“Zero-carbon” Architecture Doesn’t Mean Eco-smart

gary neville eco home

Former English footballer Gary Neville’s $9.7 million eco-home was granted planning permission. But is this really what environmentally-smart building’s about?

The ex-Manchester United club captain’s five-bedroom subterranean mansion will be the first carbon neutral home in Bolton, a city near the West Pennine Moors in England’s north west.

The posh eco-home bears a striking resemblance to the Teletubbies’ house, where the starring foursome of  the smash BBC television hit lived and made vats of pink tubby custard.  That children’s series, running from 1997 to 2002, targeted toddlers, but the show gained cult status with British and American college  students too.  Although he’s not a university graduate, Neville’s the right age to have been a “mature fan” of the show.  Could be where he gained his architectural sensibility.

Neville told the Sun: “I wanted the best-performing property. I wanted to live in the best, most sustainable zero-carbon property.”

The design, by Make Architecture, includes a ground source heat pump and photovoltaics to generate household electricity.  It will be built from locally sourced materials, and harvest rainwater for supplemental irrigation.

“Already billed as ‘a house of the future’, the unique scheme truly tests the boundaries of current sustainable thinking in terms of design and construction,” said Make.

“The orientation, the efficiency, the thermal mass, the performance of the glazing, the performance of the rain-water recovery systems, the photo-voltaic solar cells, the wind turbine. It will have ground and air-source heat pumps. The hope is that all this technology will make it as efficient as possible.”

It’s so green it scores a “code 6” (the highest possible rating) on the UK government’s building energy benchmarking system, BREEAM.

Local councilman Andy Morgan told The Sun that the planning application was innovative,”It’s not too obtrusive for residents and it’s a building which absolutely protects the environment.

Original plans included a wind turbine, which was eliminated in response to complaints lodged by local residents. The first application for planning permission generated over 100 objections from Neville’s neighbors.  The successful final application only received two objections, the final design is significantly downsized  from original plans.

So what’s the problem with this bit of pricey eco-folly?

The project will be built on virgin moorland, in a place of outstanding natural beauty.  Just as “low-fat” doesn’t mean “healthy:  ‘zero carbon’ doesn’t mean “minimal impact”.

Consider the disruption and damage caused by excavation and construction for new utility lines,  Apart from the driveway, 6 courtyards and disruption and damage caused by utilities being installed on the site. It’s also costing around 6 million, which hardly makes it an exemplar study of sustainable housing.

Construction is due to start next year.

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