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published: 28/6/2011
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Housing Minister launches Prince's Foundation House

Grant Shapps MP, Minister of State for Housing and Local Government, launched the ‘Natural House' at the BRE Innovation Park in Watford today. The house has been developed by the Prince's Foundation for the Built Environment, which was founded by the Prince of Wales to put people and the communities they live in at the forefront of architectural design.

The Natural House has been designed as a prototype for viable, sustainable, volume housing, which delivers low carbon homes that provide comfortable, attractive, healthy and adaptable environments for their occupants.

‘The house is proportioned to have broad and enduring appeal for the home-buying public,' says Hank Dittmar, Chief Executive of the Prince's Foundation, ‘rather than following some contemporary and perhaps short-lived fashion in architecture.  Its "paired villa" styling accommodates thermally efficient, thick roofs and walls, while presenting an elegant face to the street.'

Using the classic, terraced-house building form, the Natural House has been constructed in three different configurations - a family home, a maisonette and a studio flat - demonstrating its flexibility for a variety of household sizes and types.

As the name suggests, the house is built from a suite of natural materials that have low environmental impact in their manufacture. These include clay blocks, sustainably sourced (FSC) timber, and wood fibre and sheep wool insulation. It is designed for a long lifespan of 200 years or more. 

The Natural House has been designed to demonstrate the effectiveness of a strong thermal and airtight envelope in achieving low carbon homes. The carbon strategy is based on a coherent building shell in which all the elements are designed to be compatible providing a strong thermal envelope with good mass.  To avoid thermal bridging, the house has a simple profile with no unnecessary extraneous elements. It aims to reduce the space heating requirement by 70%  compared to current 2011 building regulations.

Peter Bonfield, Chief Executive of BRE comments "The aim of the BRE Innovation Park is to show a range of diverse approaches to sustainable homes and buildings. With the Natural House, the Princes Foundation have brought a unique dynamic to the Park - we are excited about the new body of knowledge that it will generate about low impact homes that work for people and the environment'.

The house design aims to address concern that very airtight new buildings may be unhealthy to live in.  Its breathable wall construction prevents water being trapped within the wall, a key factor in causing asthma and other respiratory illness.  A passive ventilation system provides regular air change in each room, avoiding stale air and lingering damp and smells.  The natural materials used in decoration include non-VOC paints, wool carpets and wood floors and further promote good air quality. In addition, natural light is optimised by large windows and ‘borrowed light' over doors, to enhance occupancy comfort and wellbeing. 

The Prince's Foundation and BRE will now undertake a programme of testing and assessment of the prototype in Watford.

For further information contact Linda McKeown, BRE, tel 01923 664569, email mckeownl@bre.co.uk


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