Sustainable Housing: Five Ways to make it Affordable

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A key challenge to introducing any housing standards, both in grant funded housing or in the open market, must be for them to be implemented in a cost effective way in order to ensure their success in volume.
Any process of introducing change (like the Code for Sustainable Homes, for example) needs to incorporate a means of managing cost to a realistic level. During the early introduction of the Code, some examplar schemes became hugely expensive, but there were projects which took a different approach.

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Sustainable Housing: Five Ways to make it Affordable

  1. 1. A key challenge to introducing any housing standards, both in grant funded housing or in the open market, must be for them to be implemented in a cost effective way in order to ensure their success in volume. Any process of introducing change (like the Code for Sustainable Homes, for example) needs to incorporate a means of managing cost to a realistic level. During the early introduction of the Code, some examplar schemes became hugely expensive, but there were projects which took a different approach. Here‟s what it cost to build the GreenGauge homes at Lingwood: The construction cost of the fifteen GreenGauge Homes at Lingwood was £1.618m excluding fees and VAT. This was the amount tendered by the winning contractor, Youngs Homes, in Q42006 and included all renewable technologies and Rain Water Harvesting. The project trialled three different renewable combinations against a „control‟ group of highly insulated homes. Technologies included PVs, solar collectors, Ground Source Heat Pumps, Sun Spaces and Mechanical Ventilation and Heat Recovery, all included in the cost. Of the £1.618m construction cost, £540,000 was a Housing Corporation Grant, £147,000 a grant from Broadland District Council and a further £16,216.91 was provided by the Low Carbon Buildings Programme. In addition, Carbon Connections funded the Monitoring programme to the tune of £56,000. The project (which was completed just before the introduction of the Code for Sustainable Homes) was awarded EcoHomes Excellent, and after completion was evaluated under the Code, confirming the same construction should also meet Level 4.Sustainable Comparison with a similar scheme Let us compare the Build Cost of Lingwood against a Conventional Ecohomes Very Good scheme of the sameHousing: period. “Very Good” was the requirement for grant funding of affordable housing assessed in 2006, so it constitutes the required level at the time and a reasonable benchmark.Five ways to make itAffordable The Total Scheme Cost of 15 homes at Lingwood cost £108k a unit (including fees, post planning). A scheme of the same period in the village of Bawdeswell, of 8 houses and with no renewables (which received Ecohomes Very Good) had a Total Scheme Cost of approximately £850k equating to £106k a unit. Both schemes were built by the same contractor. In actual cost terms for the client the difference in the cost to build Lingwood was therefore just £2,000 a unit. Everyone is building sustainable housing now, but can they do it affordably? Here’s how we built an So how can this be possible – surely the renewable affordable housing scheme above technologies cost more than this? Well yes, they did, but it current energy standards yet within was possible to manage the cost of introducing them. Turn the UK’s affordable housing grant over for five ways to avoid your project cost spiraling out of funding structure. control. 11a Princes Street, Ipswich IP1 1PH T: 01473 257474 design@barefootgilles.com Barefoot & Gilles 163-164 Moulsham Street, Chelmsford CM2 0LD T: 01245 351400 14 Clerkenwell Green London EC1R 0DP T: 020 7336 7944 www.barefootgilles.com
  2. 2. 1. Don’t invent anythingAs soon as you start inventing new components,whatever they are, you have to incorporate the costsof the development, and of bespoke components, intoyour build. Why bother? The climate change agendawas already far enough advanced in 2006/7 for us tochoose with relative success a range of tried andtested technologies. The more tested the technologyis, the less likely it is to go wrong or involve you inadditional expenditure to make it work.The homes at Lingwood are built using a standardSpace4 timber frame, with additional insulationapplied. We could have developed a new construction 4. Consider Everything Carefullysystem, but several were already on the market with a Thinking of using a particular element in yourgood reputation and perfectly adequate for our needs. scheme? Ask yourself, Do you need it? What for? If you do, how can you make the best use of it?2. Don’t change things that don’t needchanging At Lingwood there was an opportunity to generateJust because you‟re doing something new you don‟t wind energy, and micro generation was very popularhave to do everything new. Our affordable housing is in 2006/7. But how would we do this? A single turbinedeveloped along a standard housetype which, like the is more efficient than four singles, but it would betechnologies we used, was tried and tested, built on difficult to share energy (without storage) betweenyears of experience designing for RSLs. A standard four individual households. We were also convincedhousetype reduces the cost of frame production, and that PVs would generate more energy for theyes, offsite manufacture keeps preliminary costs down householders for the same capital cost. Lower runningtoo. costs were an important objective of the project. When a study demonstrated that the site was not suitable forThe layout for Lingwood is also very simple and wind energy generation, it was a simple step tostraightforward. Broadland District Council‟s planning choose PVs instead.o f f ic e r i n i t i a l l y t h o u g h t i t wa s t o o u r b a n a narrangement, but was supportive when it was 5. Remember your Objectivesexplained how all the houses needed to be South- Affordable housing needs to be affordable. The clientfacing. As it turns out the site has a very strong sense RSL wants to be able to manage the housing easily.of community, and a balance of outward and inward The contractor wants to be able to build it simply andfacing houses has helped encourage this. cost effectively, and we all want to repeat a successful project with another.Even the windows at Lingwood are simple Jeldwenwindows. They serve the purpose required by this Keeping sight of these objectives helps us make theproject. decisions which lead to a successful outcome.3. Avoid indulging in fripperiesBuilding sustainable housing can easily become anex erc is e in outdoing one‟s c om petitor s . T he If you’re interested in learning more abouttemptation is to make the housing look different, the success of GreenGauge Homes, or howintroduce unique components, make the buildingparticularly photogenic to win competitions. So easily these techniques can transfer into your owna small exercise can become someone‟s pet project. developments,But pet projects cost money, and whilst there may be email us at design@barefootgilles.com orbenefit in PR, is this the intention? If you have a give Su Butcher a call on 07815 935 736.longer term objective, think to the longer term. 11a Princes Street, Ipswich IP1 1PH T: 01473 257474 design@barefootgilles.com Barefoot & Gilles 163-164 Moulsham Street, Chelmsford CM2 0LD T: 01245 351400 14 Clerkenwell Green London EC1R 0DP T: 020 7336 7944 www.barefootgilles.com

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