New homes

All new homes need to be zero carbon from design to construction. This means utilizing sustainable building materials, insulation and on-site renewable energy and heat pumps.


Image: © Copyright Evelyn Simak and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Norwich City Council has built 100 council houses to a Passivhaus standard, leading to a 70% reduction in fuel bills for tenants, and smaller carbon footprints.

The Passivhaus Standard is a set of construction principles that results in homes having a stable ambient temperature of around 20C with very little additional heating or cooling.

Residents, pets, appliances (TVs, cookers, etc), and the sun all give off heat throughout the day: the idea behind Passivhaus is that this heat can be kept in a building through insulation, triple glazed windows and airtight seals on doors, then used to warm up the fresh air that is brought in through a mechanical ventilation system called an MVHR. In this way virtually no extra heating or AC is needed, so energy bills are much lower whilst the house is just as warm.

However, the Norwich development is more than just thick insulated walls and fully airtight construction: all the buildings are oriented to take 'maximum advantage of sunshine' and surrounded by communal play spaces to promote neighbourliness.

The same firm of architects responsible are now involved in a 600 home scheme for York City Council that will be net-zero from construction to completion.

Denise Craghill, York City Council's Cabinet Member for Housing, says:

We’re determined to build homes that are warm and comfortable and bring bills down to extremely low levels, but which are also great places to live. It’s about rethinking a holistic low-carbon lifestyle for the long term

Doyle Avenue, Portsmouth

Image: Portsmouth City Council

Portsmouth City Council is giving permission for the building of 16 housing units to Passivhaus Low Energy Building Standards, with air source heat pumps. Heat pumps are electrical devices that work like an AC unit in reverse: drawing residual heat from the ground or air and using it to warm the house.

In this development, most of the heating and hot water will come from the heat pump, which will be powered mainly by solar PV and battery storage.

Andrew Waggot, Energy Services Team Manager, says:

One of our key concerns on this project is keeping tenants’ bill low whilst moving them onto an electricity-only setup. The batteries, solar and heat pumps have this effect when combined.

Early Passivhaus projects in the UK had cost 15-20% more than typical new builds, but some recent projects involving larger developments have seen the uplift reduced to between 0% and 5%.

There is emerging evidence of health benefits from Passivhaus homes, thought to be related to the use of filters on the ventilation systems which reduces humidity and the presence of pollen and particulates within the homes.

It is worth noting that health conditions exacerbated by poor housing are estimated to cost the NHS £1.4 – 2.0 billion per year.

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