How does a sustainable home help the environment?


These days there is a lot of talk about “living sustainably” but what does it actually mean in practical terms? What does a sustainable home have that other homes don’t have?

Article by Vivion O’Kelly. Images by Kevin Horn and courtesy of BRIGHT.

Vista Lago Residences

Shut The doors. Turn off the lights. Make sure the immersion heater is switched off. That was about it in days gone by, the full extent of our commitment to energy saving in the home, and we thought of these measures only when going on holidays. And as far as conservation and sustainability was concerned, we hardly thought about it at all. We knew little of passive home construction, and ecology was a word beloved of hippies, earth mothers and their kind.

How times have changed. Not just because the price of heating, cooling and maintaining a home has gone up, but because we have all become more aware of the vital importance of conserving what’s left of our natural environment. It may test personal commitment to see factories still spew out tonnes of dangerous substances into the air in many parts of the world, but we do what we can. And it starts in the home.

Old power station
It’s testing to see this still happening… but we do what we can! And it starts at home.

Vista Lago Residences

In the case of Vista Lago Residences, it started on the drawing board. Right from the start, BRIGHT, the development company behind this luxury, sustainable development in the hills above Marbella, decided to go the full nine yards in ensuring that this project would be one of the most innovatively sustainable luxury developments in Southern Europe. They also wanted proof that they had done so, and this came in the shape of BREEAM certification, which is a universally recognised badge of excellence in innovative sustainability and conservation technology. This affects both the way Vista Lago villas are built and the functionality of their supporting systems.

Vista Lago Residences
Vista Lago is one of the most innovatively sustainable luxury developments in Southern Europe

Well-insulated homes

For a start, sustainable homes need to be very well insulated, to a degree unusual in residential properties up to recent times. The thermal insulation of the Vista Lago building envelope has been thickened and thermal bridges have been reduced, to achieve a higher Spanish regulations rating for non-renewable energy consumption and carbon emissions.  An indoor ventilation system with both exhaust and intake heat recovery system is in place in all rooms, automatically controlled and all contributing to indoor air quality and energy saving by indoor air renewals.

Solar Energy Panels
Solar energy ensures the villas have a low carbon footprint

Low carbon footprint

Electrical energy consumption is optimised by a heat recovery aerothermal system and a sophisticated intelligent control system, while each villa will use photovoltaic panels to contribute to the electrical consumption in the home, producing close to 14,000 WH each year. The interior and exterior lighting will also be energy saving, with high luminous efficiency.

A BREEAM certificate is a guarantee of good living in every sense of the word, involving not only energy efficiency but health and wellbeing, innovative products and processes, land use, materials used in construction, management, pollution, transport, waste and water use. This makes it good for the environment on many different levels, and it also increases the value of a property over the long-term.

Lake View
Vista Lago is surrounded by magnificent countryside

Long before the architects sat at their drawing boards, BRIGHT had taken a close look at the terrain in its natural state and determined that it would stay in this state as much as was humanly possible. Their aim was two-fold: to reduce the visual impact of the buildings on the environment and to take advantage of their better adaptation to the Mediterranean climate. All Vista Lago homes have Class A energy levels with regard to primary energy use and carbon dioxide emissions, with solar panels used to support domestic power use, including the heating of water.

Lake Istan
The Istán reservoir, the water source for the whole of the Costa del Sol

Saving Water

Storage of rainwater and grey water will exceed 75 percent of toilet, irrigation and washdown water use, with minimised drinking water consumption, reduction of the amount of water to be treated, grey water and rainwater made suitable for irrigation re-use, highly effective dual-flush systems in place, pressurised water-saving systems in the taps and a rainwater harvesting system capable of meeting 50 percent of irrigation demand. Every time a resident washes their hands or has a shower, they can be certain that water used is not being wasted. And when the rain falls, they can be sure the soil moisture sensors will detect the rain and adjust the automated irrigation system accordingly.

Vista Lago Residences
Vista Lago villas are designed to ensure that natural light floods the living spaces

Heating & Cooling

Climate control is an essential factor in comfortable living, and with heating and cooling systems that allow for independent adjustment of temperature settings for each of the main living areas, the temperature of the air in the home does not have to rely fully on the excellent ventilation resulting from state-of-the-art architectural design, by which at least 80% of the working area in every kitchen, living room, lounge and study will benefit from direct daylight from the outside (quite apart from the numerous other measures taken to ensure savings in artificial light energy).

Vista Lago Residences
Some of the Vista Lago villas overlook Marbella

While these homes have thus been designed to take full advantage of natural airflow, they also have an intelligent climate control system that optimises electricity consumption and includes monitoring of the system by mobile device or a thermostat. Add to this heat pumps and an aerothermal heat recovery system for both the HVAC system and the domestic hot water system, underfloor heating systems, photovoltaic panels systems and a renewable energy system to heat the swimming pool, and one has, in very simple terms, a comfortable and care-free home.    

Vista Lago Residences
Vista Lago villas follow strict and numerous environmental guidelines

In short, the “Excellent” level in BREEAM Sustainability Certification means following numerous and strict environmental guidelines, from the environmental footprint of the materials used throughout the home life cycle to the impact of the home, both inside and outside each villa, on the environment.

There are no shortcuts to excellence. Attaining such a degree of environmental friendliness has been a long and arduous road, built up bit by bit over many decades by dedicated pioneers in the protection and conservation of the natural world. How far we are from full-percentage sustainability in home construction we do not yet know, but we can rest assured, in a Vista Lago villa, that we are closer to it than in almost any other part of the world.

As the author Robert Swan said “The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.” We all have to do our bit, and like charity – it starts at home.

For more information on Vista Lago Residences visit our Vista Lago information page and gallery, or call the Sales Team directly on: (+34) 682 105 002 You can also contact them by Email: