Thursday, 15 May 2008

Creating Virtually Zero Carbon Victorian Houses

I went to see 17 St Augustine’s Road yesterday. This is a Victorian house in a conservation area that is owned by the Council and is being refurbished with an additional £140,000 of sustainability investment (ie over and above what we would have spent on refurbishment anyway). That includes huge amounts of insulation, replica double glazed sash windows, heat exchangers (which expel stale air but retain the heat to warm incoming fresh air), solar thermal (hot water), solar photovoltaics (electricity) etc.

It is expected to reduce carbon emissions compared to pre-refurbishment by 80%. It will remain as social housing with two caveats – the tenants will have to agree to take part in the Open House weekends that occur twice a year and UCL’s architecture faculty, who have installed various bits of monitoring kit, have to be allowed access to their equipment.

And, as of yesterday, thankfully, the front garden will be green rather than paved. The contractors were going to put in paving, but I managed to dissuade them. We need more green space not less. Green space extracts carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, it slows up stormwater, it's good for biodiversity and, it this era of rising food prices, it's somewhere to grow food. I'm hoping to find some schoolchildren that will take on the task of designing an environmentally friendly front garden.

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