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A home with no footprint

The Kingspan Lighthouse

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Kai Ryssdal: British architects and builders are showing off their contribution to the fight against climate change. They've unveiled the country's first carbon-neutral home at an exhibit in London. The two-bedroom house is designed to emit no greenhouse gases and, oh yeah, to save a small fortune in energy bills, too.

From the British capital, Marketplace's Stephen Beard reports.


Stephen Beard: This won't win an award for architectural beauty, but the tall, narrow building could be the shape of things to come.

Packed with energy-saving devices, it's designed to cut a household's carbon emissions to zero. At the moment, a quarter of the U.K.'s total CO2 comes from homes.

Oliver Novakovic of the building research body, which organized today's show:

Oliver Novakovic: We're in an era now where climate change is becoming more and more serious. And it's not so much nice to have these technologies. But over the next 15 years, it's a must-have.

By 2016, all new buildings in Britain will have to be carbon-neutral by law. The house on display today is designed to show that that's both technically and commercially possible.

The architect, Alan Shingler, says insulation is crucial:

Alan Shingler: Now well, the key issue in the first instance is to reduce the amount of heat loss that the house will take, so it's highly insulated and airtight. So you only have to heat the home for six weeks of the year.

The house has solar panels and a biomass boiler. The energy bills could be as low as $62 a year. The cost of building the zero-carbon house is 40 percent higher than a conventional one. But, says Shingler, that cost will come down.

Shingler: As you build more of them — say 250 homes — you get economies of scale. So I do see a lot of these things, a lot of these homes being built across the U.K. as legislation changes.

The house on display today is a prototype. The government hopes that over the next decade, others will follow — and result in an even cheaper carbon-neutral home.

In London, this is Stephen Beard for Marketplace.

About the author

Stephen Beard is the European bureau chief and provides daily coverage of Europe’s business and economic developments for the entire Marketplace portfolio.

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