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First zero carbon vicarage ready for occupation
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A London clergyman has become virtually immune from the rocketing price of gas, oil and electricity. The Rev Francis Adu-Boachie, vicar of St John's, Wembley, has moved into what is believed to be the greenest vicarage in Britain – a structure bristling with energy-saving features. The roof of his new home consists entirely of photo voltaic panels, the loft is insulated to a thickness of 400mm (16in), and the cavity filled walls are 435mm thick– including 160mm of high performance insulation - instead of the normal 315mm.

Ground source heat pumps, plunging 120 metres into the earth, have helped turn the vicarage floors into giant radiators, and drafts have been eradicated so successfully that the building now loses only a fraction of its warm air, through leaky windows and such like, compared to conventional homes, according to architect Chris Rainsford.

"It really is a ground-breaking development," said Rainsford, whose firm Calford Seaden prepared the designs, working closely with social housing provider LHA-ASRA and main contractors Galliford Try.

William Cornall, group director of development and assets with LHA-ASRA, the social housing group behind the project, said: "Identifying good quality sites for much needed affordable housing is always a real challenge in London. “However, by working creatively, with a range of partners, this development clearly demonstrates what can be achieved, even in these times of constrained government funding. This development will be a fantastic asset for our business and the people of Brent more generally".

The new vicarage will leave a virtually invisible carbon footprint – reduced to zero assuming average heat settings are used.

LHA-ASRA has provided the ecologically sound vicarage for the Diocese of London – along with a new church hall - as part of an agreement that freed up a large area of vicarage land for affordable homes in a complex comprising eight four bedroom houses and 12 flats. Remarkably the vicarage achieves Level Six of the government’s Code for Sustainable Homes – believed to be the first vicarage in Britain to achieve such a high standard.

Rainsford added: "The building can essentially be self sufficient in energy and heating, although obviously mains power services are connected for back-up purposes. "In normal circumstances, with normal usage, the building generates its own electricity with enough left over to feed into the national grid. At night, when photo voltaic panels don’t work, they take electricity back from the grid for heating and lighting."

Grade II listed St John’s - an early design by the renowned Victorian church architect Sir George Gilbert Scott who was also responsible for St Pancras Station - was built in 1846 and remains unaltered.

Archdeacon of Northolt, The Venerable Rachel Treweek, who conducted a blessing of the vicarage on Friday (April 8), said: "It’s a fantastic development for Wembley and we are extremely proud to be at the forefront of the fight against climate change. This is a great example of our principles in practise."

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