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First green homes going up at at Ebbw vale steelworks
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A new mini-community of zero and near zero carbon homes on the site of the old steel works at Ebbw Vale aim to not only stimulate the development of a low carbon built environment in Wales but also to kick-start a ‘green' economy in the country. The Welsh Future Homes project is a unique development of three affordable houses and a visitor centre. One of the homes has been designed to meet Level 6 of the Code for Sustainable Homes, making it a zero carbon home - the first to be achieved in Wales.
First green homes going up at at Ebbw vale steelworks

Each of the buildings are constructed from a range of locally sourced materials that demonstrate high sustainability credentials and low energy costs of as little as £50 per annum.

The development, a partnership project between BRE Wales, the Welsh Assembly Government, Blaenau Gwent Council and United Welsh Housing Association includes:

A three bedroom Passivhaus, designed to meet Level 6 of the Code for Sustainable Homes. Designed by Bere Architects and developed by United Welsh Housing Association, the home is constructed with a close panel timber frame system made from Welsh timber that was developed by BRE, Bere and Holbrook timber frame. The home includes PVs and is clad with Welsh Larch.

A three bedroom house developed by a company from Flint called Dragonboard which uses the company's own innovative board product that acts as a replacement for oriented strand board, and plasterboard. This house has been designed to meet Level 5 of the Code for Sustainable Homes.

A two bedroom Passivhaus (under construction) designed by Bere Architects and developed by United Welsh Housing Association. This home is similar to the three bedroom Passivhaus but is clad in Welsh lime render. On this home, Woodknowledge Wales, Bere and BRE worked with Beyer, a UK window designer and eight Welsh joiners to develop a Passivhaus standard window that can be made by Welsh joiners using Welsh timbers. Prior to this project there was not a single company able to make Passivhaus quality windows in Wales.

Visitor centre: designed by the Welsh School of Architecture (WSA) it is constructed from the Ty Unnos post and beam system developed by WSA, Woodknowledge Wales, Coed Cymru and partners. This low energy building (approx 18kwh/m2/yr) uses Welsh timber, Warmcell insulation from Rhymney with windows and doors developed by Vintage Windows, a local joiner using Welsh wood.

BRE Wales Director Nick Tune said ‘BRE and partners are very proud of what has been accomplished on this project. From the outset we aimed to achieve more than just sustainable homes. We wanted to develop a range of Welsh made construction materials and products that could meet the high sustainability criteria now essential in developing a low carbon built environment. Most of the homes meeting high levels of sustainability in the UK use a primarily international supply chain. We have shown what can be achieved through collaboration, partnership and a positive ‘can do attitude'.

Once occupied (Summer 2011), the homes will be monitored to see how they perform in use. Areas covered will include human behaviour in relation to energy and CO2 reduction, air quality in relation to the mechanical ventilation heat recovery system used in the homes to control airflow, heat loss of the buildings, and the efficiency of the renewable energy systems.

All of these ‘prototype' houses have cost between £1,200 - £1,600 m2 to build (average cost of social housing Code 3 is £1,200m2). Funding for the project came from the Heads of the Valleys Programme and Blaenau Gwent Council.

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