Walking along to a remote country road junction I arrive at the same time as a man pushing a bike. We start to chat and it turns out that he teaches architecture at the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) in Wales and is building his own eco-home. Having got a puncture a few miles back after a day cycling around environmental buildings he’s walking to his home village of Belford, where I’m also headed. Well met indeed.
Duncan Roberts and his partner Mary Kelly are both architects and have been slowly building their own wooden home without credit by saving as they go. It’s been a long process of learning and development, and they share their learning with others.
The greenhouse in Norwich is a café, a bookstore, a gallery, a house, a shop and an information hub. The dappled shade in the courtyard garden is provided by clever solar panels. Above the shop lives one of the original 12 students, who 20 year on, is still running the space to provide an example of positive solutions. The flat is one of Englands Superhomes, which are very energy efficient and serve as an example to help others. The Greenhouse is a particularly useful example because it is a listed building which they had to retrofit. The vast majority of the UK housing stock would need to be retrofitted to make them more sustainable, we won’t be able to build new houses, as it would release far far more carbon. There are currently more houses in the UK than we need, the difficulty is a large number of them have been bought as investments and are vacant. The centre of London is a sad example of this. So we can’t keep building on the little nature habitat land we have left to feed the ever more hungry monster of the housing market. Retrofitting is therefore a vital part of the culture change we need to be able to lower our carbon emissions. As to how we change our culture to avoid our homes being at the whim of the investment market, we’ll leave that for later… 😉