In recent years there has been a cultural shift away from buying items of high quality and a move towards cheaper goods. This seems to apply in many walks of life, but it could be argued that it creates a false economy. While it caters for immediate needs, the items in question rarely last long and must soon be replaced. Due to the cheap design and materials from which the product is made, there may also be next to no recycling value.
There's a similar situation with satellite TV subscriptions and mobile phone rental (or even buying a printer or electric toothbrush), the upfront cost is temptingly low and somehow the ongoing monthly costs don't feature that much in the decision-making process. It's a form of credit, where we probably know there is a better way of doing things but we're living for today!
Oddly it doesn't apply across the board. Look at the case of Apple computers, which are substantially more expensive than PCs but have a certain kudos. Perhaps a new car might be a status symbol… So what might our thinking be when we come to build a new home?
In terms of meeting a low energy building standard (let's consider Passivhaus), it is true to say that – at this point in time – it costs more, but only fractionally more. The upsides, however, are considerable.
- You get large savings on your bills (due to minimal heating requirements)
- You have less maintenance to do (because there's less heating infrastructure than a traditional house)
- The air quality is good (with a ventilation system) and there are no draughts
- It's quiet (because the house is sealed and there's triple glazing)
- The overall build is robust and long-lasting
With the average self builder moving every 25 years, spending a little bit more on your construction for all these added benefits seems like a common sense judgement. It should be a greener choice too!
*Episode 3 of the House Planning Help Podcast starts a mini series on the Passivhaus standard*