LILAC sustainable housing project nears completion

LILAC  (Low Impact Living Affordable Community) is a project that is in its last leg of its construction phase in Bramley. This development introduces to the UK its first affordable green co-housing project, which aims to minimize the negative human impact upon the environment, tackling the ever increasing threat of climate change.

Paul Chatterton, a geography lecturer here at Leeds University is one of the co-founders of the project. For him, the main difficulties of the project were finding the finances and land and the perseverance to see the project through.

He says, “the idea was to use co-housing recreate community in the city, and be involved in the local area, rather than create a segregated eco-village.  We have plans to use the Common House for local residents’ meetings and activities such as yoga.”

Co-housing is a model for living that involves the sharing of common spaces, resources, tools and manpower and ties in well with the reintroduction of a strong community bond. The community will centre on a Common House, which has workspaces, a kitchen and high-cost low-use tools such as washing machines.  It is also the first UK project to use Mutual Home Ownership, an idea pioneered by the New Economics Foundation, which will keep the houses permanently affordable.

Targets have been set by the government to ensure that all new buildings are carbon neutral by 2019, achieving a zero-carbon footprint can be done through the use of renewable energy sources, sourcing local materials and food, and carbon-offsetting such as planting trees.  LILAC ties in closely with the EU Carbon reduction targets of reducing emissions by 20% by 2020 (using the 1990 base levels), and a further 80-95% by 2050.

The construction and energy use of buildings contribute to almost half of the UK’s CO2 emissions, from the source of materials and its transportation. Cement and concrete production alone account for 7% of the world’s CO2 emissions. With this in mind, the LILAC project teamed up with Modcell, a company that produces straw- bale pre-fabricated panels. Straw is a natural by-product of farming and is usually sold as bedding for animals or burnt. As an agricultural waste product, it can be sourced locally by the surrounding farmers; without the need for further processing, it almost eliminates emissions from transportation and manufacture. By comparison, a standard house uses 50 tonnes of CO2 in its construction whereas straw, a highly effective insulation material, instead sequesters around 43 tonnes of CO2 per 100m2 household.

The project uses a fabric first approach, but includes some renewable energy sources: Solar PV to generate electricity, Solar Thermal Units to create hot water and uses Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery (MVHR) systems, recovering the heat normally lost with the extraction of hot air from kitchens and bathrooms.

LILAC offers an exciting new hope for the future of green living: communities like these can be set up almost anywhere. West Yorkshire sets a strong example for the rest of the UK. As early as 1992 Huddersfield Council started its project of emissions reduction, in 2002 it uniquely signed up to unprecedented reduction targets prompting local investment in insulation, solar and wind power.  Hopefully these projects will gather moment and provide a credible path to sustainability.

Opens in four months.

Stephanie Motzek and Alex Mitchell

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