On the market: the zero-carbon home with an affordable price

A A A

Once it was a dream; then it was an experiment; and now, from today, the zero-carbon house is a reality.

You can pick up the phone and order one, and in three months you can be living your life without contributing anything from your domestic surroundings to Britain's greenhouse gas emissions, the manufacturers say. They're a consortium of green building companies called ruralZED, and they say the house they unveiled at the EcoBuild Exhibition at Earl's Court in London yesterday is the first truly affordable carbon-neutral home.

It meets the top level – Code 6 – of the Government's Code for Sustainable Buildings, which all new housing will have to meet from 2016. Although connected to the National Grid, the ruralZED house is designed to go through the whole year without drawing on the grid for any power whatsoever.

This is because its super-insulation (three times as much as a normal house) means that, other than in exceptional circumstances, it will not need heating in January, or air conditioning in August. One small radiator and a tiny cooling system are optional extras for days of extreme weather.

The electricity that it will use, to power its state-of-the-art energy saving domestic appliances, is generated by the house itself from an array of solar panels on the roof. If you are in a suitable site for a roof wind turbine, you may be able to generate enough surplus energy, say the manufacturers, to run an electric car for 10,000 miles.

Water heating will be from other roof panels, backed up in winter by a biomass boiler (fired by wood chips) which can serve half-a-dozen houses at a time. The house itself is based around a very strong timber frame, supplied as a flat-pack kit, "a bit like a sofa from Ikea", according to Bill Dunster, the director of ZEDfactory, the architectural firm behind the project.

The cost for a three-bedroom version, including setting up, which will take about three weeks – and ruralZED will erect it for you – will be about £150,000. Note that this is not the finished house price. It does not include the price of the land, or installation of the surrounding infrastructure.

But to get an idea of comparative costs, the build price of a three-bedroom home put up according to current building regulations – which will soon be out of date – is about £100,000. On the other hand, the build price of the only other Code 6, zero-carbon home so far designed in Britain, the Lighthouse, created by the building materials firm Kingspan Offsite, is about £180,000, Kingspan say – and you have to erect it yourself.

This cost differential makes the ruralZED house a practical proposition, especially for housing associations, the consortium says. The first six homes are being built, 24 more are in the planning stage, and the finance director, Anthony Dickinson, said he expects to sell "thousands" in two to three years – "mainly to self-builders and local authorities, but looking to market them to commercial house builders".

The key to the house is that it has high levels of "thermal mass" – the ability of a material to absorb and release heat slowly. This is provided by the extremely thick insulation around the walls. Further temperature control is provided by a heat exchanger in the ventilation system, which does not require any power.

Mr Dunster said the house is is "the most serious contender in the race to beat the effects of residential carbon emissions. And remember, emissions from the domestic sector in Britain are 30 per cent of the total."

Mr Dunster, who was responsible for BedZED (Beddington Zero Energy Development), the low-carbon community in south London, said: "Until now, prototypes of other house designs have lacked the commercial and financial viability to make them serious alternatives to traditional housing and building techniques."

News
news
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Arts and Entertainment
tvChristmas special reviewed
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Sport
sport
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all