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DETR report promotes low density for sustainability

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Electric bicycles and reductions in housing densities could be two of the features of sustainable housing developments, according to the latest report produced for the detr's Energy Efficiency Best Practice programme.

Building a Sustainable Future is based on studies by Brenda and Robert Vale, who designed the uk's first autonomous house in Southwell, Nottinghamshire, and defines three standards of housing design and specification: zero carbon-dioxide emissions, zero heating, and autonomy - ie, achieving both zero carbon dioxide and heating standards by the use of on-site renewable energy generation. This option uses no mains services except electricity, and it generates enough renewably generated electricity to compensate for what it takes from the mains.

The report cites the Vales' Southwell house and Sherwood Energy Village, designed by Benoy, as case studies, and provides detailed information and drawings, including performance standards way above British Standards.

It concludes that 'the zero co2 and zero heating house standards can readily be applied to conventional housing; the autonomous standard, on the other hand, offers considerably greater challenges to builders and occupants alike'. It suggests that the greatest benefit will be achieved by creating communities based on such criteria.

These communities, it argues, should have densities of only 30 houses per ha, the old 'garden city' density, to allow plenty of space for growing vegetables. And it promotes the electric bicycle as the most effective method of powered transport, consuming only 0.01 kWh per passenger km.

Copies of the report are available free from brecsu, tel: 01923 664258.

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