Donnachadh McCarthy: The Home Ecologist

Kit homes tick all the right boxes

They are orange, mauve and pink, but they also claim to be green. Some of the first homes to be built as a result of John Prescott's Design for Manufacture competition are on sale this summer at Oxley Woods, Milton Keynes.

The competition was to design homes to be built for less than £60,000 but that would still meet various space and environmental criteria. They are being built by George Wimpey, one of the winning developers, with the designs by Rogers Stirk Harbour and Partners architects.

Sadly, the target price of £60,000 does not include the cost of the land. The first two-bedroom properties go on sale for £200,000, with three bedrooms costing from £230,000, which unfortunately fails the original purpose of making homes available to low income earners.

The architects have gone for a minimalist industrial design with various brick-, wood-and steel-frame options available. The steel and wood frames are designed for off-site flat-pack pre-fabrication to reduce costs.

They are calling them flexi-houses, as they come without internal walls or structural pillars to allow owners to change the layout in line with individual requirements.

They claim this will allow childless couples to have an almost total open-plan downstairs and a "huge open-plan bedroom covering the first floor", until the children arrive.

The second unusual feature is what they call an eco-hat, which is an internal chimney that carries all the service piping but also assists with ventilation, capturing some of the heat from extracted air to be reused to heat the incoming air. The eco-hats also aim to bring more daylight into the centre of the buildings. Passive solar water heating is an optional extra. The hope is that the construction reduces heat requirements by 40 per cent and 50 per cent if the solar hot-water system is included.

It is good to see some mainstream builders moving in a more eco-direction, but the fact that the buildings come with no internal walls means radiators will tend to be placed on the outside walls, losing the benefit of heating internal walls.

In addition, promoting large open-plan homes for childless couples means that a larger space will be heated than would be otherwise the case. Also, on an aesthetic level, suggesting such flat-packed minimalist designs can be "adjusted to the local vernacular" will usually be a bit economical with the architectural truth.

While such competitions can make a small difference, there is no way they will make the deep eco-revolution needed in house building fast enough, to ensure we get zero-carbon housing as fast as the climate crisis dictates.

The Government took 10 years to introduce a voluntary sustainable code of practice. It is clear that it is not the cost of building housing that is making them unaffordable but the cost of land. The new Brown Government must therefore grasp the nettle firmly and make the sustainable code of building compulsory as fast as possible.

The time is now far too late for demonstration projects, laudable though they are. Eco- homes urgently need to be the norm now and not the exception.

Donnachadh McCarthy works as an eco-auditor and is the author of 'Saving the Planet without Costing the Earth' www.3acorns.co.uk

d.mccarthy@independent.co.uk

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
booksPhotographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years - but he says it wasn’t all fun and games...
News
i100
Sport
Aguero - who single-handedly has kept City's Champions League dreams alive - celebrates his dramatic late winner
footballManchester City 3 Bayern Munich 2: Argentine's late hat-rick sees home side snatch vital victory
News
Muhammad Ali pictured in better health in 2006
peopleBut he has enjoyed publicity from his alleged near-death experience
Arts and Entertainment
Tony breaks into Ian Garrett's yacht and makes a shocking discovery
TVReview: Revelations continue to make this drama a tough watch
News
news
News
peopleSinger tells The Independent what life is like in rehab in an exclusive video interview
News
The assumption that women are not as competent in leadership positions as men are leads to increased stress in the workplace
science... and it's down to gender stereotypes
Arts and Entertainment
Inner sanctum: Tove Jansson and friends in her studio in 1992
booksWhat was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Singer songwriter Bob Dylan performs on stage
films
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital