Beware the so-called ‘eco-house’

As with anything that becomes fashionable, the original concept of an ‘eco-house’ and ‘eco-living’ has in some areas been hijacked by those looking to make a quick buck. I have noticed this more and more in France, where the term ‘eco-house’ is now regularly applied to any house for sale that happens to be built out of wood or that has some form of alternative energy or insulation.

All I can say is, when house hunting, beware the term ‘eco-house’ and be sure you ask the agent or seller what it is that makes said property so ecological. Often it will turn out that the house is a wooden kit-house (which can be very ecologically sound but can equally mean very thin walls and very un-ecological, chemical wood preserver and unsustainable timber). Or simply that it has solar panels on the roof which is great but this does not suddenly make an old stone house into an ‘eco-house’.

The problem is that there is no agreed definition as to what constitutes an ‘eco-house’. It is, however, generally accepted that it is a property built in such a way that reduces energy consumption and waste while also reducing the negative impact of a building on human health and the environment. Hence an eco-house should be a combination of sustainable location, sustainable materials and sustainable living brought about through better design, construction, siting, operation and maintenance.

The design and construction of the building should be done in harmony with the natural environment and an eco-house should give the owner the ‘best of both’ by providing less of an impact on the environment along with a healthier place to live and lower ongoing running costs.

So far, out here in South West France, I could count on one hand the number or eco-houses I have seen measuring up to this definition. I hope that this is going to change and I will see more and more houses providing more sustainable ways of living but, in the meantime, by all means put ‘ecological’ on your property search wish list but be very wary of anyone trying to sell you a so-called ‘eco-house’.


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