Are these the 'green' houses of the future?

At first glance they look like any other small development of new homes taking shape in a quiet Norfolk village.

But 12 new houses being built at Rackheath, near Norwich represent a remarkable insight into homes of the future, incorporating the very latest technology and building design to make them so energy efficient that they will be carbon neutral over the course of a year.

That means zero emissions of harmful carbon dioxide stoking up global warming and for the families living there, vastly reduced household utility bills.

The affordable homes to rent are being built by Dove Jeffery Homes on behalf of the Wherry Housing Association on land at Green Lane West, Rackheath – now called Trinity Close - which was previously owned by Broadland District Council.

The contractors researched cutting edge technologies to meet the brief of making the properties among the greenest in Britain and achieve a zero carbon status that is many times more energy efficient than conventionally built houses.

Features include:
• Renewable electricity from solar panels in the roof that will generate 4000 to 5000 kilowatt hours of energy per year.
• Heat recovery and ventilation systems that capture warmth from air in rooms such as the kitchen or bathroom, filter it and use it to heat and ventilate other rooms in the house.
• “Grey water” systems to recycle bathwater for use in flushing toilets.
• Super insulation in walls, floors, roofs, windows and doors that are way above statutory levels.
• “Smart meters” to monitor energy performance over the next three years so that residents can keep a detailed check on the electricity they are using and from which appliance.

Funding for the project has come from the government, Wherry and Broadland council.
The scheme consists of two bungalows, four flats and six two, three and four bedroom houses. They are being offered at rents people can afford to tenants who are local to the Rackheath area, or those who can show a connection with the village, making sure the community remains vibrant and that people who grew up in the area can continue to live there.

People moving into the new homes will be given individual advice and assistance on how to use the technology and encouraged to lead a greener lifestyle by academics at the University of East Anglia’s Low Carbon Innovation Centre. They are organising a three year project which will involve data being fed back to them from the houses via broadband to see how power is being used. Equipment is so precise it can tell tenants exactly which appliances are using what amount of electricity.

The centre’s project officer for the development, Fergus Rolfe said: “We want tenants to get the very best from the innovations built in to Trinity Close, and that means making sure they understand how it all works and how they can do their bit.

“Sometimes the most energy efficient thing to do will not be what you would traditionally expect. For example the hot water system works more efficiently by being on constantly rather than by heating it for a few hours each day.

“And it’s better to use the washing machine during the day when the solar panels are producing electricity rather than overnight.”

Broadland portfolio holder for housing and environmental services, Cllr Jo Cottingham said the development was a forerunner to council plans for 200 more new homes in the village – the so-called Rackheath Exemplar Project - 40 per cent of which would be affordable, and again built to the highest environment standards.

She added: “Together with our retro-fit scheme to help existing homeowners in Rackheath make their properties more energy efficient through loans and grants for the work, these houses show our commitment to making the area one of the most eco-friendly in the country.We are committed to providing good housing that people can afford for everyone in Broadland and this paves the way for the wider eco-community project which is our long term ambition.”

Wherry managing director Mark Jones added: “These homes produce zero carbon emissions and are built to the sustainable homes code level 6, the highest rating new homes can achieve for sustainability. “We are extremely proud to deliver such a high quality affordable housing development together with our partners, particularly one which will have such a positive effect on the environment. The homes also look great and residents will be saving money on their energy bills, which is crucial in times like these.”

Richard Dove, the managing director of Dove Jeffery Homes added: “It was a tough brief but we are confident these houses are built to the very highest environmental standards. Even the materials we have used are sustainably sourced.”

The homes are currently being offered to eligible people on Broadland’s housing register, with construction expected to be completed in late September.


  1. Stephen McKelvey17 October 2012 at 19:33

    A code level 6 house should be, "A completely zero carbon home (i.e. zero net emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) from all energy use in the home)", see page 7:


    no net carbon emissions = no net fuel burnt = no net running costs

    You could expect to pay a higher rent to pay for the more expensive building with the solar panels, etc, but the fuel bills should average out to zero.

  2. This was the "Spin" that Broadland District Council used to con the local people into accepting more unjustified development.
    We now hear the residents of Trinity Close, Rackheath saying that their heating bills are higher than they were in their previous houses. Councillors Proctor and Cottingham should be held to account for misleading the ratepayers.

  3. These 12 houses in Trinity Close were built to code 6 to show how green the ecotown would be and how beneficial it would be for the householders.
    This is now proof that Broadland's "spin" was nothing but an attempt to con the public.

  4. Stephen McKelvey18 October 2012 at 14:39

    If the residents' heating bills are higher than their previous houses then either these are not Code 6 houses or the effect of rebate from the electricity generated by their solar panels is not being made obvious. Either way there is serious wrong here that needs to be righted.

  5. It could be that these residents thought that their electricity was free or would cost them very little and just turned up the thermostat and wasted more than they otherwise would have. We must remember the last winter was very cold and we all had to spend more on heating because of it.

  6. Don't worry folks, when they build all those 5,000 houses for the Ecotown the occupiers high heating costs will be offset by the fact that they won't have the expense of running a car because they can hop on the train that will run every 10 minutes and go to Norwich for just 10 pence a time. That is accoprding to the proposers of this farcical town.

  7. To spend £500,000 on solar panels was an utter waste of money
    especially when so many of the panels do not face south.