Why 2050 House?

Houses that are being built or already exist now will still be around in 2050.

Our absolute priority is to reduce our use of fossil fuels – for the sake of our climate and increasingly perhaps geostrategically. Heating our homes uses huge amounts of energy – so drastically reducing this is brilliant.

What is extraordinary is that if we design houses to use tiny amounts of energy for heating, they are also hugely more comfortable and healthier – and can look stunningly good in just the same way as any house!

Why isn’t this happening all the time? Because we have to be much bolder and not just keep on doing more of the same because it’s familiar and sufficient for the current regulations, even when we know it isn’t good enough. We all demand much warmer homes than ever before. And so we must put energy at the heart of our design process along with aesthetics and practicalities. We want energy saving without being hair-shirted about it and comfort without compromise.

How little energy? What is realistic? What should we aim for? How do we achieve it?

Why 2050? The UK government has set a target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by 2050 (compared to 1990). It seems to me that we can’t make this sort of reduction in energy use in houses through a series of incremental improvements – we have to be bold from the start and get the buildings fully encapsulated in airtight blankets. This can’t be done piecemeal – quite the opposite: once you have put a bit of insulation in, or spent money on improving the heating system or windows, these act as disincentives to major improvements as they may have to be jettisoned. The bottom line is that heat can only be seriously contained if air leakage is an absolute minimum – and then ventilation with heat recovery is also effective. This requires deep-seated work to achieve and reap the energy rewards.

We have given much thought to energy in the design process – a huge amount of demand can simply be eliminated by thinking through insulation and prevention of air escaping at the detailed drawings stage. I feel that all projects should be doing this as routine – this site tries to capture our thoughts and experiences in this process.