UK seeks zero-emissions homes

London, UK – In response to the United Kingdom’s recent housing regulations which are expected to make zero-emissions homes mandatory by 2016, designers and architects have worked to develop a prototype for such a home. One such design has so far been put forth, combining innovative building design techniques with clean technologies.

The UK launched the Code for Sustainable Homes - a new national standard for sustainable design and construction of new homes – in December 2006.

It is based on a version of the BREEAM green building assessment tool, which is similar to the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification system used in Canada and the United States. Houses are assigned a rating from one to six ‘stars’, ranking the overall sustainability performance of a home according to nine categories, including: energy, CO2 emissions, pollution, water, materials, and waste.

There are minimum standards for energy and water efficiency at every level, and non-mandatory standards which are awarded points towards the overall score. ouses achieving a one-star rating would need to improve energy use by 10% over current regulations, while a six-star residence would need to meet a zero-carbon emission rating.

Read more on the code here.

Currently voluntary, the Code is expected to be made mandatory, possibly as soon as 2008, though government-backed housing, such as those built for the Housing Corporation or English Partnerships, now have to reach set levels of the code. Source has speculated that the zero-carbon rating will be mandatory by 2016, spurring the development of innovative new sustainable homes.

English Partnerships is now seeking firms to bid for the right to build “near zero and zero carbon communities”. The “Carbon Challenge” will accept applications until January 2008.

Sites must be capable of supporting at least 200 homes to ensure a critical mass allowing the installation of shared energy systems and other features that will contribute to a near zero or zero carbon footprint for each new settlement. The developments will provide testing grounds for the government’s plan for five “eco-villatges” of up to 100,000 homes. Click here for details.

Architect Sheppard Robson and advanced construction materials firm Kingspan Off-Site recently unveiled the first such ‘carbon-neutral home’, called “The LightHouse”. The two and a half storey, two-bedroom house pushes the envelope of sustainable design and showcases some unique innovations and technologies.

According to the project proponents, every building material and component used has been specified for its ability to optimise the house design’s overall sustainability credentials.

This includes water efficient appliances; a rainwater capture device; a solar array for hot water and electricity; a wind catcher for ventilation; and a biomass boiler. The building envelope is highly efficient, employing high performance structural insulated panels (SIPS) and a mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR) system.

As well, a waste separation system allows combustible waste to be burned to help provide power. Smart metering and monitoring equipment allows residents to evaluate their resource consumption and make adjustments as desired.

The unusual building design provides floor area of around 100m2 locates sleeping areas at ground level, placing living areas where the use of natural light can be maximized.

The house will realize substantial energy savings, spending an estimated $65 Cdn. per year compared to over $1000 for a conventional home of its size. In areas where it is permitted, the house could sell excess energy back to the grid at times.

Although the house would cost around 40% more than a standard home, the developers say that would fall if they were built in large volumes, and entire developments would offer greater opportunities for energy generation through district heating and electricity systems.

For More Information: Government of the United Kingdom

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