The green, green grass of home

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The Independent Online
A grass roof maintained by a family of rabbits will form the ecological centrepiece of a "solar house" which a builder hopes to make his home.

Peter Cuming, a former planning inspector, was led towards his design by his local council's environmental guidelines, which recommend grass roofs for improved insulation. Camden Council, in north London, also frowns on the use of lawnmowers, thus inspiring the idea of using rabbits to crop the roof.

Mr Cuming, 55, said: "I am responding to the good advice from the London Borough of Camden's unitary plan."

However, the plan is far from a gimmick. A metre-depth of soil beneath the grass will be used to retain the heat of the house, reducing energy costs. Aside from rabbits bringing the risk of noise pollution to a minimum, they will share the roof with photo cells, which will generate half of the electricity needs of the house.

Mr Cuming hoped that the house, which will be built in Kentish Town if given the go-ahead, will also be able to recycle the heat from its bath water and be so well insulated that bills would be negligible.

"It's really like a small power station," said Mr Cuming. "The benefits are immediate. We will be saving two tonnes of carbon dioxide going into the air. The process will be odourless, silent and non polluting."

He first had the idea of putting renewable energy to domestic use 13 years ago when he lived in Nepal.

"I lived in a house that had solar panels high in the Himalayas with no cost to anyone. It generated power during the day, then it was stored in car batteries by night," he said.

"It's not just Tomorrow's World, it's around the corner."

Mr Cuming estimated the cost of the 400sqft-roof, including rabbits, at pounds 20-25,000 which he said could be reclaimed over a period of 20 years.

The application for planning permission will go before Camden Council next week.