3 ways investing in sustainable design pays off

investing in sustainable design eco-house

This contemporary zero-carbon home required initial investment in renewable energy technologies, but now the inhabitants enjoy zero bills and a net income from energy generation. Learn more with our case study.

Embarking on a custom-build project where you commission an architect to design your new home is a life changing decision. It’s also likely to be one of the biggest investments you will make and you need to be sure it’s a sound financial investment.

Sometimes concerns about keeping costs down can conflict with your values around health and the environment. Sustainability doesn’t have to be high-cost, especially if designed in from the start. But many still see it as a more expensive extra.

This article explains how investing in sustainable design pays off. (And we mean pays off financially, not only in terms of ethics, wellbeing and other intangible benefits).

An attractive, comfortable and sustainable design that suits your lifestyle is going to improve your quality of life in many ways. But how can you put an economic value on that? Surely your wellbeing is priceless. For more on this topic see our earlier blog post on how design improves quality of life.

If you’re already convinced of the quality of life benefits and want to see if your desired project is a good financial investment, then this post is for you.

Why investing in sustainable design makes good financial sense

1. Increased property value

It’s no secret that a beautiful and comfortable house is going to have a much higher property value than one with a lower standard of design. What is perhaps less obvious is that investing in sustainable design raises property value as well.

A government report from 2013 says that high levels of energy efficiency adds 14% on average to house values. If you are ever going to consider selling, this is a major benefit. Sustainability elements like energy efficiency and healthy materials have a very prominent place in the Home Quality Mark – a new voluntary standard for homebuyers and property sellers to distinguish high quality homes.

2. Lower energy and water bills

Even if you would never dream of parting with your dream home, you will still benefit economically from investing in sustainable design through lower utility bills. Sustainable features such as insulation, passive solar design, air-tight building and energy efficient appliances reduce energy demand while low-flow taps, dual-flush WCs and rainwater harvesting systems and efficient appliances all reduce water demand.

According to the Energy Saving Trust, installing double glazing, low-flow showers, loft insulation and cavity wall insulation would save a 4-bedroom semi detached household around £465 per year. If you really want to set yourself up for the future, investing in a net zero-carbon house that makes all its own energy costs much less than you’d expect and will allow you to wave goodbye to energy bills entirely.

3. More durable / less maintenance

When building or installing anything, you should always consider the whole lifecycle cost, not just the upfront price tag. Durability is a key principle of sustainable design, because the longer things last, the less resources and energy are used for replacements.

Many natural materials are naturally extremely durable, but higher upfront costs sometimes put people off from a good investment. A good example is concrete tiles vs slate tiles for roofing. Concrete tiles are often used by volume builders because they are (seemingly) the cheapest option, costing around £11,000 on average, including installation. A natural slate roof will cost more, at £15,500 on average. However they can easily last 100 years. A concrete tiled roof by contrast will only last around 30 years. So the real lifecycle cost is more like £33,000, making the natural option much more attractive.


At the end of the day, you get what you pay for. And with something as long-lasting and important as a house, it makes sense to choose quality that will stand the test of time and pay for itself many times over its long life in terms of reduced running costs and higher property values.

Want to learn more? Subscribe to our monthly Eco-Design Newsletter for an in-depth case study (PDF report) about a beautiful zero-carbon home which makes a net income from generating renewable energy.

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