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Eco homes that do not cost the earth.

A mass-market model of a high-quality, low-cost and low carbon home is the Holy Grail of the housing sector.

There is currently no clear solution to squaring the circle of tough Government climate change targets and the huge demand for new homes.

There is little doubt that the social housing sector in particular has pushed the boundaries of innovation to deliver some exceptional and inspiring examples of low and zero carbon housing in recent years. But mass market models which can be rolled out as standard home across the country are proving frustratingly illusive.

However, in the past 12 months a possible solution has emerged in Redditch where dozens of people have moved into low-carbon homes which are affordable and sustainable.

They are quick and inexpensive to build, of the highest quality and crucially can be delivered to produce a fraction of the carbon emissions of traditional homes. Further development of this type of model may well yield the zero carbon mass market answer.

The 36 new homes on two sites in Redditch are built using prefabricated Norwegian timber kits complete with insulation, external cladding, door frames and windows.

The construction process drastically reduces waste in the factory and on site and cuts carbon emissions and running costs by about 50 per cent compared to traditional housing.

Further modifications - such as solar hot water heating - reduce carbon emissions further and bring them up to compliance with the highest code for sustainable homes level three.

The homes are developed by Accord Housing Association for Redditch Co-operative Homes, in partnership with Norwegian company Hedalm Anebyhus, Redditch Borough Council, and with Housing Corporation funding.

Hedalm Anebhyus is itself a cooperative, using wood from sustained forests.

The Sillins Avenue site comprises 20 houses, a mixture of four, three and two-bed semi-detached properties. Eleven homes are for rent and the rest are for shared ownership. The Farm Road site has 16 two-bed bungalows for elderly or disabled people, all for rent.

Involving local people in creating the homes and communities that they want is at the heart of the work of Redditch Co-operative Homes.

RCH brings together potential co-operators to plan their scheme and forge links with the local community. This creates a sense of ownership, pride and community before their homes are even built.

By the time they move in many of the ingredients for a safe, friendly and inclusive community are already in place.

Resident Anne Harborne said: "It was great to be involved from the outset and I feel a real sense of pride knowing I was part of this project. It's really fantastic housing and I feel pleased to be doing my bit for the environment."

RCH was created in 1998 by Redditch Borough Council as a way to involve local people in designing, developing and managing new affordable housing.

It was launched as a joint venture partnership between the council, Accord Housing Association, Birmingham Co-operative Housing Services (BCHS) and local people.

It is now the largest new-build co-operative housing development in the UK and has nurtured five neighbourhood co-operatives in the town.

Working with RCH and Accord, the co-ops have developed and now manage 202 homes with a further 164 homes in the pipeline.

The housing is tailored to meet the housing needs of particular groups, such as young people, families and older people. RCH has also supported a number of specific projects such as a train and build scheme for a group of young, unemployed 16 to 23-year-olds and the development of large family homes for Redditch's BME community.


Alan Yates, Accord and Matrix Housing Partnership director of regeneration; Left: Plans are under way for a flagship WedZED scheme in Wolverhampton which will deliver low carbon living for more than 60 families and individuals; 36 new homes on two sites in Redditch are built using prefabricated Norwegian timber kits complete with insulation, external cladding, door frames and windows
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Mar 18, 2008
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