Green house effect: You don't have to compromise on design when opting for an eco-friendly home

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As soaring fuel bills force homebuyers to act green, many movers are opting for the lower running costs of a new-build property which, on average, are six times more energy-efficient than older homes. The message coming through is that you do not have to compromise on comfort, style and luxury, or even pay a premium, for a low-energy new home that offers a better, cheaper lifestyle.

Green design has entered the mainstream housing market, with most developers leaning towards contemporary architecture and utilising hi-tech factory production.

All new-builds are covered by the Government's Code for Sustainable Homes, a green standard that works on a points system and grades properties on a scale of one to six, using criteria such as water-saving features and on-site power generation, from solar panels to mini wind turbines and ground source heat pumps. Level six is the top rating and requires all energy supplied to come from zero-carbon sources.

Hanham Hall, being built by Barratt in Bristol, is Britian's first large-scale level six development – 185 homes around a listed former hospital. Properties will be connected to an on-site combined heat and power plant, have rainwater harvesting systems, greenhouses, allotments and "smart meters", which enable householders to monitor their energy consumption as they use it.

Four modern town houses at Aubert Park, Highbury, north London, are so energy-efficient that virtually no heating is required. Triple-glazed, south-facing and thoroughly insulated, they promise an astonishing 90 per cent saving in energy. The 3,000sq ft homes use a German construction method dubbed Passivhaus, which has ground-source heat pumps and an air-cooling and ventilation system. The timber frame structure has a thermal skin wrapped in white render, wood and zinc cladding. Internally, every room has a full-width wall of glass allowing light in. Bedrooms have terraces, and the galleried lounge looks out over the garden. Hot water and heating costs are around £30 a month. Prices from £2.25m. Call Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward on 020 8222 7200. While in Notting Hill architect Seth Stein has created a £9m luxury eco-home in the space behind a traditional terrace façade (www.aylesford.com).

London architect Justin Bere specialises in Passivhaus new-builds and retrofits, and has completed one-off projects in Camden and Stoke Newington. Because developers have to meet eco-ratings based on everything from how close a home is to public transport to how thermally efficient it is, how well it tackles recycling and whether it uses sustainable materials, green housing is not just about technology it is about how it fits into the local environment.

Seven luxury town houses at Crabtree Fields in Fitzrovia conform to code level four by enhancing wildlife habitats through nesting boxes and sedum roofs. Biomass boilers use woodchips, resulting in cheaper fuel consumption. Prices from £2.99m. For details call EA Shaw on 020 7240 2255.

Architect Luke Tozer ingeniously squeezed a low-energy house on to an 8ft-wide plot between two listed houses in a Bayswater conservation area. Called Gap House, its traditional, white-rendered façade hides a Tardis of contemporary living – almost 2,000sq ft of space with three bedrooms and an open-plan family area linked to a courtyard.

Below the courtyard are three boreholes serving a heat pump which provides heating and hot water for the house. Rainwater collected from the roof is used to flush toilets and water plants. "Because it's airtight, the house doesn't take much to heat," explains Tozer, who lives there with his wife Charlotte and their two children.

'We pay £1,000 a year for energy'

There is underfloor heating throughout and all energy is from renewable sources, powered by electricity drawn from cheaper night tariffs.

"We pay about £1,000 a year in energy bills, which is pretty good for a house of this size," he says. Built for £500,000, it meets code level four and has won the coveted Manser Medal awarded by the RIBA. "Legislation has to lead the way to give momentum to the development community," Tozer says. "People tend to do what they have to do rather than what they are encouraged to do."

Green developers can benefit

Developers can score brownie points with planners by going green. Code level four high-rise living is coming to Docklands, East London. Silvertree is a 24-storey eco-tower with 161 apartments where the colder north face will have a half metre-wide strip of unusually dense insulation.

The south-east side will be heavily planted to help moderate temperatures, while the south-west elevation will be covered with solar panels to provide occupants with up to 70 per cent of their electricity needs. Apart- ments will be available next year and cost from £250,000 from Knight Frank.

Turbine time

A cylindrical skyscraper called The Tower, being built on the Vauxhall waterfront, will have a dramatic wind turbine generating 20,000kWh of energy per year for the 223 flats. Boreholes have been drilled 160 metres to reach the London aquifer. Water is pumped from the boreholes and used to heat apartments and provide hot water. Prices from £720,000. Call St George on 020 7042 7700.

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