On Friday the third in a series of four BIG events was held to update the 30 communities that have got through the first competitive round of the “Communities Living Sustainably” fund. It was hoped that by the end of the day that we would come away knowing exactly what we need t do to put together the information for the next stage.
I was driven down by Diana Cook of the Rural Community Council as the trains were not practicable and was pleasantly surprised to find the venue was BRE (Buildings Research establishment) in Watford. I secretly hoped that we would be able to go and have a look around the experimental buildings there.
We knew in advance who our allocated BIG “Enablers” were and ours was the very lovely and competent Heidi Seary of the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens who I had met when I contacted them about the disused garage site off Newcombe Street.
The crux of the day seemed to be introductions to the main people and organisations involved in supporting the bid process which are NEF (New Economics Foundation), BRE, Groundwork, Energy Savings Trust and FCFCG and an introduction to a tool that gauges your communities’ sustainability. This tool is a fancy Excel spread sheet that generates a radar graph based upon your preparedness to a number of criteria including flood risk evaluation and mitigation and Biodiversity.
During lunch, Lewis Knight who was demonstrating the software took a group of us for a
lightning tour of the buildings on the site. The homes there ranged from a modular design to a Hempcreate TM Code 4 house that only cost £66,000 to build that could easily reach Code 5 with the addition of some Solar panel. This building makes a mockery of the PLC building companies claims that improving the Thermal performance of buildings will cost too much. In a almost perverse juxtaposition of this Barret PLC had built a Code 6 house there which we were only told cost well into six figures, it’s almost as if they were trying to prove that decently performing homes need to cost a lot!
For those that do not know the Code system is a series of incrementally more demanding building standards to raise the thermal performance of new build homes. We are currently at Code 4 and the Code 6 homes should be Carbon Neutral which will be achieved through the use of renewables. There is another standard that can be built to which is Passive Haüs, a standard that aims to build homes that require little of no heating… which is better, I will let you decide.
An interesting building is the Princes Trust house, when bemoaning the styling of modern
homes Prince Charles was challenged to come up with a design and here it is, we were surprised to hear that despite his environmental credentials that the building is only a Code 4. Personally I am not sure that I like its psudo colonial style?
By the end of the event we were unfortunately none the wiser on the work that will need to be undertaken for the final deliverables and the application form which is frustrating as we are coiled, ready and waiting.