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University in Britain Promotes Environmentally Friendly Housing Construction

The University of Nottingham in Britain is building an environmentally friendly research house to promote the reduction of carbon emissions. The aim is for the experimental house to serve as a future guide for environmentally friendly house building. For VOA News, Suzanne Chislett reports.

The shining metallic shell of the house of the future: by 2050 all new houses in Britain could be built like this -- no bricks, no mortar but instead sheet steel, environmentally friendly concrete, and polystyrene.

It is part of a plan by the British government to make all new homes carbon neutral -- homes that do not have an impact on the environment.

The house is called “C60.” Students and staff at the University of Nottingham designed and built it. The new construction is intended to act as a future guide for environmentally friendly house-building, helping the British government meet its target to reduce carbon emissions in the United Kingdom by 60 percent by 2050.

After it is completed, staff and students plan to live and work in the three-story house, and monitor and control every aspect of day-to-day life, such as heating, lighting, ventilation, energy and water.

Guillermo Guzman Dumont teaches architecture at the University of Nottingham. He designed the C60 house and he says the data from the project will have an impact on the design of future houses.

"There are very few cases in which monitoring, data of monitoring, is used to really make an impact on design,” he says. “We are using new technologies in terms of use of material and distribution of material. So we expect that this research will allow us to disseminate this to all the practicing architects we have around the country."

Not only will the C60 house be built from unconventional eco-friendly materials, it will also be packed with cutting edge technology – all designed to make the house carbon-neutral through its energy efficiency.For instance, using a rainwater tank on the roof, bathwater will be reused in the toilet, cutting water use by 70 percent.

The University insists all appliances and lighting will be low energy, cutting electricity use by 60 percent. The house has extra insulation as well to keep air heated deep under the basement from escaping. It is expected to cut heating bills by 70 percent.

More than 30 private sector companies are contributing expertise and materials to the project, including the roof, internal walls, rainwater management systems, windows, heating controls and air cooling.

A key component is the unique steel frame made by Stoneguard. Steel makers use a lot of energy and their smokestacks look is if they spew a lot of carbon into the air. But managing director Mike Hinman says that, compared to other building materials such as concrete – even wood, steel has less of an overall impact.

"It's carbon friendly because you are using a very small amount of natural resources, or even manufactured materials. All those things you use to manufacture something uses carbons. So if you look at any other type of building there would be treble or quadruple the amount of material within the structure," says Hinman.

What is more, Stoneguard's managing director says the way the steel frame is insulated greatly reduces energy consumption once the house is built.

But it is not just private companies involved in the C60 project. Architecture students at the University of Nottingham are fully involved in every aspect of construction and development of the house. Lucelia Rodrigues is one of them.

"A lot of students have been working here and we've been actually building everything. Even digging the holes in my case because of building the pipe system around the house and placing the panels together and measuring everything. It's really hands-on work."

It may have started as a teaching project, but the technology that is coming together under the roof of the C60 house may form the basis for the future of energy efficient homes in the UK