HOUSE HUNTER: `I want my holiday home to be eco-friendly'


Catarina Lewis writes: My family is from Portugal - just outside Lisbon - but we moved to England in 1978 when my father's job was relocated to Surrey. Although I only spent some of my childhood there, I have a special affinity with Portugal and speak Portuguese, as do my two young children who have been brought up bi-lingually.

It therefore seemed only natural that when my husband and I decided we should buy a holiday home, Portugal was the first choice. We are still very happy with our choice of location, it is the property itself that is proving problematical.

My husband and I are keen environmentalists and we would really like to buy a home that has sound ecological credentials, at the same time we have to balance this desire with the needs of our two young children in terms of both entertainment and security. Ideally we would love to buy a rural house in the middle of the country, but while our children are still so young we think it would probably be best to be near the coast. We don't want to buy a house or apartment in a big development that has degraded the environment either visually or in terms of ecosystem upheaval. Our other main concerns are energy consumption and the surroundings, which should be green and natural rather than concrete. We also want to be near an airport - either Faro or Lisbon - so access for weekends is fairly easy.


Katy Pownall writes: In Portugal, there is no equivalent to the SAP (Standard Assessment Procedure - the UK's universal indicator of the efficiency of energy use in homes). In fact, there is no legal requirement for environmentally friendly initiatives within existing Portuguese building regulations. This means that any property not explicitly designed, built and marketed as "green" is unlikely to fulfil any of your eco-criteria at all.

The good news is that a European Union directive comes into effect in January 2006. This will require the energy efficiency of all new buildings to be calculated using a European standard. In theory, this will mean that all member-states will have a universal scale for housing based on thermal insulation, heating, ventilation, air conditioning and taking into account renewable energy sources.

Until then, you may struggle to find truly "green" property in Portugal other than the two developments I have listed for you (Alma Verde and Mata de Sesimbra). You can undertake your own research to find others - for example, environmentally friendly housing is a popular editorial subject in overseas property magazines at the moment. There are also a number of property award schemes that carry a category for the "Most Environmentally Aware" or similar.

Paul King, the campaign director of the World Wildlife Fund, said: "A property needs to have well insulated walls, ceilings and roofs, and double- glazed windows. In Portugal this will be crucial for keeping heat out in summer, as well as keeping it in during winter.

"Find out if there is any scope for using renewable energy sources. For example, could you fit solar panels? Water efficiency is also important, particularly in hotter climates. Having dual-flush toilets and water-efficient taps and showers can reduce water usage by a third. Transport is key - find out how far away local amenities are. The less you have to use your car, the better."

Depending on the amount of money (you haven't specified a budget), time and effort you wish to spend on your home, you may want to try the ready- to-go options I have presented you with. For example, it may be cheaper to buy a traditional property and bring it up to standard using the advice of organisations such as The Energy Savings Trust or the Environment Agency. Your final option is to buy a plot of land and commission a "green" home to be built by a sympathetic architect.


Property one: Villa Mimosa at Alma Verde.

Price: pounds 397,382.

Agent's details: Alma Verde is situated on the Western Algarve within driving distance of Faro airport and just a few minutes from the coast. It is a 36-hectare rural site of which only 10 per cent has been built on, with one third of the remainder devoted to parkland and recreational areas. Conceived and developed as a low energy development, Alma Verde is constructed of adobe bricks manufactured on site and incorporates a "cool house" system rather than conventional air conditioning. These and many other design and construction innovations led to the development winning the Most Environmentally Aware Award at last year's Homes Overseas Magazine Awards. Mimosa is a four bedroom villa with a large plot featuring a private terrace, a pool and garden areas.

Contact: Tel: +351 282 697857/9;

Property two: Four bedroom villa in Loule.

Price: pounds 549,688.

Agent's details: Though not an ideal eco-friendly property (there is, for example, no double glazing), this is a beautiful home with the "green" credential of solar power energy. In the summer, the sun provides 100 per cent of the property's energy needs, 75 per cent in winter. There is good insulation and dual flush toilets. The villa has a plot of 1,400sq m with 360 degree panoramic views of the surrounding countryside and the sea. There is a private pool. But you will need a car as the property is isolated (though just 20 minutes from Faro airport.)

Agent: Newskys 0845 330 1449;

Property three: Mata de Sesimbra. Price: TBA.

Details: This project is the first of a series of sustainable development schemes to be launched by One Planet Living, a joint initiative of WWF and BioRegional. Situated south-west of Lisbon, this eco-friendly tourist resort will comprise 6,000 houses to be built by developers Pelicano - from one-bed apartments to four bedroom houses. All energy will come from renewable sources and recycling will reduce water consumption. Leisure, health and school facilities will be on site as will a 4,800 hectare nature reserve.

Contact: Either WWF or BioRegional (see below).

v If everyone in the world consumed the same natural resources and generated carbon dioxide at the rate Europeans do, we would need three planets to support us. If everyone used what the average North American does, we would need five planets. About 45 per cent of energy generated in the world is used to heat, light and ventilate buildings. (Facts from WWF's Living Planet Report) v Useful contacts

Should you wish to find out more about environmentally friendly housing, the following organisations may be helpful:

World Wildlife Fund, 01483 426 444, sustainablehomes;

BRE (Building Research Establishment), 01923 664 000,;

BioRegional, 020 8404 4880,;

CABE - The Commissions for Architecture and the built environment, 020 7960 2400,;

Energy Savings Trust, 020 7222 0101,;

European Environment Agency, +45 33 36 71 00,

If you would like House Hunter's help, write to: The Independent, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, 020-7005-2000

or e-mail: househunter

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Suggested Topics
newsAnother week, another dress controversy on the internet
Life and Style
Scientist have developed a test which predicts whether you'll live for another ten years
Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
news... and what your reaction to the creatures above says about you
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executive - Call Centre Jobs

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - Covent Garden, central London - £45k - £55k

£45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...

Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator - Lancashire - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: 3rd Line Support Engineer / Network ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Web Developer

£26000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Web Developer is required to ...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn