A more sustainable way to live your life; In the second of our three-part review of ecohomes, architect Jane Massey looks inside a Code 6 home.
Because the key to Code 6 is careful use and monitoring of energy, one of the first things we will notice is that ventilation levels will be very different.
The modicum of air changes prescribed within the Building Regulations will still occur.
However, air changes will be facilitated by introducing new ventilation air across heat exchangers. These will be coupled to waste heat emitters within your house, such as the outfall from sinks, baths and such, thereby heating up newly introduced ventilation air from outside the buildings.
The Code 6 house will work best if you don't manually open the windows when you need a breath of fresh air - thereby short circuiting the process. So maybe there will be a different atmosphere within the Code 6 house, although of course we hope it won't be the same as that awful aircraft air conditioning.
Water, and especially potable water, is not only a valuable natural resource, but also a major consumer of energy when we purify it and make it fit for drinking.
Code 6 homes, therefore, seek to conserve valuable potable water as well as reducing individual consumption down to 105 litres per person per day.
This can either mean you have a very shallow bath or possibly, you make very much greater use of your "grey" water output - waste water from wash hand basins, the sink and washing machine and such.
This grey water will be conserved, either individually per house, or within some form of localised reservoir system to enable its re-use for things like flushing lavatories, cleaning cars or watering the garden.
Possibly the greatest change we will notice, is the way in which increasing attention will be drawn to ongoing energy consumption.
The Code 6 house will be innately sustainable in its own right, designed to run on a minimum amount of fossil fuel energy, therefore the use of electrical goods within the building becomes increasingly important when considering the overall carbon footprint.
Code 6 homes will have better provision for home office and home working, part of a concerted attempt to reduce the impact of car travel, although there are no presumptions on the reduction of individual car ownership. Yet.
The code tries to create an environment in which alternatives to car use can be accommodated. Better cycle storage and the ability to get to and from the house by sustainable transport means such as walking, cycling and running are all encouraged.
Because the house is designed to run on minimal amounts of imported energy, having a house full of kids' rooms each with their own computer and personal electronic media, would create a huge influx of electrical heat energy into the house. Therefore, one challenge of Code 6 is its assumption that "closed systems" will recycle and reintegrate energy, rather than let it vent into the atmosphere.
Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plants and "district heating" will be a re-occurring pattern - not the leaky hot water pipes we see steaming away underneath decrepit Victorian hospitals, but super-insulated steam pipes from a Combined Heat and Power Station that will be situated in close juxtaposition to the housing development.
The benefits of CHP mean you don't lose 40% of the energy you have generated by sending it through the national grid, and secondly, you get the benefit of the heat you have used to create the electricity as a useful by-product which can be shared out amongst the neighbourhood for domestic heating purposes.
Next month: How the Code 6 community will function.
Jane Massey is a partner at IDP's (the Ian Darby Partnership) Newcastle office and can be contacted on (0191) 261-4442 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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