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20:47 on Monday
30 December 2002

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Chamber learns about 'friendly' homes 



Environmentally friendly homes need not be 'wacky, on-the-fringe' designs, members of Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce & Industry's construction sector were told on 16 April.

At a seminar sponsored by English Partnerships, the government's regeneration and development agency, almost 100 managers from companies involved in design and construction heard local experts explain how simple techniques could cut the environmental impact of homes.

Almost half the energy used in the UK is used in the heating, lighting and operation of homes and other buildings, Matt Grace of engineers Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick told the meeting.

A further one-quarter of UK energy production is used by transport, much of which is involved in moving people and goods between buildings - so the siting of buildings can have a further dramatic effect on total energy use.

"Taken together, these energy uses are making a major contribution to environmental problems such as global warming," Mr Grace said.

John Thornberry of architects Ruddle Wilkinson gave examples of simple techniques which could be used in the design and construction of buildings to reduce their environmental impact and, in particular, to cut their energy use.

"Affordable, sustainable design need not be high technology," he told the meeting. "It is not wacky, on-the-fringe design but in the mainstream of construction. Sustainable design can be affordable. It has more to do with an approach and an attitude of mind by building designers and users than it has to do with any new technology."

New technology can have a role to play, however, as Dominic Burbridge of solar energy company Solar Century told the meeting.

He explained how recent advances in photovoltaics mean that solar cells can be built into the structure of a building to generate electricity. When included as part of modern house designs they can produce more power than the house uses, allowing the householder to actually sell electricity back to the local electricity company.

He produced test results from UK houses which showed that even on cloudy days solar cells on north-facing roofs generate substantial amounts of electricity.

Paul Griffiths of English Partnerships, which helped to fund the event, said: "English Partnerships has a role to play in encouraging best practice in design and construction. The seminar has helped to show that environmentally friendly design need not be difficult or expensive."

The seminar was chaired by Roger Almond of French Kier Anglia Ltd, chairman of the Chamber's construction sector.

April 2002

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