Developer promises 'zero bills' at Plymouth eco village
AN ECO village on the edge of Plymouth will be Britain's first "zero bills" development, say the brains behind the project.
Pioneering building techniques will mean the 91 houses will generate all the electricity they need – and then sell enough to the grid to pay the owners' heating bills, developer Charles Everard told The Herald.
Owners of electric cars will even be able to get free-fuel motoring by plugging into their own supply.
Mr Everard said the houses at Bickleigh Down would cost more than a conventional building, but the free power and heating meant that the overall cost would be slightly lower.
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"Bickleigh will be a pilot for a much larger programme," he said.
The houses, which will feature in the 2013 Ecobuild conference at ExCeL in London this week, will be assembled on-site creating local jobs and expertise.
They will be a showcase hub for low-carbon technologies and green lifestyles.
Last year ZEDprojects got planning permission to build on seven acres on the edge of Dartmoor.
Mr Everard set up a "green" property development company, ZEDprojects, with Tim Byles and architect Bill Dunster.
Buyers at Bickleigh will be able to choose from seven house types.
They will have the same building methods, but owners will choose from a "kit of parts".
Some will also be allowed to finish off their own houses.
"The South West seems to have more people interested in the eco agenda than anywhere else," Mr Everard said.
"Plymouth City Council welcomed us with open arms."
The new community will extend Bickleigh village. It will have a green and the residents will share ownership of the neighbouring woods.
"We are not like other developers, filling up the whole landscape with houses," Mr Everard said. "We are keeping the village green.
"We think people will come here because of the chance to build their own community and to manage the woodland."
Architect Bill Dunster said the key part of the house design was the solar roof.
Instead of having photovoltaic panels on a conventional roof, he has designed panels that will double as a roof.
The spaces between the cells are translucent, allowing light into the "sun room" loft, where a heat exchange system will provide heating.
The solar panels will provide 6KW to 9KW of electricity, double that of a conventional system.
"It does cost more to build to this standard," Mr Dunster admitted. "But if you compare it to a normal building and a conventional energy bill, there will be slightly less money leaving your bank account every month.
"And the best thing is that you fix your fuel prices for the next 20 years. Energy bills are going to go up substantially over the next five years."
The asymmetric roof design and south-facing orientation will maximise the energy captured from the sun.
Mr Everard said 15 people had already expressed an interest and the company will be holding a meeting in Plymouth at the end of March for potential buyers.
The company already has a long list of eco developments to its name. Mr Dunster designed the UK's first zero-carbon development, BedZED, which was completed in 2002.
The eco village will be a mix of affordable and open-market homes.
It is hoped that the project will create up to 59 jobs.
The ZEDfactory website compares conventional up-to-date low carbon building and the Bickleigh zero bills concept.
For a five-bedroom detached house with a gross floor area of 141 square metres near Plymouth (excludes fees):
Cost of building a timber framed home to 2010 standards: £141,000 or £1,000 per sq metre.
Running costs: £960 a year for gas and electricity
Bickleigh zero bills home
Cost to build: £160,000, or £1,135/m2
Running cost: no annual bills and savings cover interest on additional £19,000 capital cost of home.
Income: £965 a year from feed-in tariff.