South West ‘EcoHomes’ gain high BREEAM rating

Architects, engineers and builders are all playing a key role in promoting sustainable construction. On the housebulding front new 'EcoHomes' near Taunton are being built ot the highest standards

The first ‘EcoHomes’ to be designed in the South West of England are nearing completion and have already achieved the highest possible rating under BREEAM (Building Research Establishments’ Environmental Method).

Built in the new village of Cotford St Luke, near to Taunton, the key consideration for Bristol-based Oxford Architects, the project-designer, has been to promote sustainable construction. These 20 new homes are designed to balance environmental performance with a high quality of life within a safe and healthy environment.
The issues assessed by BREEAM are grouped into seven categories: energy; water; pollution; materials; transport; ecology and land use; health and well-being.
The design of these new homes meets these requirements in several ways. For example, each house includes a “live work” space to enable the occupant to set up a home office which reduces the need to commute to work. Also, all have secure cycle storage to promote alternative transport possibilities and are within easy reach of local facilities. The homes have at least 25% of light fittings that only accept low energy bulbs (compact and batten fluorescents) to ensure reduced energy consumption (all fittings are supplied with low energy bulbs).

Sustainable features

In addition, the homes have been constructed with many features promoted by the EcoHomes ethos:

  • Passivent ventilation system, which extracts stale air through humidity sensitive extracts in wet areas, such as in the kitchen and bathrooms. This reduces energy usage through preheating air in winter, promoting ventilation in summer and avoiding traditional mechanical extracts which normally waste heat inside the home.
  • Polar water heating, which reduces energy usage through preheating hot water and heating systems. This, in conjunction with specifying a condensing boiler and highly insulated walls, floors and roofs should decrease energy consumption by 60% in comparison to a standard dwelling.
  • The rainwater harvesting system collects water from the roof for use in the garden, therefore reducing water consumption.
  • A minimum of 75% of the timber used has been sourced from (Forestry Stewardship Council) approved suppliers to ensure building materials and components achieve the lowest environmental impact.

Design brief

“We were delighted to work on this design promoting sustainable development,” comments Alistair Jackson, the Project Architect at Oxford Architects. “The homes will be completed in March 2004, and we are certain that the occupants will very much enjoy the benefits that these EcoHomes have to offer.”

Leslie Webb, Project Enabling Officer within the Housing Services department at Taunton Deane Borough Council, says: “This new social housing in Cotford St Luke is an exciting new development for the South West of England, and we are very pleased to have been able to work with Oxford Architects to deliver the requirements that EcoHomes demand.”

Oxford Architects worked on this project with Redland Housing Association and Russell Construction from inception. This began in October 2001 when the brief was developed in order to establish the evaluation criteria of an “EcoHouse”.

Throughout the project, Oxford Architects has submitted planning and building control applications, and has coordinated the structure, the specialist timber frame design, and the specialist contractors.

Oxford Architects has offices in Bristol, London and Oxford. The practice works across a broad range of market sectors including housing, commercial, industrial, education and health projects. Already one of the top 100 practices in the UK, Oxford Architects has grown by over 30% this year.

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