Fossil fuel-free rural housing

CLA members recently visited a rural housing development with a difference
Howgate Close - copyright protected - speak to Lee M before use
Howgate Close CGI image - copyright Proper View

CLA members visited a fossil fuel-free development currently under construction in Nottinghamshire, to see an innovative approach to low-carbon rural housing.

Located near the village of Eakring, in Nottinghamshire, Howgate Close is set in 10 acres that have been taken out of agricultural production, to provide nine homes within a managed wildlife area.

Eakring farmer and retired GP, Dr Chris Parsons, describes his project as an opportunity to address some of society’s most pressing issues: rural housing shortages, climate change, soil restoration, carbon sequestration, biodiversity, water management and community cohesiveness.

The main objective of Howgate Close is to provide local people who have been priced out of home-ownership, with high quality rented homes, offering low running costs, low maintenance and access to the open countryside.

Collectively, the homes will generate annually around 50,000kWhrs of renewable electricity from 138 roof mounted photovoltaic (PV) panels. It is estimated, each home will generate 50% more energy than they consume due in part to their low rates of heat loss.

“The most important thing about the buildings is their orientation,” says Dr Jerry Harrall, Technical and Design Consultant for Howgate Close. “We have the sun coming in through large glass panels, bringing heat into the buildings.

“They are high thermal mass buildings, so the concrete floor, concrete walls and roof are conducting the heat, storing it and readmitting it into the buildings at times when the temperature outside is lower than inside.”

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A property currently under construction at Howgate Close

Extensive insulation surrounds each of the buildings, including 300 millimetres of insulation above each roof, 230 millimetres on the outside walls and a further 300 millimetres of insulation under the floor. “What this provides us,” says Jerry, “is exceptionally well insulated buildings.

“By virtue of solar gain, human occupation and the supplementary heat of cooking, fridges, freezers and other household electronic goods, the heat sources are sufficient for this type of building to sustain an ambient air temperature of around 23 degrees centigrade.” Dr Harrall adds that the buildings will operate with low to no heating bills once complete.

The project involved a lengthy planning process which resulted in final approval for the development eventually being granted by the High Court.

CLA Chief Surveyor Andrew Shirley says the advisory team at the CLA is there to help members navigate many of the planning difficulties that landowners often face.

“We are advising members regularly,” says Andrew, “but we’re also in regular contact with Government departments and civil servants to ensure that, in the future, the National Planning Policy Framework better addresses the housing needs for rural areas.

“Housing in rural areas is extremely important for local employment too. It’s important to get the balance right, so there is enough housing, both affordable housing and open market housing, so those who work in the countryside also have somewhere to live.

“Ultimately, we want to see thriving, vibrant communities.”