The eco architect: a comfortable home

John Wolfendale, a cambridge university graduate, has been living and working in Spain for 16 years. His architect business, EcoVida, specialises in energy efficient and low carbon homes. In this issue he talks about what makes a ‘comfortable and healthy’ home
I used to think a comfortable home meant one with lots of cushions and carpets, that having a comfortable home was a bit like having a comfortable bed. However, since researching materials in low energy housing and developing our techniques this word now has a completely different meaning to me.
A Comfortable Home is a Healthy Home
First of all it means healthy. A comfortable home is a healthy home. I used to think a healthy home was a home with healthy people in it. Now I think of it as one in which the air is fresh and continuously replaced. I wouldn’t dream of building a home now without a mechanical system of extracting stale dirty air from kitchen and bathroom areas and replacing it with fresh clean air filtered of dust and pollen gently propelled into the bedrooms and living areas. A mechanical heat recovery and ventilation system also allows you to have the perfect humidity too by controlling the rate of replacement. However hot or muggy it is outside, inside you are comfortable. 
Healthy means Lots of Natural Light Too
Natural light is healthy, so a comfortable home incorporates lots of large windows and maybe skylights or light chimneys in hidden corners. With significant changes in window technology over the last twenty years which allow light to pass through but not heat (or sound), windows don’t have to be the weak point in home insulation.
Guilt Free Air Conditioning
Standard air conditioning units use fossil fuels, which heat up the environment, to cool your home: a vicious cycle. How about an air conditioning system that uses solar power, is not electric, is silent, and cools the whole house not just the air i.e. the floors, the walls and all the surfaces? This system now exists and for a mediterrenean climate this is good news. The hotter it is outside the cooler it can be inside. The same system can also be used to heat the house in the winter and provide domestic hot water.
Living in Peace
I like to be able to sit in any room in my house in peace and read a book or just watch my thoughts. That peace and quiet is priceless. I do not wish to hear the loo flush upstairs, so an ideal comfortable home has superb sound insulation inside and out.
And you know whatever your views on climate change wouldn’t it feel comfortable to know that you are living in balance with your environment? By generating most of the energy you use, recycling water and waste material, using simple low maintenance systems. I also like to know that maintaining this level of comfort doesn’t costs me much on a monthly basis. That helps me to feel peaceful.

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This post is also available in: Spanish

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