House build central to project addressing housing and climate issues

An architect's mock-up of the EcoLab smart-home

The two-bed home will help develop sustainable homes of the future - Credit: studiomanifest.co.uk

A research project looking to address the UK housing crisis by building a house that achieves zero-carbon occupancy is underway. 

Construction has started on a new research facility at Adastral Park, at Martlesham Heath, that aims to address the UK housing crisis with an emphasis on sustainability. 

The EcoLab collaborative project, led by the University of Suffolk (UoS) in partnership with New Anglia Local Enterprise and BT, aims to build a facility using the latest construction methods that achieves zero carbon occupancy. 

It is also hoped that the build can prove a 50% reduction in the carbon emitted during the construction process - also known as embodied carbon - compared to a typical brick and block house. 

Benjamin Powell, lecturer in architecture at UoS, said: "The project brief was to address two of the most pressing concerns that we face; climate change, and the impact the construction industry has on this; and the UK housing crisis, which sees the chronic shortage of affordable housing. 

"This first stage of the project will see a finished two-bed home that achieves a zero-carbon occupancy and a 50% reduction in embodied carbon.  

"At the same time, this is being developed through a model that can be built out at scale whilst achieving very significant savings in construction costs over similarly minded low energy schemes.  

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"We believe this is a fundamental requirement of making a low energy future attainable to all and, therefore, attainable at all."  

In the longer term, the completed smart-home will allow students and researchers to evaluate the performance of sustainable materials, low carbon energy and water consumption. 

Chris Starkie, chief executive of New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, said: "I'm pleased to see work progressing on the EcoLab, which forms part of our investment in the DigiTech Centre through our Growth Deal with Government.  

"Testing greener construction methods and materials are vital if we are to develop the clean growth skills which our region needs to support the transition to net-zero.  

"I'm looking forward to seeing the new sustainable technologies and innovative ideas which are developed and tested as part of this project." 

The EcoLab at Adastral Park is due to be completed in April.