How to achieve a low-carbon footprint in design

Be they large or small, designed in a modern or period style, our garden rooms and orangeries are sustainably made. Over the years we’ve worked hard to reduce our carbon footprint throughout the design and build process. With today being World Environment Day, we share our methods for achieving a low-carbon footprint in design…

We are all aware of the problems facing our planet, caused by increasing global consumption and a throwaway culture. With mass deforestation of our magnificent forests, excessive toxic emissions, and constant global warming, we believe that every business should be dedicating themselves to working in a way that reduces their carbon footprint as much as possible. Long associated with poor waste management, unethical materials and damaging production processes, there’s still a lot to change in the design and build industry. At Westbury, we want our customers to feel assured that their beautiful garden room is built to the highest of standards while causing minimal damage to the environment.

Sustainability is synonymous with longevity

In our previous article about creating the perfect garden lighting scheme, designer Andrew Fisher Tomlin explains that while solar garden lights might initially seem like an eco-friendly product, their poor design ultimately results in their quick disposal, creating yet more waste at the bottom of a landfill. One of the key aspects of achieving a low-carbon footprint is to design something that only needs to be made once.

By choosing products designed with quality and longevity in mind, you are not adding to the throwaway culture that causes so many environmental problems. We understand this and use the latest techniques and materials to construct every Westbury product, so our garden rooms and conservatories maintain their fine finish for years to come. We hand-finish everything and we invest in extensive research to ensure that every aspect of our garden rooms is of the highest quality – from the specialist glue that we use to stop any joints from moving, to the last lick of paint.

Long lasting paint

We use Teknos, the best paint system available on the market, and when applied in the right way your windows and doors are guaranteed for up to ten years before they will need repainting. By applying a water-based microporous paint, our timber doors and windows have an extremely durable and highly protective barrier against weather conditions, moisture ingress, and exposure to high levels of UV and bacteria.

This substantial protection ensures an immaculate finish that will last for years to come. What’s more, our paints are environmentally friendly with VOC levels significantly below current and proposed legislative levels, and are free of all heavy metal additives. They are exceptionally ‘clean’ so there is no need to use harsh white spirit to wash your brushes after painting.

Sustainable wood sourcing

Sustainable design means moving away from using fossil fuels and non-renewable materials – materials that usually require huge amounts of greenhouse gasses to make and energy to recycle. At Westbury, we use a modified timber called Accoya, which is first in class when it comes to durability and sustainability. Accoya is one of the few materials that has been Cradle to Cradle Gold certified since 2010. This means that it is CO negative through its full life cycle, from its source in the forest and its production, all the way through to the end of its life when it’s turned to waste.

Accoya is made from abundantly available, typically fast-growing wood species such as radiata pine, grown in certified, sustainably managed forests. It is a highly efficient alternative to materials such as tropical hardwood and energy-intensive construction materials such as aluminium, PVC, and WPC.

Unfortunately, most sustainable timber materials do not perform well as building materials, whereas tropical hardwoods are tough and long-lasting. However, the chemical process that takes place to create Accoya, called acetylation, gives it superior thermal insulation and the highest durability class possible, guaranteeing a long lifespan of up to 50 years. The acetylation plant of Accsys Technologies is located in Arnhem, the Netherlands, and uses acetic anhydride in the production of Accoya® wood. The process generates acetic acid as a by-product, sold for reuse in a wide range of industries including the food industry.

In one of our recent blog posts; Built to last! Unrivalled glazed extensions, 20 years on…, we went to see one of our older projects that still has an exceptional finish despite being built over 20 years ago. At that point, we were not even using Accoya in our garden room extensions, and the fact that it has lasted for so long is a credit to the way the structure was designed.

Constructing the green way

Innovative thinking and a carefully planned approach have been essential when it comes to successfully streamlining our construction processes in an environmentally friendly way. Without compromising on quality, we are constantly developing and improving our techniques to ensure our workshop’s low-carbon footprint. We think ahead and order materials in bulk to avoid frequent numbers of smaller deliveries. Looking at the number of deliveries we make, we invested in larger vans so we can make fewer journeys and transport more products at once.  

Within the factory itself, we use high tech machines that will cut pieces from timber with accurate precision, so we produce minimal waste and anything left over is burnt in a biomass boiler to heat the workshops during the winter.

Energy efficient extensions

With glazing being the predominant material of any garden room or orangery extension, energy efficiency is high on our list of priorities. A poorly insulated glazed extension will let out huge amounts of heat, putting pressure on your home’s central heating system. Ensuring that the glass doesn’t allow too much heat to be transferred will keep the room at a comfortable temperature all year round, but it’s also the most sustainable option too.

By using the right kind of glazing with the most efficient installation techniques, you can be confident that your extension will have a minimal effect on the environment. Double glazing consists of two sheets of glass with gas in between the panes to create an insulating barrier. Argon is the most common and more affordable gas, but xenon and krypton are more efficient.

The most energy-efficient glass to use for double glazing is low emissivity (Low-E) glass. This means that it limits the amount of heat that can escape. This Low-E glass often has an ‘invisible’ coating of metal oxide on one of the internal panes next to the gap, enhancing its insulating properties.

Ultimately, low-carbon footprint extensions are a result of dedicated companies that put longevity and durability at the forefront of their designs, using the most sustainable materials available and streamlining their production processes at every level.

With the future of our amazing planet at stake, we’re proud of our green credentials and know that our customers value our dedication to reducing our impact on the environment – however, there is still so much more that the industry can be doing, and we will continue to lead the way in low-carbon design.