With climate change, global warming and environmental issues at the top of the news agenda, all industries are looking for ways to be more sustainable, eco-friendly and low-carbon – and that very much includes housing.
But could Verksbyen, a new green neighbourhood in Fredrikstad, Norway, which aims to showcase the future of sustainable living, be the sort of model that the UK will follow in years to come?
As part of the project, construction firm Arca Nova Bolig is building five five-storey apartment buildings located in the Capjon Park area in Verskbyen, with the buildings constructed using Metsä Wood’s Kerto LVL (laminated veneer lumber) products – which aims to make the construction process fast, light and green.
Verksbyen, which is going to become home to 5,000 people within the next decade, is aiming to be Norway’s most innovative housing project. In the long term, Arca Nova Bolig has ambitious plans to change the housing market in the same way as Tesla is transforming the car industry.
That might be a huge ambition, but the firm strongly believes in growing demand for sustainable building, which is the backbone of the Arca Nova’s Future Living concept.
Ruben D. Hansen, chief executive of Arca Nova Bolig, said: “We have managed to reduce CO2 emissions in a variety of ways. The houses are built with timber elements according to the passive house standard. Electricity is produced with solar energy and heating with solar thermal energy.”
He added: “Building with prefabricated elements using Kerto LVL products, we reduce both the building time and CO2 emissions quite substantially compared to the traditional way of building with steel and concrete.”
How are the homes being built?
One of the quickest ways to build – and it’s experienced a revival in Britain in recent times – is to use prefabricated elements built elsewhere and transported onto site, which allows for faster construction. The buildings in Verksbyen are rising at the pace of one floor a week, which means it takes just five weeks to complete a building.
The first of the five multi-storey buildings will be finished by the end of this year, with the rest completed by the end of 2020.
Metsä Wood, a global company with UK operations which produces and sells 100% traceable timber from sustainable northern forests, helped Arca Nova Bolig with their technical solution for the wooden apartment buildings.
“Our cooperation has been vital to our success in creating a new design system for the Norwegian housing market,” Hansen said.
Metsä Wood believes building with sustainably sourced wood is an environmentally-friendly and sustainable way to build now and in the future.
You can find out more about the sustainable neighbourhood in Verksbyen, including how the homes are built and their fire-safety credentials, here.
Are there similar green projects in Britain?
While wooden homes are far from commonplace in Britain, the desire for more eco-friendly properties definitely appears to be rising.
We looked before at how the green credentials of a rental property are increasingly important to tenants, while in May we asked whether eco-homes are the investment properties of the future.
In that article, we explored how one housebuilder, Newark-based Gusto Homes, is building the second phase of an eco-development near Lincoln – which, once complete, will include 29 sustainable homes.
Elsewhere, just last week we reported on the topping out of a ‘botanical development’ in Canary Wharf – a development which will include exotic trees and plants, as well as a resident gardener, once complete.
There has been a general rise in sustainable, eco-friendly homes in the UK in recent years, while a number of niche housebuilders are treating sustainability very seriously. Equally, established housebuilders now tend to wear their sustainable and eco-friendly badges very seriously, with most new developments – big and small – having some environmentally-friendly element to them.
BedZED, completed in 2002 in South London, was the UK’s first large-scale eco-village. The mixed-use sustainable community, in Sutton, is made up of 100 homes, office space, a college and community facilities, and was initiated by Bioregional and developed by Peabody Trust in partnership with Bioregional and ZEDfactory architects. It has also proved to be an inspiration for zero-carbon homes worldwide.
With the way things are going, eco-friendly, sustainable homes and villages could start to become the norm rather than the exception – and, if nothing else, sustainable models of housebuilding should become entirely mainstream as environmental concerns and the demand for green homes continues to rise.