The average Citu home requires just a tenth of the energy to keep it warm as typical older masonry homes require.
When heating requirements are this low, it is easy to heat the home with heat mats concealed in walls, so you don’t need radiators or a gas boiler. It also means all the home's heating needs can be provided by 100% renewable energy.
The average household in the UK emits 2.7 tonnes of CO2 every year from heating their home. So by switching to a highly efficient home where all of your heating needs can be provided by renewable electricity, your carbon footprint will be reduced dramatically. If that home is also in a city centre location near your work then your carbon footprint from transport will fall considerably as well, potentially more than halving your carbon footprint because of the home you’ve chosen.