Advice

Carbon negative housing scheme

With today being National Environment Day, I’ve been thinking about all things environmentally friendly. Each year there’s a new campaign and this time it’s The United Nations Environment Program’s Think.Eat.Save – tackling the food wastage that adds to our carbon footprint.

While food waste is this year’s focus, it makes sense to keep track of other green solutions and South Shields’ Sinclair Meadows stands out as one of the most interesting schemes to date. Our homes contribute hugely to our carbon footprint, alongside our methods of transport so a green housing development gets a big tick in the home improvement industry for its innovation.

The 21 home project by the Four Housing Group aimed to create the UK’s first carbon negative social housing development – satisfying the Code for Sustainable Homes at Level 6. Designed by Fitz Architects, the project will be evaluated in 18 months time but the early reports reveal that it’s been a success. As I write, the development stands at 15% less than zero carbon!

Image Source: Four Housing Group

The design elements and renewable technologies give us an insight into what we could implement in our own homes, or in future new builds.

The main rooms in the homes face south to make use of natural heat and light from the sun and the surrounding buildings are staggered to reduce cooler north facing elevations that require more energy to heat. There’s a shared central heating system which uses a zero-carbon community biomass boiler heated by sustainable wood pellets and the power comes from the 700sqm solar photovoltaic (PV) panels on the roofs.

The temperature inside the homes is also controlled by an energy efficient ventilation system that re-uses the heat from outgoing air to heat fresh air. So there’s no extra cost involved to constantly maintain a comfortable temperature of air inside the homes.

Image Source: Four Housing Group

Whenever you go green, you’ve got to think about water usage. We’ve all heard that showers are better than baths for being kinder to the environment. By bringing in a rainwater harvesting system, the amount of mains water that’s used day to day is reduced. The rainwater is collected from the roof and stored in underground tanks to supply the water for toilet flushing, washing machines and garden irrigation. There’s low voltage artificial lighting in every room and all domestic appliances are ‘A’ rated too – just to cover all bases.

When it comes to materials, window and door frames are made from sustainably sourced timber and the windows are triple glazed to reduce the amount of heat escaping through the panes. The roof shingles are made from cedar wood which is a natural waterproof insulator that’s perfect for protecting against any poor weather. Of course, all roof material has to be waterproof and insulate but the fresh thing about them is their weight. As they’re so lightweight, there’s no need to strengthen the structure with more material.

Image Source: Four Housing Group

By learning from such a successful project, maybe we could reduce our bills by 75% too and start paying £30 a month like the Sinclair Meadows residents!

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