Sanford Walk, a south London housing co-op built 30 years ago by students, has become the first street in Britain to go collectively green, cutting its carbon emissions by more than 60 per cent — a target the Government wants the rest of the country to achieve by 2050.
The street of 14 houses and six flats accommodates 140 people — described as “an alternative community of creatives” — who now get their hot water and heating from a combination of solar panels and boilers fuelled by recycled sawdust.
Spokesman Mark Langford says: “It’s an innovative example of how older, pre-existing housing can be refitted with renewable energy technology.” Located alongside the East London line railway tracks in New Cross and surrounded by car breakers’ yards, the development could not be more urban.
The houses now have shiny new flues, solar tubes on the roof, cavity-wall insulation and automatically controlled ventilation. Forty per cent of the £230,000 project cost was funded by the Energy Savings Trust, a government agency.
Each house is made up of 10 bedsits plus communal living spaces. The co-op was established in 1974 for young single people who could not get on the property ladder.
Most residents today are artists or musicians in their mid-twenties. They pay £50 a week rent, inclusive of utility bills, council tax and service charge. Prospective tenants are vetted by residents of each house and any one person has a veto.
Tough green energy standards for new housing have been introduced by the Government — within a decade all newly built homes should be “carbon-free”. However, the actual number of new homes being built (currently about 170,000 a year) represents a drop in the ocean compared with the existing housing stock of 25 million properties.
An estimated 500,000 existing homes need to be upgraded each year if carbon-emission targets are to be achieved, according to campaign group Friends of the Earth.