How to Build Your Own Eco House: A Step-by-Step Guide

Embarking on the journey to build your own eco house is not only an exciting adventure but also an important contribution to the environment. With increasing awareness of climate change and a focus on sustainable living, eco houses are becoming more popular in the UK. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the process of building an eco-friendly home, from understanding planning permissions to choosing the right materials.

What Is an Eco House?

An eco house, also known as a green or sustainable house, is designed to have minimal impact on the environment. It typically uses energy-efficient materials, reduces waste, and relies on renewable energy sources. An eco house aims to provide a comfortable and healthy living space while conserving natural resources and reducing the overall carbon footprint.

In the picturesque landscapes of West Sussex, an innovative architectural endeavor is unfolding. Nestled near the region’s historic landmarks, a visionary architectural Designer has showcased a preliminary drawing for a state-of-the-art eco-house.

The design is unique, with a verdant rooftop garden that beautifully merges functionality with aesthetics. Navigating the intricate maze of building regulations and planning permissions can often be challenging.

However, with the expertise of dedicated planners and a comprehensive understanding of local regulations, the project has smoothly transitioned from concept to nearing approval. This venture is poised to become a benchmark for sustainable design in Sussex, illustrating the balance between modernity and respect for the environment.

The Importance of Planning Permission

One of the first questions you may have is, “Do you need planning permission for an eco-house?” The answer is generally yes. Like any other construction project, building an eco house requires planning permission from your local authority. However, certain eco-friendly elements, such as solar panels and green roofs, may be covered under permitted development rights, which allow specific types of minor construction work without the need for planning permission. To ensure compliance with local regulations and avoid potential penalties, it’s crucial to consult with an Architectural Designer who can help you navigate the planning process.

We will assist you with every step of the process, from submitting applications to liaising with local authorities.

Cost of Building an Eco House

Many people wonder, “How much does it cost to build a self-sustaining house in the UK?” and “Are eco houses expensive to build?” While the initial cost of building an eco house can be higher than a conventional home, it’s important to remember that eco houses offer long-term savings on energy bills and maintenance costs. Over time, these savings can offset the initial investment, making eco houses more affordable in the long run.

To help you understand the cost to build an eco house, our team of Architectural Designers will work with you to create a budget and provide cost estimates for various eco-friendly features and materials. We will also advise you on potential grants and incentives available for eco house building projects.

Choosing Eco-Friendly Materials

Selecting the right materials is a critical step in building an eco house. Eco-friendly materials should be sustainable, non-toxic, and have a low environmental impact. Some popular choices for eco house construction include:

  • Timber from sustainably managed forests
  • Recycled steel
  • Natural insulation materials, such as sheep’s wool, wood fibre, and hemp
  • Green roofing materials, like sedum or wildflower roofs
  • Low VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) paints and finishes


The Cost of Building an Eco House in the UK

When it comes to the cost of building an eco house, many wonder, “how much does it cost to build a self-sustaining house UK?” The truth is, the cost to build an eco house can vary depending on factors like size, location, and materials used. While some might argue that eco houses are expensive to build, others will claim that they can be cheaper than traditional builds due to the potential for long-term energy savings.

Living Off-Grid and Earthships in the UK

Many people are intrigued by the idea of living off-grid in the UK, or even building an earthship – a sustainable, self-sufficient home made from natural and recycled materials. While it is possible to live off-grid in the UK, there are legal and logistical challenges to consider, such as access to utilities and planning permission. As for building an earthship, UK regulations might present some hurdles, but it’s not impossible. To learn more about living off-grid and earthships in the UK, read our article on embracing the future of eco-friendly Architectural Design.

What You Can Build on Your Land Without Planning Permission UK

There are certain types of structures you can build on your land without planning permission in the UK, including sheds, greenhouses, and some home extensions. However, there are limitations and specific rules governing what can be built without planning permission, which are outlined in the Permitted Development Rights. For a comprehensive guide to building without planning permission in the UK, check out our article on understanding permitted development.

Building Your Own Eco House: A Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Research and Plan: Begin by researching eco-friendly building techniques, materials, and technologies. Determine your budget, desired features, and location for your eco house. Consider engaging an Architectural Designer to help you create a design that meets your needs and adheres to building regulations.
  2. Obtain Permissions: Apply for planning permission and ensure your design complies with UK building regulations. If necessary, consult with an Architectural Designer to guide you through the process.
  3. Choose Sustainable Materials: Opt for eco-friendly materials such as reclaimed wood, recycled metal, and natural insulation materials like sheep’s wool or cellulose.
  4. Incorporate Green Technologies: Install solar panels, wind turbines, or heat pumps to generate renewable energy. Consider a rainwater harvesting system and greywater recycling for water conservation.
  5. Build with Energy Efficiency in Mind: Design your eco house with a focus on insulation, airtightness, and passive solar design to reduce energy consumption.
  6. Landscaping and Outdoor Spaces: Create an eco-friendly garden with native plants, sustainable decking, and permeable paving to minimise the environmental impact of your outdoor space.

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Frequently Asked Questions about Eco Houses

Q1: Can I convert my existing house into an eco house?

A: Yes, you can convert your existing house into an eco house by making several key improvements, such as upgrading insulation, installing renewable energy systems, and retrofitting sustainable materials. You may also consider hiring a professional to assess your home’s energy efficiency and suggest appropriate changes.

Q2: Are eco houses more expensive to build than traditional houses?

A: The initial cost of building an eco house can be higher than a traditional house due to the use of sustainable materials and technologies. However, eco houses tend to have lower long-term costs due to reduced energy consumption and maintenance, often resulting in a more cost-effective investment over time.

Q3: What are some common eco-friendly building materials?

A: Some popular eco-friendly building materials include reclaimed wood, recycled metal, bamboo, straw bales, and natural insulations like sheep’s wool, cork, and cellulose. These materials are sustainable and often have a lower environmental impact than their conventional counterparts.

Q4: What is a Passivhaus?

A: A Passivhaus is a rigorous energy-efficient building standard developed in Germany. It emphasises high-quality insulation, airtight construction, and passive solar design, resulting in ultra-low energy consumption and minimal heating and cooling requirements. Passivhaus buildings are known for their exceptional comfort, indoor air quality, and low running costs.

Q5: How can I make my garden more eco-friendly?

A: To create an eco-friendly garden, consider planting native species that support local ecosystems, using organic and sustainable gardening practices, installing a rainwater harvesting system, and choosing permeable paving or decking materials to reduce water runoff.

By learning about eco-friendly building methods, materials, and technologies, you can make informed decisions when building your own eco house or converting your existing home into a sustainable and energy-efficient living space. For more information, be sure to explore our Architectural Design blog and related articles on sustainable living and eco-friendly design.

About Shear Architectural Design

Shear Architectural Design is an award winning Architectural Design firm based in Sussex, specialising in residential and commercial projects. Our experienced team is dedicated to creating innovative, sustainable, and functional spaces that meet the unique needs of our clients. With a focus on collaboration and customer satisfaction, we work closely with you to bring your vision to life, from the initial concept to the final construction. To learn more about our services or to discuss your project, please contact us today.

Working with an Architectural Designer can help you to achieve your goals and ensure that your project is a success. Shear Architectural Design is a reliable and experienced company that can help you with your home renovation, building project or garden project, in Sussex.


As part of our comprehensive approach, we offer services to design a house plan tailored to your unique requirements.

Our Architectural Design process involves the creation of detailed Architectural Design drawings, which meticulously capture every aspect of your dream home. We also navigate the complexities of building regulation plans, ensuring that our designs adhere to both building regulations and planning permission guidelines.

By incorporating innovative Architectural ideas and working closely with you to draw a house design that reflects your vision, we strive to make the planning and design process as seamless and enjoyable as possible. Our commitment to excellence ensures that you receive a bespoke, high-quality living space that meets your needs and exceeds your expectations.

Our Services

At Shear Architectural Design, we offer a range of services to help you bring your vision to life:

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We assist with gaining planning permission and building regulations, ensuring that your project meets all necessary requirements.

Contact us today, on 01273 740642 to learn more about how we can help you create the home of your dreams!

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