Barratt Developments has unveiled what it calls the first zero-carbon house developed by a volume housebuilder, built at the Buildings Research Establishment in Watford, packed with the latest technology, including solar panels, rainwater harvesting and an air source heat pump.
Its new kind of concrete walls and floors, combined with super insulation and triple-glazed windows, means its heat requirement will be minimal as it is airtight. Fresh air is brought into the building through a heat exchanger, which extracts the heat from outgoing stale air and puts it back into the house.
Mark Clare, chief executive of Barratt, said it would not be easy to reduce the cost of the prototype to commercial levels but he was confident it could be done. The important thing, he added, was to build houses that people would buy.
The public and builders still need to be convinced, according to the NHBC Foundation report, and it would seem todays kids – who will buy the homes – Kids dream homes – whose dream homes aren’t high on eco features.
The UK Green Building Council released a report this week defining what a zero-carbon house should be in practice. This is likely to form the basis of the legislation that the government is soon going to work on.
Housebuilders had been unhappy at the costs of going zero carbon and had wanted to be able to invest in off-site renewable energy such as wind turbines that would be cheaper for them. But the government is likely to endorse the GBC proposals that a zero-carbon house should produce almost all its energy on site or very near by in, say, a communal heat and power system.
Barratt plans rolling out its zero-carbon homes on the site of Hanham Hall hospital near Bristol. It will build 200 of them, a third of which will be affordable to lower-income buyers. All will be code level six and will completed in 2011, five years ahead of the deadline.