Eco living buying on a budget
Going green may be a lifestyle choice for a whole new generation, but for budget-driven first-time buyers there is also a financial imperative: an energy-efficient home is significantly cheaper to live in. With affordability so tight and many borrowers stretched, savings in household running costs are as crucial as a low mortgage rate.
Indeed, energy savings can make the difference between getting on the property ladder or not in the first place. Lenders look more favourably on borrowers buying into a green housing development where monthly outgoings are lower.
"Affordability should not be judged solely on how much a property costs to buy; lower ongoing expenses help buyers avoid biting off more than they can chew," says Andy Warman, of Octavia housing association.
Slowly, eco-design is becoming part of the housing mainstream. Arguably, housing associations are ahead of private developers in the delivery of green homes. New building techniques are embraced, alongside a retro theme — an emphasis on self-sufficiency, reminiscent of the 1950s when postwar austerity and scarce resources triggered interest in allotments and energy-saving technology.
A low-energy Swedish construction system called ModernaHus has been used at a scheme of 108 flats in Brixton, resulting in homes that are 44 per cent more energy efficient than standard dwellings. Water consumption is much lower too — typically 105 litres per person per day (against the norm of 212 litres), a boon now that water supplied to new homes is metered. Flats are triple glazed and have underfloor heating, powered by a central biomass boiler.
On-site allotments will allow residents to grow their own food. Called Fabrik, it is a redevelopment of a derelict warehouse at Coldharbour Lane and is due for completion this year. Notting Hill Housing Association will be selling the flats on a shared ownership basis. To register, visit fabrikhomes.com
Scandinavian design is also the inspiration for the latest phase of homes at The Hamptons, Worcester Park. Called Providence Place, the new buildings at this 60-acre, 645-home estate are said to be reminiscent of grain mills and quayside warehouses (albeit with solar panels), and make use of natural timber and warm-coloured rendering.
Through the "feed-in" tariff, owners get paid for each unit of solar energy generated regardless of whether they use the electricity or not (typically over £300 per year). Apartments cost from £249,950, houses from £389,950. Call St James Homes on 020 8337 3425.
Tougher building regulations require developers to meet eco standards based on everything from how close a home is to public transport to how thermally efficient it is, how well it tackles recycling and whether it uses sustainable materials.
For many buyers, the location and setting of their home — by a river, a wildlife sanctuary or open country — are as important as energy-saving features when it comes to healthy living. Big "community schemes" combine these elements.
Graylingwell Park in Chichester is the UK's largest zero-carbon development — an 85-acre parkland estate with 750 new and converted homes, allotments, a farm shop, small business premises, live-work units and artists' studios. A former hospital, the re-landscaping includes 1,428 new trees, including fruit trees, jogging tracks and cycle routes. There is also a car club.
Domestic boilers are not required in the home and excess power generated from the district heat and power plant is fed back into the national grid.
Prices start at £298,995 to £314,995. Call Linden Homes on 01243 781494 or visit graylingwellpark.com.
Shared ownership homes are on offer through Affinity Sutton housing association. Prices from £62,500 for a 25 per cent share. Call 020 8313 0660.
Apartments at Emerald Green, an Octavia development in Harrow, have low-energy lighting and solar-powered hot water, and there are communal laundry rooms and cycle storage. Here, flats are priced from £170,000 (£43,500 for a 25 per cent share). Rent, mortgage payments and service charge combined total £690.87 per month. Call 0845 1301422.
Myddelton Place, Clerkenwell, has been built in the grounds of a former primary school and boasts an array of green features including low-cost solar heating. Notting Hill is selling apartments priced from £310,000 (£124,000 for the 40 per cent minimum share). Call 020 8357 4444 or email email@example.com.
It may have been slow in arriving but eco-design is now becoming part of the housing mainstream.