A call for green housing

A new generation of energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly housing must match the highest European standards, warned a leading Norfolk landowner.

A new generation of energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly housing must match the highest European standards, warned a leading Norfolk landowner.

Henry Cator, chairman of the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association's council, told delegates at a Country Land and Business Association conference: "We're trying to look at a green future for housing."

Many houses built in the middle of the last century were no longer fit for purpose. "I'm talking about a lot of old housing stock which was built in the 1950s and 1960s which is basically past its sell-by date.

"It was not particularly well-built and constructed in the first place. You've got huge problems with insulation and the lack of it, poor fitting windows and central heating plant that eats oil," he added.

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"I predict in 10 or 15 years there will be two housing markets - one will be your traditional housing stock and the other is going to be carbon zero, energy efficient, green all-singing and dancing, with waste-water recycling and grey water and energy coming from ground source and heat pumps.

"There will be enormous savings in the running costs of that house compared with your traditional home," said Mr Cator, who was speaking at the Norfolk showground. The delegates included a 27-strong party from the Republic of China, which also visited Sir Jeremy Bagge's Stradsett estate, near Downham Market yesterday.

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"If you look at the existing housing stock, the money that it takes to convert it to become green, energy efficient and carbon zero is often more than if you knocked it down and started again."

When houses were built after the second world war, they were not designed with energy use, efficiency and carbon footprint in mind.

Mr Cator, who is standing down as the RNAA's chairman in January 2008, said many old houses cannot be made very energy efficient or carbon neutral.

From next year, his business, Building Partnerships, is based at Salhouse, near Norwich, will look for potential housing sites.

"And if we can buy them for the right money, we'll knock down what's there and try and build something exciting and green in its place. We're going to put our money where our mouth is."

He said that Europe was leading the field in new build techniques.

"In Scandinavia and Holland and Germany, what they are building is so far ahead of what we're constructing. We're building the same brick boxes that we've been building for the last 50 years.

"I don't believe that is sustainable. We should be using more laminated timber-frame and modern insulation materials. When you see some of these Swedish houses with triple glazing and largely made of wood, they can be very attractive. What people want today is good clean living space, suitable for modern living."

Mr Cator, who also farms at Salhouse and has his own herd of British White cattle, said: "We're talking to a district council about a green office building which will replace some asbestos buildings which make up a farmyard.

"We're trying to make a totally green - close to a railway station - people can get off the train and walk to work. That will be built to a modern design concept of zero carbon."

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