Green roof systems are increasingly popular, whether to re-wild an area traditionally fitted with felt, slate or tiles or introduce a peaceful, natural space to make the most of your rooftop.
Roofs are often underutilised, and although you may need to consider planning permission requirements, most local authorities are keen on green roofs since they support broader sustainability targets.
Pinnacle Works can review all the considerations with you, advise whether your roof layout is suitable for conversion, and recommend the required structural supports. Note that a green roof is not necessarily the same thing as a roof garden, which you would most commonly find on a tall building with a flat rooftop – although you can merge the concept of a roof garden with a green one if you have a reasonable amount of space.
Which Properties Are Suitable?
The first thing to look at is the size and layout of your roof. Green roofs add additional weight to your roof structure, usually around 50 to 200 kg per metre. Many rooftops do not have sufficient support to bear additional weight but can be retrofitted with robust structural reinforcements.
It tends to cost a little more to convert a conventional roof into a green one. Still, there are considerable savings in terms of energy efficiency, pollution reduction and insulation that offset the outlay.
There are also various types of available, so if one style is not possible for your property type, we may be able to suggest an alternative:
- Extensive roofs are lighter in weight and require minimal maintenance. These roofs normally have a low profile layer of grass or flowers on shallow sedum blankets.
- Intensive roofs feature larger plants, bushes and even small trees and are more similar to a roof garden. Most of these roofs are best for larger commercial buildings where the property is substantial enough to bear the load.
- Semi-extensive roofs are a compromise between the two and have a deeper growing layer than an intensive green roof, although they are designed for smaller plants rather than trees or shrubs.
An extensive option is better for a sloped roof rather than an area where you’d like to sit or walk, whereas an intensive one is designed as a flat roof garden. Of course, you could reconfigure your roof space to incorporate a flat area for walking, but many green roofs are an aesthetic feature fitted on a typically sloped roof. An initial survey is advisable since we can assess the shape and pitch of your roof and advise on the appropriate solutions.
There are countless reasons an eco-friendly green roof supports your local environment as a microclimate for birds, insects and other species. If you have a property with an accessible roof, you can even repurpose the space to grow vegetables, flowers or herbs.
Biodiversity is a priority in urban spaces, where concrete and brick are inhospitable and mean that beneficial bee populations are falling – a green roof can have an excellent ecological impact.
Green roofs are normally fitted with a waterproof liner made from recycled plastic so that the entire space can be environmentally friendly. However, the advantages aren’t solely related to local wildlife and can benefit everything from property running costs to air quality:
- Rainfall surface water runoff is substantially reduced, particularly relevant for Sustainable Urban Drainage schemes. Rainwater runoff is a real issue in areas exposed to flash flooding, so a green roof can prevent exposure to water damage in heavy downpours.
- A green roof provides sound insulation, with layers of air trapped between the soil and plants. In city areas, you can use a green roof to reduce the noise impact of traffic, airports and street noise, with up to 30% of noise pollution eliminated.
- Green roof schemes regulate temperatures by retaining heat in the winter and allowing for natural airflow in the summer. Buildings with green roofs do not usually require air conditioning and need less heating in colder weather.
Alongside these benefits, a green roof ensures that your property meets higher building rating standards, especially if you select plants or grasses native to the region – this is usually a key factor for planning approval.
With changes to building regulations and a drive towards zero-carbon emissions, a green roof is an excellent way to meet government energy-efficiency criteria and comply with the Future Homes Standard.
Important Factors in Installing a Green Roof
If you are interested in replacing tiles with grass or creating a sustainable, efficient roofing system, it is important to ensure that your green roof is correctly installed.
Underlying roof structures often need strengthening, which requires a structural survey to help establish the necessary reinforcements and the types of planting schemes that will be best suited. Older properties and sloped roofs are not usually designed to bear heavy loads, so your calculations need to factor in waterproofing, protection matting, a drainage layer, filter sheet and root barrier. All these components are essential to protect the structure underneath and ensure your green roof lasts for years to come.
The best option may depend on the size and slope of your roof and the capacity to install a deeper soil level – extensive green roofs require very little maintenance and normally function naturally within the seasonal cycles.
Drainage is also important because soft landscaping can retain a large volume of rainfall, up to 90 per cent, so you need a reliable process to drain the water after heavy rain, usually with an HDPE layer. However, with a professional installation service, a green roof can provide life-long benefits to the local environment, your property value, and energy efficiency as a natural, eco-friendly alternative to other roofing systems.
For more information about green roofs, the installation process, or the right green roof design for your property, please contact Pinnacle Works at your convenience.
There’s no escaping soaring energy prices, increasing living costs, and the fact that our properties are becoming ever-more expensive to heat, cool and run. Ground and air source heat pumps have been around for a decade, and are coming into their own as alternative heating devices with excellent benefits for the environment, and your bank balance.
Pinnacle Works is passionate about renewable energy and has extensive experience installing high-performance pumps that are fast, reliable, and economical.
What are Air and Ground Source Heat Pumps?
Many homeowners are unfamiliar with these eco-friendly heating appliances, but the concept is simple:
- Pumps absorb environmental heat, converting it into a liquid.
- The fluid is then compressed to a higher temperature.
- That heat is used for central heating and to produce hot water.
The core difference between the two heat pumps is where the heat originates. As the names suggest, air pumps absorb heat from the air, whereas ground heat pumps rely on thermal heat in the ground. We’re often asked how this works, particularly given that we don’t enjoy the warmest climates in the UK! Even when it feels cold, quality heat pumps can still extract heat, and remain operational at sub-zero temperatures, with the ideal tolerance being 25 °C to -5 °C.
Without getting into the technicalities, a ground source heat pump utilises a network of underground pipes (called a loop) with the pump at ground level. Air source heat pumps absorb warmth from outside air using a liquid refrigerant. The compression and condensation process releases stored heat to warm your home and water.
Air Source Heat Pumps
Although the technology behind heat pumps is advanced, the installation is relatively straightforward.
Fitting an air heat pump is quite quick provided you work with a qualified installer, and the pumping and controls are similar to those used on your existing boiler. Ground source heat pumps are a little more involved because we lay a network of piping underground, which requires a certain amount of space.
If you’re interested in comparing these low-cost heating solutions, we can arrange a survey to offer advice about the suitability of each option.
We can install a heat pump in almost any home, but the right choice for you will depend on a few variables:
- Insulation is key, and the pump must be correctly insulated to ensure it operates efficiently and doesn’t experience heat loss.
- Most clients who opt for a ground source pump are either not reliant on the mains gas network or have a wider outdoor space.
- Pumps can be fitted in properties of all ages, but renovated homes and new-builds can present higher energy efficiency ratings, making them ideal for an eco-friendly heat pump.
Average costs sit at around £7,000 – £13,000 for an air source heat pump, and between £14,000 and £19,000 for a ground source pump, with the cost differential owing to the external groundworks.
The investment balances out because a ground pump is a more efficient renewable energy source and produces greater cost savings and lower utility bills. It’s also worth noting that the Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) provided higher financial incentives for ground source heat pumps. However, the current application round has closed and been replaced with a new scheme, which we’ll explain shortly.
The Benefits of Ground and Air Source Heat Pumps
The biggest advantage of a renewable heat pump over a conventional boiler is that it will undoubtedly reduce your household costs. A heat pump is significantly cheaper to run than any electrical heating system oil boiler and most gas boilers. Either type of pump is fully automated, so they have an advantage over biomass boilers, requiring much less work.
Other benefits of replacing an older boiler with a heat pump include:
- Superior energy efficiency, with performance ratings of 200% to 400% higher than a standard heating system.
- A substantially lower carbon footprint, with no emissions other than those at the point of electricity production – the compressors use very little electricity and non-harmful refrigerants that don’t impact the environment.
- Condensation prevention, with automatic dehumidifying properties.
- Improved air quality – the heat pump doesn’t burn anything to produce the warmth, so no fumes or smoke filter into the air.
Heat pumps are ideal for families with allergies, as the circulation process purifies the air and removes spores, odours, smoke, particles, and dust.
How Much Money a Heat Pump Could Save You
Much depends on your energy consumption and property, but you could stand to save:
- Over £1,000 a year compared to electric heating systems.
- Up to £570 a year if you use an LPG heating system.
- Around £30 a year against oil or gas boilers.
Of course, with the energy price cap increasing this month by 54%, those statistics may soon multiply.
Government Heat Pump Grants
We mentioned the incentive scheme earlier, which closed on 31st March 2022 – but has been replaced with a more straightforward initiative.
This programme offers a £5,000 grant, or £6,000 towards the cost of a ground source heat pump, and covers any part of the supply or installation cost. The government won’t be accepting direct applications, but Pinnacle Works can apply to Ofgem (the energy regulator) on your behalf, securing a voucher confirming the grant value.
Due to launch this month, these grants are part of a £3.9 billion programme to encourage all households to switch to a low-carbon alternative by 2035.
Exterior Ground Source Heat Pump Case Study
If you’re looking at replacing an old boiler or inefficient heating system, an air or ground source heat pump is an outstanding option, providing long-term, low-carbon and cost-effective heating.
One of our recent commissions involved the installation of an exceptional ground source heat pump housed in a pump house with bespoke fitted oak doors. This example shows the aesthetic achievable, with internal ply lining and professional quality insulation to provide the ultimate energy-saving solution, with maximised pump efficiency. With subtle touches, such as bat boxes in the rafters to encourage local animals to relocate to the pump house, you can see the finished project via our social media HERE.
For more information about whether a renewable heat pump would be right for your property or to enquire about the best option and apply for a government grant, please contact Pinnacle Works at your convenience. Our skilled teams work closely with every client to ensure your finished pump meets every expectation, creating future-proof eco-homes that are as cost-effective as possible.
With continuing rises in living costs and expected energy bill hikes as high as 50% in April, Pinnacle Works regularly speaks to clients exploring the options to make their homes greener and leaner.
There are massive benefits to making your property more efficient:
- Reducing utility costs
- Creating spaces that are easier to heat
- Increases in market value
- Accessing grants and support schemes
Let’s look at some of the most popular green home improvements, what you stand to save, and how it all works.
Updating Heating Systems to Reduce Utility Costs
Most properties rely on gas boilers to heat their rooms and water – but with gas prices getting ever steeper and the typical maintenance issues (and repair costs) to think about, a new heating system is a fantastic option. We’ve recently completed work on an eco-friendly exterior ground-source heat pump, encased in a beautiful outhouse with bespoke oak doors if you’d like some inspiration.
There are multiple advantages:
- Switching an old gas boiler for a condensing model or a ground-source or air-source heat pump makes your home more sustainable, reducing CO2 emissions by a huge 15-30%.
- If all UK properties replaced their gas boilers, energy bills nationwide would drop by £1.3 billion.
- Air-source pumps are reliable and continue generating heat in outside temperatures from an arctic -15 °C, so they are dependable and low-cost to run.
In terms of pricing, a new air-source pump system costs around £7,000 to £11,000 on average, making it a big investment. However, you could save from £295 to £1,805 every year, with a system paying for itself in around six years.
If you’re interested in swapping your gas boiler for something more efficient, keep an eye out for the Boiler Upgrade Scheme, due to launch in spring 2022. The initiative will offer upfront capital grants for homeowners to cover the costs of a heat pump.
Harnessing Natural Energy Through Solar Panels
Solar panels are one of the best-known eco-friendly upgrades, but they can take several years to pay back the investment.
The positive is that once you’ve fitted your solar panels, you can wave goodbye to huge electricity charges. If you have an aspect that soaks up a good amount of solar energy, you might find yourself living sustainably off the grid altogether. Fitting a new set of solar panels will set you back around £4,800 on average, but the perks include:
- Utility cost savings of £165 to £440 a year based on typical household usage.
- Income generated from selling excess power back to the grid.
- Reliable electricity, with solar panels generating power even on dull days..
Warming Your Home With Quality Insulation
One of the main reasons energy bills become so costly is that homes are not insulated properly – so the heating remains on around the clock because the chill sets in the second the boiler turns off.
Insulation is one of the most affordable ways to make a home greener, and you can look at:
- Replacing loft insulation.
- Boosting cavity wall insulation.
- Investing in underfloor insulation or heating.
The exact cost of fitting new, quality insulation depends on where the work is required and the size of your property, but simply insulating your loft adequately will save an average of £315 a year.
Underfloor Heating to Keep Your Toes Cosy
Underfloor heating is a wonderful addition to an eco-friendly home that is a joy to live in. It’s more discreet than blocky radiators or wall-mounted heaters and can be retrofitted to older homes as well as installed in new builds.
Heating pipes laid under your flooring use between 15% and 40% less energy than a conventional radiator, and the broad surface area means you can set your thermostat lower for the same level of warmth.
Effective Lighting With Energy-Efficient Bulbs
Light bulbs might not seem to make the biggest dent in your electricity bill, but the reality is that if you replaced every halogen bulb in your home with an LED light, you’d instantly knock off £40 a year from your running costs.
Energy-efficient alternatives are so much cheaper to use, better for the environment, and a priority for people wanting to live sustainably. You’ll also find that LED bulbs are cheaper to buy and last significantly longer than their counterparts – so you make a saving twice over.
The big benefit is to our planet – if every home in Britain switched to 100% LED bulb usage, we’d cut our carbon emissions by an impressive 1.7 million tonnes.
Controlling Energy Usage With a Smart Meter
As the winter starts to bite, it’s easy to be tempted to leave the heating running – which contributes to excessive energy usage and booming living costs. A smart meter is a simple, effective way to keep an eye on what you’re using and when.
For example, if you’re out of the house at work during the day, and the kids are at school, you can programme your meter to switch off when you leave and back on before you return, so your home is always warm – but only when you need it to be. If you’re concerned about your carbon footprint or your energy bills, knowing how you consume electricity can help you make good choices, such as only running the washing machine when you have a full load.
Smart meters work best when they come with a timer and thermostat and are equally useful for gas or oil central heating systems if you’re taking your eco-friendly renovation one step at a time. A timer, thermostatic radiator valves and a room thermostat will save the average three-bedroom property from £70 and 300 kg of carbon emissions every 12 months.
Replacing Old Glazing and Updating Window Frames
Double or triple glazing can work wonders to reduce the flow of heat that escapes through thin, single glazed glass panels that do nothing to contribute to an efficient home.
Families serious about being green can also opt for durable, professionally fitted wooden frames instead of UPVC to avoid the toxic compound emissions and pollution associated with plastics. Excellent quality glazing can reduce heat loss by a whopping 30% and save £110 to £140 a year on heating costs.
Reducing Water Consumption
Our final suggestion is to think about water usage – because, although your water bill might not sting as much as other utilities, you’re still using heating and electricity systems to warm the water you use and send it through your pipework.
Only boiling as much water as you need, investing in an eco-kettle, or upgrading to those incredible smart taps means you’ll use less electricity and avoid unnecessary water wastage. A low-flow shower head is also a great idea, which uses less energy while being just as powerful.
Adding Value to Your Property Through Green Energy Upgrades
We’ve mentioned a few indicative costs and savings to give a rough idea about the financial benefits of making your home more eco-friendly – but there is a tangible economic advantage that goes far beyond your household bills.
Whenever you sell a property or rent one out, you must present the buyer or tenant with an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). Your assigned rating indicates how efficient your home is and, therefore, what it will cost to run. A recent survey shows that 55% of homeowners want to make sustainable changes to the way they live, and 33% of buyers consider the EPC rating very important. While a higher energy rating might not seem like a pivotal selling point, in 2021, a better EPC added a £40,000 premium to sustainable property selling prices.
Even if it takes a few years to repay a green investment through your utility bills, it’s also adding value back elsewhere.
For more information about any of these eco-friendly home ideas or advice on the best projects to tackle your green property upgrade, please get in touch with the Pinnacle Works team. Our experienced, friendly team can recommend sustainable swaps that will pay the best dividends in energy costs and make your home warmer, greener, and easier to sell in the future.