The Future of Sustainable Homes?

Permaculture magazine
Friday, 17th July 2015

Cardiff University have constructed an affordable, zero-carbon house proving to Chancellor George Osbourne that it is possible to build sustainable and energy efficient social housing.

The 'impossible' zero-carbon house has been constructed in Cardiff.

Designers from Cardiff University have created a zero-carbon house with its costs within the range for social housing - which Chancellor George Osbourne previously described as impossible.

The house exports more power to the grid than it uses and costs £1,000 per square metre - the range for social housing is £800-1000. The requirement for new homes to be zero carbon by 2016 was scrapped by Osbourne, who said they would prove too expensive.

The House

The house, built in Bridgend, has air heating systems that rely on the sun instead of radiators, and an insulated render on the outside. Although future owners will have to import energy in the winter, these will be exceeded by exports in the summer.

It has glazed solar photo-voltaic (PV) panels fitted into the south-facing roof, so that the house is lit by natural light, solar generation and battery storage to run the electric system (appliances, LED lights and heat pump) and the ventilation and hot water system.

The house took just 16 weeks to build.

The BBC reported that another house aiming at low-cost social housing in Watford is nearly complete.

Both these homes will be scrutinised closely to make sure the figures are as efficient as predicted.

Professor Phil Jones, leader of the Cardiff project explained to the BBC: "Using the latest technology, innovation and design, it is indeed possible to build a zero carbon house at low costs, creating long-term benefits for both the economy and the environment.

"The cost of our carbon-positive house was similar to that of the social housing benchmark, making it an affordable option for house builders. We hope that this can be replicated in other areas..."

These projects are the perfect example that sustainable homes can be built within the budget, making them key to our future.

Energy Efficiency Policies

In March, the government scrapped the Code for Sustainable Homes and incorporated rules on energy efficiency into the Building Regulations. This was used by councils to demand that builders meet high environmental standards on energy, water, materials, waste and pollution.

Architects Journal explained: "The abolition of the energy standard for homes comes in response to the Housing Standards Review consultation and forms part of the government’s wider mission to slash housing regulations by 90 per cent."

They went on to explain: "Tom Dollard, head of sustainability at Pollard Thomas Edwards, mourned the loss. He said: ‘[The code] is a relatively simple and effective framework for sustainable housing, which has been successful at improving the baseline for housing in the UK.

"‘There are many elements, such as health, wellbeing and ecology, which will be lost with the new Building Regulations-only approach, and in many ways this new “simplified” approach is more complicated for developers and planning authorities.’"

The government has also cut funds for home energy efficiency as part of its austerity drive.

Read the full article at

Further resources

The need for sustainable buildings

Natural build at the South Downs Show

Building a Low Impact Roundhouse

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