One man's dream green house comes to life

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Neil Winder has designed and built the ultimate eco-home. It will resist the ravages of man-made climate changes and sits on stilts, so that future flood water can swirl beneath.

Eager not to further damage the environment, Mr Winder, an architect, also set about turning his four-bedroom timber-framed home into one of Britain's most environmentally friendly dwellings.

Instead of going down a sewer, human waste goes into a chamber where, aided by straw and sawdust, it is turned into compost for his roses.

Waste water from the sink and the bath is cleansed by a reed-bed system to purify it before it drains into a ditch. And instead of burning fossil fuels to keep warm, a three tonne stove burns locally coppiced wood .

Mr Winder, 48, his partner Flo Maitland and their 10-year-old daughter Molly have lived for a year in the house called Star Yard at Palgrave, near Diss, Norfolk, in the valley of the river Waveney. The walls, filled with eight inches of recycled paper insulation, keep the interiors cool in summer and warm in winter. They also ``breathe'', avoiding condensation problems.

The house is clad in unseasoned larch wood, an efficient and cheap rain barrier grown a few miles away.

Mr Winder also insisted on minimum use of lead, glues and toxic preservatives. The house stands up to two and a half feet above the ground on a dozen concrete stilts on individual concrete pads. As well as protecting against any flash floods, they reduce the dangers of subsidence caused by droughts shrinking the clay subsoil.

The roofing is extra strong to withstand gale force winds. And there is timber guttering twice the normal width to cope with future cloudbursts.

The house cost Mr Winder about pounds 68,000 to build - the same as building a conventional brick home. He paid a local farmer pounds 39,000 for the half- acre plot after getting planning permission from Mid Suffolk council.

There have been difficulties though, most memorably with the compost toilet. ``We had a smell and a fly problem at first, but this was completely overcome by altering the design of the flue," said Mr Winder.

Also, the reed-bed water filtering system suffered from a build up of grease, but he solved that by introducing a straw trap through which the waste water must first run.

The next phase is to introduce solar water heating and recycle the purified reed-bed water for use in the house.

Mr Winder said: ``Nobody can say with any confidence what the world will be like in 40 years time, but you can make some guesses and that's what I have done.

"Scientists are saying we will be having hotter summers and periods of drought followed by sudden rounds of heavy rain and storms. `I'm not an eco-fascist. I just wanted to go as far as I could in building a comfortable and functional family home to live and work in while causing the minimum of disturbance to the environment.''

Cladding -


locally grown

and weatherproof


Gutters -

extra wide to cope with downpours

Walls -

insulated with an eight inch layer of recycled paper

Heating -

wood burning stove

uses locally harvested

wood thinnings

Stilts -

the house is up to two and a half feet above the ground. Reduces risk of

subsidence damage and flooding

Toilet waste -

falls into an sunken chamber, mixed with sawdust to become a fertile compost. Flue removes odour