Eco-friendly loft conversions
If you are thinking of a loft conversion then why not consider making it eco-friendly? By using organic, sustainable or recycled materials you will reduce the carbon footprint, minimise waste and potentially save money on your utility bills in the long run.
Read our useful tips on creating a ‘greener’ loft from how to source and choose materials to what planning and building regulations you will need to consider before you start your build.
Use sustainably sourced wood
Wood is not only breathable but is cheaper and more sustainable than bricks or concrete. By using it for your loft walls the air will remain comfortable, you’ll avoid humidity and as it is a great insulator it will help the space stay warm in winter. For flooring you can choose compressed wood fibre boards made from recycled wood products. You can find out if the wood is from a sustainable source by checking it is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).
Maximise your roof
If you need to reconstruct your roof to add a loft conversion, you could think about adding solar panels at the same time as they are generally low maintenance and you’ll be doing your bit to help save the planet. Homes have at least one useable roof surface, ideally it should be South-facing and systems can be installed flat to hide the panels from view. New SEG rules which came in 2019 give homes that install solar panels payments for exporting electricity back to the grid. Find out lots more about solar panels and whether they could save you money here.
Consider reusing your own existing, or salvage yard reclaimed roof tiles for your new loft roof, their weathered appearance will match in better with the rest of your roof. There are also eco-friendly recycled shingles available made from rubber and wood fibre. You can also set up your guttering to flow into a rainwater tank for reuse.
To make sure your loft will be warm won’t be cheap but there are lots of products when it comes to organic sustainable insulation. Wool is a good example as it absorbs moisture without losing its insulation properties which makes it ideal for lofts. It is also safe to handle, non-irritant and fire retardant.
Flax, hemp and cork, once treated can also make cost-effective insulation materials and are fire, insect and fungus resistant.
If you do decide to go ahead with any of these products, make sure you do some thorough research and ensure that you use insulation that will be compliant with the building regulations. Most manufacturers will provide details of suitability for use and we suggest you confirm with us before purchasing anything.
Let in the light
LED light bulbs will help keep your loft eco-friendly and save money on bills however as lofts are often dark spaces you will probably also need to add a dormer or gable end window or roof lights.
Centre pivot roof windows are the most popular as they are usually the cheapest way to let in light and ventilation. This type of window is designed so that the window ‘tilts’ open with half the window entering the room and half exiting it.
A top hung window means the pivot is at the top of the window and none of the window enters the room. These are good for eye-level installation and mean you can maximise the view. They have the added advantage of rotating in the middle for safe cleaning.
Side hung windows mean the entire window is outside the room when open and are ideal as a ‘means of escape’ window.
To be energy efficient, windows need to be A+ rated double or triple glazed. This will reduce the amount of heat lost through the window as well as controlling how much heat enters on hot days.
You can choose from a wide variety of eco-friendly products to complete your new loft space; recycled wallpaper, FSC approved wooden cladding, non-toxic paint and paint made from natural materials or even upcycled furniture or some that’s made from sustainable wood.
Do I need building regulations?
Building regulations do apply as a loft conversion is classed as a ‘material change of use’. The regulations look at the strength of the floor, escape from fire, thermal efficiency, electrics, glazing, plumbing, heating and minimum headroom above the staircase. LABC has written a useful article on loft conversions which includes a video on building control’s role.
What about planning permission?
A loft conversion is usually viewed as a ‘permitted development’, provided it doesn’t exceed 50m3 (40m3 for terraced houses). It should also be lower than the highest part of the existing roof and set back as far as possible. Making sure you use materials similar to those on your existing home and ensuring any side facing windows have obscure glass and are non-opening are also things you’ll need to consider. The planning portal has some useful information and you should always check whether your project falls into the ‘permitted development’ category by contacting your local council planning department.
At Southern Building Control Partnership we have produced a section on loft conversions in our Guide to Extending your Home. Alternatively, contact us and we will be happy to discuss your project with you.