With environmental issues high up on the news agenda and a recent rise in sustainable living, there has been an increasing focus in recent months on eco-friendly homes and developments that could help us all to live more sustainably in the future.
Whether through David Attenborough’s latest BBC documentary, the controversial Extinction Rebellion protests, the activism of Greta Thunberg and other schoolchildren across the globe, or the strong performance of green parties in recent elections, there is a greater awareness than ever of the threats posed by climate change and global warming and how these can be tackled or offset.
One housebuilder, Newark-based Gusto Homes, is doing its bit by building the second phase of an eco-development near Lincoln.
Nestled on a leafy 12-acre site just five miles from Lincoln city centre, Woodlands Edge has its own private woodland, as well as a tennis court, ponds and an allotment for every household. The company, who have been specialising in eco-housing since 1999, is aiming to lead the way in the future of eco-housing.
Once complete, the development – whose first phase was completed around two years ago, with a further 11 homes currently being built - will contain just 29 homes. On other sites of a similar size you would typically expect to see approximately 100.
“Twenty years’ experience of building eco-homes has gone into this site, not just the sustainable houses but the community element as well,” Steff Wright, Gusto Homes chief executive, who lives on the development himself, said.
“We’ve really pushed the boundaries and built something absolutely unique in terms of the energy performance of the houses and the lifestyle. This is how housing should be.”
The 11 homes currently being built consist of six four-beds and five two-beds, ranging in price from £300,000 to £499,000.
The homes are all fully electric, with solar panels and electric car charging points coming as standard. They generate the majority of their power from the integrated solar panels on the roof and also contain air filtration and heat recovery systems, while the heating can be controlled by a smartphone app. Typically, running costs are less than £1 a day.
However, the house-builder is keen to insist that its eco-credentials are only a small part of life at Woodlands Edge, with everybody who purchases a property also getting a share in the resident-owned management company, giving them input into improving and managing the site.
There’s also a desire for a strong community vibe to be created, with regular activities on offer including Bollywood dance classes, tai chi lessons and even an annual gin festival. Meanwhile, for those that really want to get their hands dirty, there’s a plant store on site containing lawnmowers and rotavators, while regular working parties are organised to carry out tasks such as bulb planting.
“One of the unexpected joys of moving here is the community life that we have found, which was something I didn’t really think about beforehand,” said Dr Bob Price, who moved in with his wife Sheelagh about 18 months ago. “No one is in any way intrusive or invasive but if you need them they are there. It really is a lovely place to be, with a lovely set of neighbours as well.”
They originally moved to the Lincoln area to be closer to their daughter and grandchildren, but Dr Price said he was sceptical about moving into a modern home to begin with.
“We were originally looking at very traditional cottages but within five minutes of being at Woodlands Edge I was sold and before we’d even finished that first visit I’d said to Sheelagh ‘we have to find a way to make this happen’,” he added.
Dr Price, who has worked in sport all his life, is now using his experience to run the weekly tai chi classes for other residents.
“We’ve been running them for a year now and regularly have at least ten people out there, come rain or shine.”
The demographic makeup of Woodlands Edge is diverse, with a combination of working age and retired householders. It’s now hoped the new detached four-bedroom properties will attract families with children, ready to ‘benefit from the safe open space surrounding them’.
Gusto Homes says the two-bedroom properties, meanwhile, are more likely to appeal to those looking to downsize but who still want the benefit of being surrounded by lots of land.
This was the case for Tina and Steve White, who moved in two years ago.
“The thing that first attracted us was the house itself,” 57 year old Tina said. “There’s so much light and space, and we loved all the eco credentials.”
“We’d come from a 200-year-old cottage, so you couldn’t get much more different, but the moment we walked inside the show home I loved it - the light and the view and the fantastic space. It was just really wonderful.”
Tina also praised the community aspect of the development. “Having been here for two years now I realise that we’ve got something quite unique,” she said.
“When we were kids growing up there was a real community atmosphere about our street. I think, generally, society has moved away from that now, but at Woodlands Edge we’ve very quickly got to know other people. There’s a real sense of community forming. We feel very safe here and I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.”
This news article from Housing Today explains in more detail about how the homes were constructed and how they will be heated and insulated – from triple glazing to infra-red heating panels.