Neath Port Talbot council has approved the development of the world’s first net-zero carbon housing project in Wales. This project is set to build 35 homes that can produce more clean energy than they are expected to consume.
The £8-million construction project is anticipated to commence this spring in Pontardawe, South Wales. Parc Hadau residents will not be required to pay energy bills because the project proposal aims to implement several renewable energy technologies in the area. These facilities can produce enough clean electricity to supply every net-zero home over the year.
The neighbourhood will comprise two, three, and four-storey houses equipped with energy-storing batteries and solar panels, innovative ventilation systems, and ground-source heat pumps.
In mid-2019, housebuilder Sero Homes invited the community to a consultation on the proposed carbon-neutral homes, where they presented a public exhibition that unveiled the plans and design of the neighbourhood.
Sero Homes, founded in Wales only two years before the project’s unveiling, stated that Parc Hadau will provide affordable yet high-quality housing via long-term index-linked leases. It is designed to meet the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) definition of ‘net-zero carbon’, being the first development of its kind to track real-time carbon emissions and energy use.
UKGBC policy adviser Richard Twinn said 20% of the region’s emissions come from homes. Radically reducing carbon emissions to net-zero entails designing new homes, ones where their everyday use becomes carbon neutral by 2030, at least.
During winter Parc Hadau will likely need to draw on electricity, which is why Sero will monitor the imported energy’s carbon intensity, and offset any carbon impact at a later date by providing clean energy to the grid.
James Williams, Sero Homes managing director, said the company aims to minimise the emissions that homes produce and drastically reduce the cost of resources taken from the Earth.
The neighbourhood plan consists of eleven homes with two bedrooms, twenty-two homes with three bedrooms, and two houses with four bedrooms – but these will not be made available for open market sale. Instead, Sero intends to offer the houses on an index-linked lease for the long term to deliver security of tenure to residents without the need for substantial deposits.
Williams cites Sero’s vision to bring to life what the current housing market fails to achieve, which is to scale better homes for the next generation.
Seven years ago, the Treasury scrapped a policy calling for new-build houses to be carbon-neutral from 2016. Then-Chancellor Gordon Brown put forward the said policy in 2006, which would have created net-zero homes as early as three years ago. It would have paved the way for the generation of renewable energy to use for hot water, heating, ventilation, and lighting.
The Labour party recently recommitted to net-zero carbon housing in their election manifesto, pledging to build carbon-neutral homes by 2022.
Williams stresses the need for immediate action to the challenge of climate change, and Parc Hadau will be the international model for new neighbourhoods, showcasing excellent quality carbon-neutral homes at a time when action on climate change is needed most.
The new scheme was designed by award-winning architect practice Loyn & Co based in Penarth and includes landscaping by the award-winning Farrer Huxley. The development proposes an integration of wildlife and nature by maximising green space on the landscape.
The intelligent automated systems and technologies will be managed by sister company Sero Energy, to ensure that unused electricity is sent back to the grid and energy use is efficient. Every home will have a dedicated charging station for electric vehicles (EVs).
Williams emphasises that Sero aims to deliver the best response to the Welsh Government’s climate emergency announcement, and the UK’s net-zero carbon target for 2050.
The company wants Parc Hadau to be the new norm for homes and communities that everyone would be able to afford, cohabiting with nature, and caring for the environment at the same time.