WORK is under way in a village between Pershore and Evesham to build a house that, when completed, will be one of the most eco-friendly homes in Britain.
The Cropthorne Autonomous House, in Middle Lane, will use innovative techniques to ensure its carbon footprint is next to nothing.
A combination of materials that absorb heat efficiently, super-insulation, large south-facing windows and airtight rooms will mean no heating system will be required at all.
Solar panels on the roof will provide hot water, while photovoltaic panels will generate electricity.
There will be no mains water or sewage connections, instead there will be a dry-composting toilet which does not require water for flushing.
All rainwater will also be stored in recycled orange juice containers, filtered and then used for drinking and washing.
Owner Mike Coe, who intends to live in the house when it’s finished along with his partner Lizzie Stoodley, said that while it would have the same standard of living as a conventional home, it was a move away from ‘lavish’ living to being more self-sufficient.
“The design aims for the Cropthorne house are that it should have minimal impact on its surroundings, and that it should, as far as possible, obtain everything it needs from the land immediately around it,” he said.
“It should also be attractive, sympathetic to its setting, and provide a pleasant and comfortable living environment, comparable to – but not necessarily the same as – a conventionally serviced house.
“It should not be lavish, but sufficient. Sufficient for the notional family of four who may one day occupy it, but not too large, which would be a waste of materials.”
Both Mike, Liz and project manager Mike Neate agreed that concern about the environment was one of the motivating factors behind the project.
Mike Coe said: “I am genuinely concerned about what man is doing to the planet so I hope to make a small contribution from my end, and if people come to see the house it might hopefully inspire others to do the same.
"So, the fact we are building it for ourselves as somewhere to live is just as important as it is for others to see it being built.”
Lizzie said: “Although this is an extreme example of environmental building, we hope it will inspire other people to look at ways of making their homes more energy efficient, whether it’s just adding more insulation, or installing renewable energy systems.”
It is being constructed with an innovative ‘passive house’ design – an ultra-low energy building that requires little extra energy for heating or cooling, one of just a handful in the UK.
The couple have estimated the cost of the build to be in the region of £400,000 but were hoping to come in under budget.
As they will have no water, electricity or gas rates they believe they can make a saving of £60,000 over the next 10 years, while the value of the eco-house may increase more than an average house as its true value becomes clear.
Lizzie said: “The house will be working for us.
“The maintenance wont be more than for a regular house, it will just be different, and it makes you more aware and puts you back in touch with the environment.”
Mike Neate, who doesn’t own a house but lives on site from project to project, said: “There will always be sceptics for this kind of thing, but there are finite resources in the world and we will have to address this at some point.
“This is an experiment but designs like this could become more mainstream.”
“It’s a lot easier with a new build with which you can achieve greater standards, but 95 per cent of buildings in the country are ‘refurb’, and this is where the real challenge lies.”
Mr Neate said there was a small following gaining pace behind the passive house standards in the British building industry, and that knowledge and skills essential to the design were being shared around.
He said: “We use local builders along with my team from my company eco-dc, and share with them our knowledge, training and ethos while using their resources.
“We are not just telling builders what to do, it’s a more intelligent approach to building houses, and taking care of resources.”
To see how the project is progressing or for further information on the build, log on to cropthornehouse.co.uk.