Delighted tenants go green in Council housing initiative
TEN COUNTY WICKLOW families are this week settling into their beautiful new homes in Knockananna.
This may seem like a regular occurance in a region the size of Wicklow but for these ten families they are the thrilled recipients of the first houses in a pilot scheme to offer state-of-the-art ‘eco-houses’ to applicants on a County Council waiting list anywhere in Ireland.
The launch of these environmentallyfriendly properties has been hailed as a breakthrough and the tenants and their families are quick to agree with this.
‘The houses are brilliant, so much bigger and brighter than our last house. There is hardly any work to be done as long as the timers are set. The hot water lasts for ages due to the solar panels, and with three daughters that is a good thing. All I have to do is hoover out a small amount of ash from the wood pellet boiler every couple of days. Also it is so much more economical. A bag of pellets lasts a couple of weeks and only costs ¤3.75,’ explains Stacey Tallon, who lives with her husband James and their three children.
For neighbour Ann Heffernan the house has been a gift especially as she suffers from COPD, a condition which is aggravated by dusty environments such as that caused by an open fire.
‘The ventilation system is fantastic. I hardly need to use my inhalers now and the heat is incredible from just an hour with the boiler on. I am thrilled to be moved in now and my family love the house. It is so comfortable and modern and very easy to use since the council spent a day showing us the workings,’ she says.
‘So little fuel is needed to run the house and even when the heating is off the warmth is kept inside for hours. We have the temperature at the lowest level and it is still very warm,’ she adds.
Hailed as the houses of the future, the low- density and aesthetically pleasing development has been highly praised due to its environmentally friendly and economical design with each unit estimated to run on 64 per cent less energy than older properties.
A number of hi-tech features have been installed to ensure that the dormer-style houses are low energy and produce low emissions of CO2 including solar panels, wood pellet stoves, heat recovery ventilation systems which ensure the solar panels work to a greater standard to heat the home and water, and a highly insulated timber frame design.
Without a radiator in site the units are much warmer than their concrete counterparts and a modern ventilation system ensures that no heat escapes from the property but instead is renewed and filtered as it circulates through the system.
Any fears of a shortage of wood pellets or difficulty in sourcing them have been calmed by many local stores who have started to stock them especially for the new tenants.
An outdoor bunker has been provided with each property with a twenty- bag capacity ensuring that they will never run out of fuel.
Tenants now enjoy a high standard of accommodation while benefitting from reduced energy bills.
It is estimated that while the average oil powered property will cost in the region of ¤1,000 to heat annually these properties will use just ¤500 worth of fuel.
In advance of the project a vast amount of analysis was carried out by council officials to determine whether or not these modern units would be financially viable and if there would be a demand for them from applicants on the waiting list.
An initial application to construct 22 properties was lodged but permission was granted for ten on a pilot basis with monitoring to be undertaken before the final 12 will be completed.
Unprecendented interest was shown by those on the waiting list and it is now hoped that further eco-houses will emerge in Co. Wicklow.
In recent months since the project came to fruition a number of agencies from across the EU and from other local authorities in Ireland have visited Knockananna to inspect the estate for themselves.
It is expected that they will be used as a model for future projects due to their success.
Now that the building stage has condcluded the monitoring stage will commence.
‘Careful monitoring of the houses will commence now and will be compared to other units to determine the savings to be made and efficiency of the systems. Wicklow County Council, the tenants and NuTech Renewables will monitor the energy performance of the houses and will report on the energy balances to ensure that the design is functioning correctly,’ explained Stephen O’Sullivan, Scheme Designer and Project Manager.
According to Councillor Nicky Kelly, the launch of these properties has created local authority history.
‘It is fantastic to see council properties constructed which equal if not surpass private developments. This really is the future of local authority housing and already they have attracted a lot of interest from EU agencies. I would very much like to see further eco-houses sanctioned across County Wicklow.’
The Heffernan family - Laura, Anne, Emma and Edward - are some of the happy new tenants.
Sarah Tallon, Annie Tallon, Sarah Kennedy, Katie Tallon and Leanne Heffernan by one of the stoves that burns eco-friendly woodchip pellets, one of the many ‘green’ features in the new County Council houses at Knockananna (below).