Positive thinking: the latest eco homes giving back to the grid

Great news! Energy positive homes are coming to Bristol (aka, the European Green Capital for 2015 and my beloved home).

Wait, back up – ‘energy positive’? What the…?

Energy positive homes are whose which produce more energy than they consume. And Kevin McCloud’s HAB (Happiness Architecture Beauty) Housing aims to deliver its first energy positive pad by 2018, and from 2020 ensure all of its schemes are energy positive.

So how does it work? In two complementary ways, as Mike Roberts, HAB Housing’s managing director, explains: “The main way it generates power is going to be solar, in the majority of cases. That’s either going to be photovoltaic or solar thermal.” (NB: photovoltaic means turning sunshine into electricity, while thermal solar heats water for the home). “The other side of the equation, of course, is reducing the energy usage. That’s through making the house as energy-efficient as possible.”

“Housebuilders and progressive businesses can step in where government fails.”

With much wrangling afoot at the Paris climate talks right now, this announcement is especially timely. Because it just so happens that building (and inhabiting) new homes has a whopping impact on the climate. If we intend to keep the global temperature rise to two degrees, the buildings sector worldwide is going to need to chop those CO2 emissions down by a colossal 84 gigatonnes by the time 2050 comes along (and you and I are probably grandparents [or dead – Ed.]). That’s the equivalent, by the way, of not building 22,000 coal fired power plants.

“I believe passionately that housebuilders and progressive businesses can step in where government fails,” says founder Kevin McCloud, best known for presenting Grand Designs on Channel 4. “It’s in our power to harness innovation, embrace the newest low-energy technologies, reduce energy demand (and cost) for people and help build communities that are sustainable and low-impact.”

HAB Housing say work will be underway on 150 homes in Southmead, at the northern end of Bristol, by 2018. A third of the development will be affordable homes, and the estate will have a green infrastructure spine, including sustainable food production, low-carbon energy sources and (oooh) some shiny new cycle routes.

And HAB won’t even be the first energy positive home in the UK. Check out the Solcer House in Wales – Britain’s poz energy debut. For every £100 worth of electricity it uses, it should be able to produce nearly double that from ‘exporting’ the electricity it generates to the grid. And designers at Cardiff University have built a prototype energy positive house at a price which makes it affordable for social housing.

Energy positive is breaking ground elsewhere, too. The headquarters of the new Masdar City in Abu Dhabi has been billed as the first large-scale, energy positive building in the world, while theElithis Tower, in Dijon, France is considered the first energy positive office building.

So is HAB hoping that others will follow in its footsteps? “Absolutely,” says Roberts. “Much of what HAB does is try to create positive examples that can stimulate the debate as well.”

Source: collectively

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