Read the meter — with pleasure
Pioneering low-carbon new homes are now being built in London for as little as £263,995, reports David Spittles
THE onset of winter and the prospect of high energy bills concentrate not only the minds of householders but those of housebuilders, too. Demand for low- energy homes becomes stronger, with buyers prepared to pay a premium for comfort, convenience, a greener lifestyle and long-term savings.
Insurer Direct Line says London households waste £2.23 billion a year on inefficient heating systems and unthinking use of energy. Property tends to be more polluting than cars, with energy used to heat, light and run our homes accounting for about 30 per cent of all UK carbon emissions.
While new homes are six times more energy-efficient on average than older ones, many fail on the green front despite the strong call for eco-efficiency. A study by property adviser CBRE shows eight in 10 buyers are willing to pay more for a top-quality, environmentally friendly home. Those in the 20-35 age bracket are the most enthusiastic about green design, while stylish, highfunctioning eco-homes can command a premium of up to 38 per cent.
Relatively few buyers get excited by the banal technicalities of biomass boilers and ground-source heat pumps, but they all want a well-designed, goodvalue-for-money home.
Arguably, if houses are to be innovative in the 21st century, they should look genuinely modern, not retro. Mock-Tudor semis with wind turbines often look ridiculous. Developers who are committed to green design lean towards contemporary architecture and energy-efficient factory production. Currently, the most environmentally advanced homes in Europe are those built to the German “Passivhaus” construction standard.
An entire street of green Futurehomes with relatively affordable price tags has been built in Zone 1 as part of the jumbo Elephant & Castle regeneration. Bordering a conservation area, the 15 houses reinstate an original Victorian terrace destroyed during the Blitz and later built over with council flats.
Though the houses have classic-looking brick façades and bay windows, they break with convention by using a low- energy construction technique that means they hardly need heating and consume 49 per cent less water than the average London home.
Triple-glazed, with an advanced air tightness that eliminates draughts, there is also a filtration system that removes dust, pollens and smoke. Aided by sunscreen shutters, in summer the houses are cool.
Passivhaus standards allow for energy savings of up to 90 per cent compared with a typical home. Owners can check reduced bills through a smart energymonitoring system.
Ranging up to 1,433sq ft, the houses are set over three levels and incorporate a small patio garden plus a roof terrace, though internally they could have been more architecturally daring. Prices for Futurehomes are priced from £1,495,000. Call 020 3675 9955.
The 15 houses are woven into the wider estate of more than 3,000 homes. Residents have access to communal rooftop “grow” gardens as well as a new two-acre park and underground parking. A showpiece energy hub, or power plant, delivers net zerocarbon heat and hot water to homes, and doubles as a community café and children’s nursery.
Going green is not just about installing low-energy appliances and using the latest building technology.
Stricter planning regulations mean developers have to think more creatively about how housing fits into the local environment, promotes ecology and integrates with public transport. They are already being required to set aside land for allotments and provide charging points for electric cars.
Kidbrooke Village near Blackheath covers 276 acres, with new homes sprinkled around a new park and nature reserve. The upgraded local station offers a 15-minute commute to London Bridge. Handsome apartment blocks and energy- efficient “urban houses” that reduce utility bills by a quarter and water usage by 30 per cent overlook this green expanse. The apartments cost from £450,000 and houses from £915,000. Call Berkeley Homes on 020 8108 1868.
Hackbridge, in Sutton borough, was relatively unknown until the arrival of BedZed a decade ago. This pioneering, zero-carbon housing project was shortlisted for the prestigious Stirling Prize for architecture, triggering more ecodevelopments that the local council says are turning the area into the “UK’s first sustainable suburb, one of the greenest places in the country to live”.
New Mill Quarter, a former industrial estate, is the biggest development yet — 750 homes moments from the train station and with its own district heating system.
The standout architectural aspect is green walls of urban vegetation that help to regulate air temperature, combat pollution, absorb rainwater and increase biodiversity. Apartment blocks will have community roof gardens. Prices from £263,995. Call David Wilson Homes on 0844 777 0034.
In Kingston, River Walk is a scheme of waterfront apartments with a pioneering heating system that extracts 13 million litres of water a day from the Thames and reuses it for hot water and underfloor heating. above left, flats at New Mill Quarter, a scheme featuring living walls and a district heating system in Hackbridge, Sutton
From £450,000: eco-homes at Kidbrooke Village, near Blackheath, cut energy bills by a quarter and water usage by nearly a third