How to Build an Eco Home

Build It Live is the perfect place to come to find the answers to your questions, speak to industry experts and gain the knowledge and inspiration you need to make your project a success. Before you come along, gain some top tips below – put together by the experts at Build It magazine.

Building an eco home

There’s never been a better time to adopt green measures in the home, especially given the energy crisis. Building your own home will give you the opportunity to not only create a bespoke property, but to create a comfortable place to live that also benefits from low running costs.

So what’s involved in building an eco home? Well, a ‘fabric first’ approach is the best approach. This means prioritising elements such as insulation and air tightness in order to deliver a structure that will retain heat.

Once you have an efficient building envelope in place, you can begin to explore things like solar panels and heat pumps. There’s no point installing such systems in a house that’s not up to standard, because you won’t be able to maximise their potential. Consider the following before you do anything else:


It goes without saying that the more insulation you can incorporate into the major structural elements of your home, the more heat it will retain and the more efficient it will be.

Air tightness

Fewer gaps in your home’s structural envelope will mean less heat lost. Prefabricated systems, such as closed panel timber frame and structural insulated panels, tend to offer excellent air tightness. With others, such as brick and block, high-quality workmanship is essential.

Thermal mass

Materials such as brick and concrete can absorb warmth from the sun’s rays during the day and release it into the home as external temperatures drop. This can help you to maintain a comfortable internal environment. Used correctly, this thermal store can help to reduce energy consumption.

Sustainable materials

There are a number of ways to ensure the products and materials you use are as green as possible. One option is to source locally, while another is to consider natural products, such as wool insulation. If you’re buying wood, ensure that it’s been sustainably sourced, for instance through FSC certification.

Natural light

Maximising the amount of natural light in your home will help to reduce your need for artificial lighting. However, glazing is much less insulating than conventional walling, so your designer will need to strike the right balance.

Eco build systems

First, you need to consider the right build route. All structural systems can be adapted to meet good levels of energy efficiency, but some lend themselves to hitting the highest standards.

For example, closed panel timber frame systems and structural insulated panels (SIPs) are two fantastic options. They both offer a straightforward route to a well-insulated and highly airtight home. That’s largely because they are prefabricated in a factory setting, minimising human error.

One of the advantages of SIPs is that the system involves a continuous layer of insulation, with no breaks for studwork. That makes for extremely low levels of thermal bridging, where internal warmth finds a way to escape.

If you’re wanted to build with brick and block, insulating concrete formwork (ICF) is worth considering. This involves using expanded or extruded polystyrene blocks as the framework for a structural concrete pour. The formwork stays in place after the build, providing a continuous layer of high-quality insulation.

However, standard masonry walls can now be built with ultra-wide cavities to allow for plenty of insulation, and they offer the benefit of ample thermal mass. A variety of other systems have been developed with energy efficiency in mind, too. These include externally-insulated solid walls and straw bale building.

Renewable technologies

After you’ve chosen your structural system, you can begin to think about renewable technologies. Among the most popular options are solar PV or thermal panels, biomass boilers and heat pumps. Other options include rainwater harvesting systems and boilers that generate electricity as a by-product of their heating cycles.

Avoiding overheating

The more thermally efficient and well-insulated a home is, the more likely it is to suffer from overheating. Designing out overheating early on in the planning stage will ensure that your new house is as comfortable and efficient in summer as it is in winter.

This involves controlling the performance of insulation in your home to create a balanced environment all year round. It might sound a little counterintuitive, since the insulation that keeps warmth in should keep excessive heat out. So, to design out overheating, we first need to understand why it happens.

Excess heat can be caused by poor ventilation, insufficient thermal mass, a lack of solar shading or excessive insulation on your southern elevation. You can find out more about how to avoid overheating here.

How Build It Live Can Help

So, how can you benefit from a visit to Build It Live? Well, at the show, we’ll have experts on hand all weekend, providing advice on everything from design to eco-friendly materials – and much more.

Ask Our Experts

Don’t miss the chance to book a one-to-one appointment with one of our experts, at the Ask Out Experts lounge. Bring your plans, if you have some, and don’t forget your list of questions. They’ll be able to provide you with personalised advice and give you all the information you need – on eco homes and more.

Seminars & Workshops

We’ll also have dedicated seminars on each day, covering a variety of essential self build and renovation topics, including Updating an Old House for Modern Eco Living and the Eco Heating Debate.

A range of industry experts and suppliers will also be taking to the Workshop Theatre stage, to host a range of talks. These workshops cover all kinds of important topics and vary at each show, so keep an eye on the schedule.

Sustainable Building Products Pavillion

Whether building from scratch or renovating an old house, if you want a truly sustainable, healthy home, then every aspect of your project needs to be considered in detail – from low-energy design strategies through to the products and finishes that go into both the structural fabric and the internal fit-out.

Visit the Sustainable Building Products Pavilion, in association with The Alliance for Sustainable Building Products (ASBP), to gain advice and source some of the UK’s best eco products on the market.

The Heating Advice Clinic

Pop along to the Heating Advice Clinic to speak to an expect about which heating system is right for you. Do gas boilers still make sense? Are heat pumps low-carbon? Can woodburning stoves be eco friendly? Get the answers to all these questions and more.


At every Build It Live show you’ll be able to meet hundreds of suppliers and companies, browse thousands of products and gain the advice and inspiration you need. Explore our full list of Exhibitors here and make a list of all the companies you’d like to meet during your trip.

Explore our full show line-up today and start planning your visit.