Sustainable building design for country homes

Elevate the guest experience whilst maximising savings with the latest innovations

Contemporary architecture in today’s world will always incorporate elements of sustainable building design. Opting for renewable energy and green tech solutions provides future savings for the owner. Optimising water consumption is the most economic and responsible choice, particularly with so many regions facing regular droughts.

As far as the aesthetic is concerned, the use of sustainable and natural materials is in vogue and creates a unique and comfortable feel. Furthermore, architecture which blends in with the style of the destination is appreciated by travellers, who are seeking authentic experiences.


How does sustainable building design elevate the guest experience?

When people travel, they want to be immersed in the local culture and really feel as though they are part of a different way of life. Of course, you will highlight must-visit places as well as the local foodie scene in your guest guide. However, you can instantly provide them with a sense of place as soon as they step into your rental. Just by using sustainable local materials for furniture or artworks by local artists will create a memorable vibe.

From a more practical perspective, having cutting-edge renewable technologies can actually provide your guests with an extra layer of comfort. Installing underfloor cooling powered by a low-impact heat pump will provide a constant comfortable internal environment without the need for noisy, unhealthy air conditioning. Or running your swimming pool on a non-chlorine system will be kinder to guests’ skin and remove that unpleasant chlorine smell. In addition, both of these ideas are energy-efficient and generally require less maintenance.

Another less obvious factor to note is that many of your guests will be considering renewable technologies for their own homes. As such, they may be interested to see what you have installed and experience it first-hand.


How to incorporate sustainable building design into a country home

The Sustonica criteria cover 3 categories of short term rental properties: City Apartments and Town Houses; Country Homes; and Country Homes with Pools. Whilst much of the advice in this article can be adopted in a city setting, standalone properties in more rural areas can really make the most of sustainable building design.

This article suggests some of the most impactful aspects of sustainable building design that you can incorporate into your rentals.


1. Solar energy for electricity and hot water

Energy from the sun is a powerful resource and one which you can tap into for long-term savings and less dependency on energy networks and providers. The two main uses for solar energy are, firstly, photovoltaic panels for electricity generation. Secondly, in warmer climates, the heat of the sun can be used to provide hot water via solar panels. Both are relatively simple to install as long as you have a roof space which gets a reasonable amount of sunlight.

For photovoltaic panels there are often incentives as well as the opportunity to sell unused electricity back to the national grid. The price per kWh you will receive is usually called a feed-in tariff and will vary from country to country. Even without feed-in tariffs, the payback period is a lot quicker with potential savings being even greater due to the current volatility of energy markets.


DID YOU KNOW? – Having solar panels installed can get you up to 5.50% on the Sustonica criteria! Check out our standard.

Why is it part of the criteria? Using solar panels reduces the need for non-renewable energy sources such as coal, oil, and natural gas. This, in turn, leads to a decrease in the emission of greenhouse gases and air pollutants, helping to mitigate the impact of human activity on the environment and combat climate change.


2. Heat pumps for heating/cooling and hot water

Heat pumps are becoming extremely popular as they are a relatively economic technology to install. They have become a lot more sophisticated and adapted to different climates. Consequently, this makes them a frequent part of sustainable building design.

As with solar, they have more than one application. They can be used for heating, cooling and generating hot water. What makes them efficient is that for every 1 kW of energy consumed, they produce around 4 kW. They use either air, the ground or water to transfer heat from one place to another.

For heating, they can be integrated with existing systems or separate units which look like air conditioning units  In the same way, certain models can be reversed to act as an alternative to air conditioning.

Another use for a heat pump is to generate hot water. The unit uses a heat pump to generate the electricity to heat domestic hot water with the same savings of energy as mentioned above.


DID YOU KNOW? – Having a heat pump can get you up to 4.40% on the Sustonica criteria! Check out our standard.

Why is it part of the criteria? Heat pumps are a more environmentally friendly alternative to traditional heating and cooling systems, as they significantly reduce the carbon footprint of a house.


3. Smart technology to monitor, control and reduce consumption

Of course, installing renewable technology is not the only way to reduce energy consumption. State-of-the-art sustainable building design for vacation rentals will always incorporate smart technology. This approach will ensure that you cut back on unnecessary energy consumption whilst reducing your carbon emissions.

Furthermore, you will be able to remotely monitor and control your properties when they are empty. Not to mention ensuring that guests do not use excessive heating or cooling or leave everything on when they are out.

Some of the most effective smart devices to include in your sustainable building design are  as follows:

  • Smart thermostats for inside properties
  • Smart occupancy sensors
  • Water leak detection systems
  • Smart thermostats for swimming pools and hot tubs

One or more of these will all gain you points in the Sustonica Criteria.


4. Rainwater harvesting and water reduction technologies

Water is a most precious resource. Although climate change is causing massive flooding and storms, this water is often not captured and ends up causing devastation. Destinations all over the world are experiencing flooding and, undoubtedly, short-term rental properties have been affected.

On the other hand, other destinations are in a state of drought where every drop of rain matters and rising temperatures are only exacerbating this.

Alongside electricity, water usage will be a big cost for property operators, caused by guests and cleaning staff. Previously, we have highlighted the benefit of water saving devices as part of effective water management. These include flow reducers for taps and showers as well as dual flush toilets.

However, if your properties are in an out-of-city location where you have a reasonable amount of rainfall, you could explore rainwater harvesting as part of your sustainable design strategy. You will need to install downpipes which collect rainwater and then direct it into a rainwater harvesting tank. This could be a number of tanks at the end of various downpipes or a large tank underground with a pump to move the water. The collected water can be used for irrigation of the gardens. However, do not use it in your swimming pool as it is likely to upset the pH balance.

If it would be difficult to install a rainwater harvesting system, you could set up a green roof which looks amazing and can be naturally watered.


DID YOU KNOW? – Collecting rainwater can get you up to 4.82% on the Sustonica criteria! Check out our standard.

Why is it part of the criteria? Collecting rainwater can be an effective way to conserve water, reduce demand on municipal water supplies, and help manage stormwater runoff. It can also provide a source of water for outdoor uses, such as watering plants and landscaping, and can reduce water bills for homeowners and businesses.


5. Ionisation or natural filtration for swimming pools and hot tubs

A property with a swimming pool or hot tub is a frequently searched for amenity, particularly for more luxury properties. Sustainable building design has also been adopted for pools to incorporate energy efficiency as well as traveller preferences for more natural solutions.

Pools and hot tubs run on chlorine are no longer seen as the most efficient and healthy option. A much more state-of-the-art system is ionisation. These use minerals such as copper and silver to remove bacteria and algae in the water. From a maintenance point of view, this way of keeping the water clean is much less corrosive on parts than traditional chlorine.


DID YOU KNOW? – Running your swimming pool or hot tub on an ionisation system can get you up to 2.00% on the Sustonica criteria! Check out our standard.

Why is it part of the criteria? Ionisation is a 100% safe and healthy option for treating hot tubs and pools. It is safe for humans and poses no harm to the environment.


A second increasingly popular choice is natural filtration as travellers seek to feel more of a connection to nature. A natural pool uses materials such as rocks and plants to keep water healthy and free of bacteria and algae. This method is often referred to as biofiltration. One area of the pool is kept separate to the swimming area to allow for natural filtration.


DID YOU KNOW? – Having a natural filtration system for your pool can get you up to 2.00% on the Sustonica criteria! Check out our standard.

Why is it part of the criteria? By relying on natural processes, such as the action of bacteria and plants, to remove contaminants and impurities, natural filtration systems can help to promote a more sustainable and eco-friendly approach to water purification.


6. Landscaping to reduce water use and encourage pollinators

Properties which are standalone units usually have a garden as part of the appeal to guests. With the current shift to more natural landscape design, this is one area where you can include sustainable practices whilst creating an attractive space for your guests.

When you choose indigenous varieties of plants, they will be able to tolerate the local climate, whether that be a wet one or one with infrequent rainfall. This will reduce the need for excessive watering or plants failing due to too much water. We have already mentioned the use of rainwater harvesting to provide natural irrigation in times of low rainfall. Making use of drip feed irrigation systems set on a timer can also make sure that water is not wasted.

Most guests are aware that the natural world is suffering and are likely to be aware that bees are in decline. Planting a garden with indigenous varieties which will attract pollinators like bees creates colour and movement. Guests, and particularly children, will appreciate the spectacle and appreciate that you care about the natural world.


Incorporating sustainable design initiatives will present your properties as the height of architectural excellence. Whilst elevating the guest experience and instilling operational efficiencies.



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