Phil Spencer talks sustainable housing!

Phil Spencer talks sustainable housing!

It is well known that we have two major problems with housing in the UK. We have increasingly tight building regulations, meaning we have to continuously innovate the way we build to meet our carbon targets. At the same time, we are suffering a shortage of social and affordable housing, with a 95% reduction in the amount of social housing being built since 2010. So how do we meet both of these challenges?

A programme appeared recently, presented by Phil Spencer, ‘History of Britain in 100 homes’. And one key section stood out to us at Elmhurst Energy Consultancy – the story of LILAC.

LILAC is a low impact, affordable community in Leeds. Having come up with the concept in 2006, a group of residents spent 3 years doing intensive research in how they could design eco- friendly and affordable housing, and by 2013, building was complete. So exactly how are these houses ‘low impact living and eco- friendly’?

1. Construction 

The houses are constructed using panel timber walls insulated with straw bale. This method actually emulates the way we used to build houses in the middle ages, and not only did this significantly reduce the CO2 emissions during construction but the timber and straw bale also sequestered a lot of CO2 as they were grown, over 1000 tonnes.

2. Passive solar/ MHVR 

The insulating material and design combine to store solar heat in winter and reject solar heat in summer, thus reducing the need for heating services. Mechanical ventilation heat recovery systems also enable indoor air quality to remain high without needing to open windows. This is an increasingly important consideration as the air tightness of our buildings is improved.

3. Solar Energy 

Each property has a 1.25kw solar PV array, with an additional 4kw in the communal house. In addition, they have solar thermal for space and hot water heating, allowing them to self-generate their electricity, reducing grid demand.


Elmhurst Energy Consultancy were very encouraged to see such an innovative and low energy construction project, and are keen to see many more architects, construction companies and self-builders start to incorporate such techniques on a larger scale. At present, many of these techniques are still more costly than conventional methods so will increase capital costs but homeowners will undoubtedly recoup these costs through energy savings once the house is in operation, and will help to cement their longer term energy security.

If you would like to discuss a new build project, our expert consultants have over 25 years’ experience in providing advice to meet and exceed building regulation targets, and are able to demonstrate benefits of innovative techniques in the building modelling software’s, SAP and SBEM.

To find out more about how our team can help you, please visit our website or call on 01455 883 259.

A link to the programme can be found here

Article published 29th March 2019

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