Did you know that it is estimated that around 20 per cent of the UK’s greenhouse emissions come from domestic housing? This is an alarming statistic that has not gone unnoticed by individuals, governments and businesses alike of late.
In 2019, the UK became the first major world economy to pass laws intended to completely end its contribution to global warming by 2050, committing to a ‘net-zero’ target. As part of this plan, in January 2021, the Ministry of Housing announced fresh eco-legislation, which set out plans for all new domestic buildings in the UK to be constructed following strict energy efficient standards, resulting in a plan for all new homes to be 'zero carbon ready’ by 2025.
Inspired by our recent look at some of the most efficient eco homes that already exist in the UK, here at Viessmann, we started thinking about what the average British home and street might look like when the 2050 ‘net-zero’ target has been hit. So, from an array of eco-tech and improved insulation to heat pumps and community electric car charging ports, come with us as we attempt to visualise a more eco-friendly future.
According to census data, the most popular type of home in the UK is the humble semi-detached house - for this reason, this is the kind of dwelling we have focused on. While the general outside appearance of the house doesn't look unfamiliar to what we are used to today, this futuristic net-zero home contains a range of major modifications and adjustments. These innovative eco-friendly improvements can be categorised into five main areas:
Fabric first solutions refer to the design changes that specifically alter the makeup of the building ‘fabric’ itself in a way that will boost the energy efficiency of the home. These building features are made before any specialist mechanical or electrical technologies and/or systems are installed and include features such as increased levels of insulation, better natural ventilation and improved use of natural light through the use of smart building materials.
As you can see, the outside of our visualisation of a future net-zero house features intelligent triple glazed windows and energy efficient exterior doors. Both of these simple solutions improve energy efficiency, keeping the home warmer in winter and cooler in summer, by reducing dependence on heating and cooling systems. In turn, they will reduce carbon emissions and energy bills.
Turning our attention to the interior of the home, the first thing to notice is the increased insulation. From cavity wall and underfloor insulation throughout the house to standard loft and hot pipe insulation, this home has been designed to trap heat everywhere. Draught-proofed doors and windows in every room also help to naturally control the temperature of this smart home. When combined, the fabric first solutions installed in this net-zero house work to keep it at the desired temperature all year round, reducing heating bills and harmful emissions in the process.
Aside from insulation, the interior of this house also benefits from fabric first solutions in the shape of large windows that maximise the use of natural light, reducing reliance on electric lighting.
With cleaner electric cars likely to become the most popular form of personal transport by 2050, electric car charging stations will become commonplace in our homes. In our model semi-detached house, this feature is located in the garage.
Solar panels are installed on the roof of our net-zero home of the future too. While this tech is already used by many houses, by 2050 it is hoped the technology that allows for this renewable source of energy becomes even more efficient. Thanks to the handy energy storage system found in the garage, converted energy can be safely and efficiently stored and used at different times. For example, electricity generated by your panels during the day could be used to power all lighting and electric devices throughout the house at night.
All appliances used in the home will be super energy efficient and controlled by smart Wi-Fi enabled tech, while the artificial lighting will make use of efficient LEDs. This will reduce the home’s carbon footprint and help cut energy bills.
When it comes to heating systems, the net-zero home could use an air source heat pump or ground source heat pump, or both - two low carbon heating solutions. The air source pump takes heat naturally stored in air outside, absorbing the ambient heat and transferring that energy to a refrigerant fluid. This fluid then passes through a compressor, which increases its temperature, before transferring this heat to the various heating and hot water systems in the house. Similarly, the ground source heat pump, which can be seen in the garden, use buried pipes to extract natural heat from deep in the ground. This can then be used to heat underfloor heating systems, water and radiators in the home. These systems are far cleaner than gas boilers and electric heating systems.
Small but important features of our net-zero home are the green spaces. From a natural garden filled with trees, flowers and other wildlife, to the beautiful ‘living’ biophilic wall mounted on the side of the house, these green spaces are not just for show. They are designed to remove toxic chemicals in the atmosphere, produce more oxygen and reduce the amount of airborne bacteria around the home. They are also proven to enhance emotional wellbeing.
The average net-zero home of the future will feature more sustainable materials, both inside and outside. As you can see above, our eco-friendly semi-detached house uses locally sourced building materials for its outer walls and roof to reduce its carbon footprint. For example, if this home was located in the Cotswolds, it could be built out of oolitic limestone, which is very common in that area.Moving inside, the flooring of our 2050 eco-home is made from sustainable bamboo. As strong, durable and attractive as traditional hardwood flooring, bamboo has the advantage of a quick growth rate. Unlike traditional options, which can take between 20 and 100 years to grow, bamboo only takes three to five years to grow fully, making it super sustainable. Aside from flooring, sustainably-made furniture is also used throughout this home.
Last but certainly not least, a series of specialist water conservation features helps to make this home a net-zero domestic dwelling. Outside, a smart wastewater collection system takes rainwater from the roof and stores it in discreet tanks which are plumbed into the home. This so-called ‘greywater’ is then used to flush toilets, wash clothes and water the garden.
Inside, this home uses clean water more efficiently thanks to low-flow water fixtures. From taps and showerheads to smart toilet flushers, these fixtures are designed to achieve water savings by having a lower flow rate and/or a smaller flush cycle. These water savings are not only good for the bank account, but also the environment.
So, now we have an idea about what the average net-zero home of the future may look like, but what about the average street? In an attempt to visualise how the collective changes of hitting our net-zero target by 2050 may look, we have created a before and after slider featuring a typical terraced housing street.