According to the Sunday Times, planners at Broadland district council in Norfolk have just approved a 22-home “green hamlet” designed by Conran & Partners, Terence Conran’s architecture and design studio, to be built in natural clearings in preserved woodland a few miles from Norwich. With these homes – 17 detached, plus a terrace of five affordable houses – Conran, the creator of Habitat and a major design force in many UK households, is putting his stamp of approval on affordable housing and sustainable living:
The Drayton scheme is the pilot for a larger eco-community of 4,000 homes, and Conran & Partners is part of a consortium of players in the housebuilding industry hoping to work with one of the developers chosen to build one of the 10 zero-carbon eco-towns planned in Britain.
“I passionately believe that as designers – whether we are working on buildings, products or even modes of transport – we have a great deal of responsibility to find eco-friendly solutions to the serious and real problems that threaten future generations. Eco-towns are going to be very much part of the future, and it is vital they are affordable and comfortable and that they function as places to live in their own right.”
The Drayton hamlet is a mix of three, four- and five-bedroom homes. No trees will be felled to make way for the properties, which will have pitched clay-tile roofs and be finished in render and timber cladding, with triple glazing and an array of eco-features. The hot-water system will be solar-powered, and rainwater, harvested and stored underground, will be used to flush lavatories and water gardens. The homes will be as airtight as possible and highly insulated: wood-burning stoves and small gas-fired boilers will provide top-up heating.
The big question is: will his eco-homes sell? They’re not cheap. The price of the smallest three-bed detached is expected to start at £300,000; a five-bedder will cost £500,000, and prices for the affordable homes are yet to be finalised. Given that five-bed new-builds in nearby estates are priced at £350,000 and the average house price in Drayton is £250,000, others aren’t so sure. “Eco-homes come at a premium, and I do not think there are enough people willing to pay those prices yet,” says Dave Richardson, head of group marketing for Howards, a local estate agency. He nevertheless predicts the affordable properties will be snapped up: “If people can have an eco-home and qualify for an affordable property, I’m sure they will.”