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Green property – from Marbella eco-builds to zero-carbon in Hertford

Renowned architects, developers and one of the Costa del Sol’s leading real estate firms have launched an ‘exciting new collaboration’ to help create more sustainable, eco-friendly homes in Marbella, with plans to upcycle shipping containers.

With sustainability and eco-friendliness becoming an increasing priority for buyers and investors, and an increasingly important aspect within architecture as a result, products and solutions are needed for those seeking to build their dream home in the sun while also helping to protect the planet.

More attention than ever is being paid to how building materials impact our environment, with the construction sector responsible for an alarmingly high amount of the emissions generated by many countries around the world.


The German Schween family of architects and developers and Spanish property expert Sean Woolley from Cloud Nine Spain are passionate about how upcycling shipping containers to create eco-friendly builds – and other innovative ways of building - can help to reduce our carbon footprint and reduce pressure on raw materials.

They hope that The Astonishing Collection will enable buyers and investors to save time and money, as well as protecting the planet from the environmental harm caused by traditional building practices.

Lukas Schween, an architectural assistant at his family’s Marbella-based company Schween & Schween – and an architecture graduate from Oxford Brooks University - has a keen interest in energy-efficient construction and the use of recycled materials, and has been investigating the benefits of reusing shipping containers in construction for many years.

His research revealed that the surplus of unused shipping containers is growing rapidly, and that they represent an excellent base for green architecture.

“Container architecture offers a unique way in which one can use upcycled materials to build an aesthetically pleasing and affordable home using a material which is already there, rather than producing or trying to sustainably source materials,” he said.

“It is known as ‘green architecture’, as its origin and focus lies in upcycling used steel shipping containers, which are readily available. Either these steel boxes would have to be melted down, which requires around 8,000 kWh of energy per container, or they just remain unused not fulfilling any purpose and taking up space.”

Instead, he says, these could be used as a sustainable solution to produce affordable housing, upcycling and saving approximately 17,500kg worth of steel for a home which utilises five shipping containers as the main raw material.

The recycling and reuse of existing raw materials is not the only environmental benefit of the off-site construction method being recommended by the team behind The Astonishing Collection, it also significantly reduces the need for trucks, heavy machinery and materials which need to be transported to the site, thereby cutting carbon emissions.

The only transportation required is the moving of containers from factory to site, and as no excavation is typically needed, the whole process claims to be a lot more sustainable.

Lastly, the collaborators say, the energy used in the construction of the home is also considerably lower as the architects are working with existing materials which do not have to be created, keeping energy use low.

The Astonishing Collection is aiming to help clients to design and build their dream homes on the Costa del Sol, using a range of innovative construction methods to deliver beautiful villas which are cost-effective, energy-efficient and mindful of the environment.

You can find out more about the joint venture here.

Hertford set to welcome net-zero carbon homes

An exclusive development of highly eco-friendly homes on the edges of the county town of Hertfordshire has been designed to meet the maximum five-star rating under the Home Quality Mark, the first time nationally that a small development by a niche developer has been designed to meet such a high level.

Waterford Wick on Sacombe Road in Hertford is made up of only eight houses, designed to a high environmental standard with a wide variety of eco-features, which the developer says proves that ‘sustainability and luxury can go hand-in-hand’.

The Home Quality Mark is a national certification scheme developed to give homebuyers the confidence that they are choosing a well-built, highly sustainable and environmentally-friendly home that is built to surpass the current building standards.

The homes at Waterford Wick, carefully crafted by Hertford-based developer Heritage Estate Group to minimise the effects on the environment and allow for lower running costs, are said to represent ‘the highest level of quality’.

The team behind the homes say the top rating from Home Quality Mark will be an added incentive for potential buyers who can now purchase these homes off-plan.

The eight detached homes, located on the edge of Waterford Heath Nature Reserve, embrace the latest in renewable technology, innovative design and state-of-the-art construction techniques, including ‘highly efficient heat pumps’, photovoltaic panels, rainwater recycling, superior sound insulation, waste-water heat recovery systems and advanced ventilation for enhanced air quality.

The development is ‘net-zero carbon’, with all carbon emissions from the construction phases offset, as well as 95% of demolition and construction waste diverted from landfill.

Once complete, the homes will have an ‘A’ rated Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), the most efficient rating, which will mean low utility bills for residents. As well as taking a green approach to energy saving, the team behind the homes say they will also increase the ecological value of the land and improve biodiversity.

“Our vision for Waterford Wick was to create a collection of premium homes that had as little environmental impact as possible, while not compromising on style and luxury,” Stuart Smart from Heritage Estate Group said.

“This is a unique location on the edge of the nature reserve and surrounded by countryside, so we wanted the development to sit lightly in the environment, enhancing local ecology, reducing energy usage and boosting the wellbeing of residents. We are proud this has been achieved and recognised with the five-star Home Quality Mark.” 

The houses at Waterford Wick are available in a range of three and four-bedroom layouts, each with car parking and a private garden, as well as electric car charging points.

Interior spaces include low energy lighting and smart home technology, while the hub of each home is the flexible open-plan kitchen and dining area with bifold doors to the garden. ‘Sweeping’ views of the nature reserve and surrounding fields are provided, offering ‘a strong connection with nature’ and ‘promoting a sense of wellbeing’.

Despite this peaceful location, the development is well-connected, sitting just a short distance from Hertford town centre and in easy reach of road and rail links to London and beyond.

The homes at Waterford Wick come at something of a high cost, though, available from £850,000.

Custom built eco-homes offer an escape to the countryside

New plots being launched at Rowallan Castle Estate offers buyers the chance to purchase an eco-home custom built to their needs, set in the countryside and next to a castle and Colin Montgomerie golf course. 

The first phase of the £60 million luxury development at Rowallan Castle Estate has just been released, with a total of 38 plots available for custom-build homes in the joint venture between Cherish Homes and Rowallan Castle. Completed house prices are expected to be in the range of £400,000 to more than £1 million, depending upon specifications and size.

Residents will be able to design their new house to fit their lifestyle and the needs of their family, with the support of custom housebuilder Cherish Homes.

The first 25 plots have been released in the Stable Field part of the development, with a starting price of £120,000 for the plot itself. The plots, which are surrounded by rolling hills and fields of bluebells, range in size from 0.05 to 0.2 acres, providing space to accommodate a custom designed four-bed detached home.

The total costs for the finished eco-homes on Stable Field, including the plot, are anticipated to be between £400,000 and £700,000, depending upon size and fit-out specification.

Another part of the development – the aptly named Fair View, thanks to its mostly frontline golf fairway positions – has also now been released and is taking reservations. It runs parallel to the first fairway providing ‘unrivalled views’ of the surrounding countryside.

In addition, there are a further limited number of 13 plots available, with plot prices starting from £275,000 for between 0.2 and 0.56 acres of land.

All-in costs of completed houses on Fair View plots – with enough space to accommodate houses of more than 5,000 sq ft - are anticipated to be between £700,000 and over £1 million once completed.

The homes are all set in the grounds of the grand 12th century Rowallan Castle Estate, with all the properties surrounded by ‘spectacular Scottish scenery and wildlife’. The estate is just a 30-minute drive from Glasgow Airport and the city centre of Scotland’s second city.

Residents also receive a year’s golf membership at the 19-hole championship golf course, designed by Ryder Cup-winning captain Colin Montgomerie, which features a clubhouse and ‘the much-acclaimed’ Glasshouse Restaurant.

The scheme is aiming to take its environmental responsibilities seriously, with the contemporary energy efficient builds all triple glazed and highly insulated. All utilise mechanical heat recovery and ventilation systems to deliver 100% airtightness, while achieving up to a ‘B’ Energy Rating.

The eco homes are described as ‘future proof’ and offer a ‘significant saving’ on energy bills. Ground source or air-source heat pumps - often chosen to substantially reduce energy costs by transferring heat into the home from the air or the ground, even in cold weather – are also in use.

The homes are a further addition to Rowallan Castle, the family estate of Niall Campbell, who himself has extensive experience in property development.

“Rowallan Castle Estate is an idyllic location for family living and this has become more important than ever as we are spending so much of our time at home,” he said.

“We are finding that people are looking for more space and specific requirements to suit their needs, but find it near impossible to find the right home in the ideal location. A custom-built house is the perfect solution and allows you to tick all of those boxes that you wouldn’t necessarily be able to achieve from a standard home. We have a fantastic sanctuary here in the estate and with the choice of a luxury home office we can make working from home a joy, not a chore!”

He added: “We are thrilled to be launching this first phase of plots with Cherish Homes to give residents that freedom to decide what their dream home looks like, providing expert support and advice along the way.”

“The future is moving towards more remote working and living out with the major cities to enjoy scenic surroundings and nature as part of the everyday lifestyle. That is exactly what Rowallan Castle Estate offers and we are looking forward to making that a reality for those ready to take the next step and secure a plot.”

For more information on the development and the plots available, you can visit the website here or contact 0800 368 7618.

Poll: Are innovative building methods - like recycling shipping containers - the future in order to build sustainably?



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