SSE (Scottish and Southern Energy) is to become the first utility in the UK to build and monitor its own development of zero carbon homes.

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Zero carbon homes developed to better understand what customers will need as the UK moves to reduce carbon emissions by almost 20% between 2008 and 2020.

As part of a ground-breaking project to appreciate the changing role of energy suppliers in a more sustainable society, SSE is constructing 10 eco homes in Chalvey, Slough. The zero carbon properties, a mixture of two and three bedroom family houses, and one bedroom flats, are being built on land previously occupied by an SSE office building.

In one of the first ever live demonstrations of what will be needed to achieve highly energy efficient living, SSE will test the every-day performance of the technology installed in the homes, such as a photovoltaic (solar) roof and a renewable district heating system. The information gleaned will help SSE understand how householders respond and adapt to zero carbon living. It will also provide the company and its subsidiaries with valuable information to share with stakeholders such as construction partners, technology manufacturers and industry bodies.

The development, to be called Greenwatt Way, has been designed by architects PRP to achieve the highest specification for sustainable building – known as Code Level 6 in the Code for Sustainable Homes. All new homes built in England from 2016 onwards must be zero carbon and it is likely this requirement could be introduced at an earlier date for publicly funded housing. Code 6 is the toughest level in the new set of building regulations. A zero carbon home is one that generates as much renewable power as it uses over the course of a year and so has net zero carbon dioxide emissions. While this project will generate all energy on site, it is likely that the new regulations will become more flexible in future.

Greenwatt Way will feature grey water recycling, triple glazed windows, enhanced insulation, and its very own renewable energy ‘heat hub’, housing five different types of micro-generation including air and ground source heat pumps, a biomass boiler and solar thermal panels. Photovoltaic tiles will be integrated into the roofs. The homes will be kitted out with the latest energy efficient appliances and SSE will use smart meters to monitor the energy and water usage of the homes for 24 months. Outside, the homes will boast their own terraces as well as a communal garden with allotment space to grow vegetables. Residents will also share use of an all-electric Ford Focus.

Construction work has begun on site and the properties should be ready for occupation later this summer. Upon completion the properties will be rented out to SSE employees and their families, and to local key workers and staff through a partnership with Slough Borough Council. Residents will be asked to give their views on the homes and technology by filling out monthly questionnaires. The findings will contribute to studies being carried out by Reading University, NHBC (National House-Building Council) and BRE (Building Research Establishment).

Ian Marchant, chief executive of Scottish and Southern Energy, said: “This is an exciting project for SSE as it will give us a much clearer picture of the zero carbon home process from start to finish. It will help us understand the challenges facing builders, architects and suppliers as they prepare for these new building regulations. We will also get a unique insight into the needs and concerns of residents as they adapt to low carbon living.”

“Our core purpose is to provide the energy people need in a reliable and sustainable way and the move to zero carbon is completely consistent with that. It could provide a real opportunity for a business such as ours, because we have extensive interests in renewable energy, new energy technologies and energy efficiency. The zero carbon agenda therefore represents a commercial and an environmental opportunity and I believe that this project will help to confirm the exciting scale of that opportunity.”

The design and construction of the properties has been sub contracted and where possible, local contractors are being used to support employment in the area. The installation of renewable energy features will be carried out by SSE’s subsidiaries, Southern Electric Contracting and SSE Utility Solutions.

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