Extract from an article in the Waitrose “Weekend” magazine
– August 2019

Building for the future …

Some developers are going the extra mile to ensure that their properties are ecofriendly,
as Sarah Giles discovers

Providing more housing for a growing UK population, while at the same time protecting the environment leads to areas of potential conflict. The good news is that many housebuilders are addressing this, ensuring that the houses they’re putting up are ecologically sound and environmentally friendly to run too.

Some developers are opting to have their homes certified by The Passivhaus Trust, a voluntary standard for energy efficiency in buildings. There are currently 1,200 certified dwellings in the UK. In a Passivhaus home, heat loss is minimal, so hardly any additional heating is needed, thanks to excellent insulation, high-performance windows and insulated frames. The building fabric is also airtight with a mechanical ventilation system that has highly efficient heat recovery (bringing fresh air in from outside and retaining heat that’s normally wasted – from the sun, air, household appliances and even the occupants).

Project Etopia builds to Passivhaus standards and its homes feature earth energy banks, which use solar energy and pumps to store heat that can be used for hot water and heating later on. On their recent development in Corby, Northamptonshire, 47 modular homes had earth energy banks installed as well as solar panels, so homeowners there will be free of energy bills.

Other developers are coming up with innovative ways to make their properties environmentally friendly too. Greencore, for example, builds its homes using prefabricated timber panels that contain a thick, natural insulation layer made from Yorkshire-grown hemp mixed with lime. Using these panels for construction radically reduces carbon dioxide emissions compared with conventional brick and concrete walls.

Meanwhile, Steff Wright of Gusto Homes in Lincolnshire has been at the forefront of the eco-housing movement since his company built its first environmentally friendly house 20 years ago. The homes he builds are fully electrical, use air filtration and heat recovery systems and generate power from solar panels on the roof. Running costs are usually less than £1 a day.

“What frustrates me is that there’s no government legislation relating to eco­building,’ says Steff. All developers should be forced to build super-efficient houses through more demanding regulations.”

On a 12-acre site five miles from Lincoln city centre, Steff is working on building Woodlands Edge. When complete, it will have 29 homes – on other sites of a similar size, you’d expect to see around 100, and it’s a far cry from your typical new housing estate. With its own woodland, tennis court, ponds and an allotment for every household, it’s leading the way in the future of eco-housing.

“Twenty years experience of building eco-homes has gone into this site, not just the sustainable houses but the community element as well,’ says Steff, who loves it so much he lives there himself. This is how housing should be!”