Department of Free Ideas: Net energy producing social housing

The Department of Free Ideas is something I’ve rolled out a couple of times at Spinneyhead. It’s basically irregular posts where I outline ideas I’ve had that I just don’t have the time, money or expertise to follow up. They’re just ideas, not costed and often without links to supporting material, but I believe they merit further investigation, which is why I want to set them free. If anyone likes them and can act upon them, then they’re more than welcome to. Credit or royalties would be cool, if you’re inclined.

We don’t have enough houses in Britain. Particularly, we don’t have enough affordable houses and council house building has ground to a halt. On top of that, we really should be doing more to cut energy consumption. So why don’t we solve these problems by building council houses that are so efficient that with the addition of micro-generation they produce more electricity than they consume?

These houses couldn’t be individual show pieces dropped amongst ordinary box homes, for the scheme to work properly whole streets or closes would have to be built. Economies of scale menat that technology that would be exorbitant on a single house could be incorporated relatively cheaply. Heat pumps could warm whole closes and the buildings could be arranged to catch and convert the most sunlight.

Tenants would have to sign up to certain community responsibilities, the sort of “socialist” idea that drives some reactionaries mad, but in return they’d get to live comfortably without worrying about ever rising energy costs.

Poorer families can’t afford energy saving devices, partly because they’re struggling with the cost of the energy they’re wasting through older equipment and poorly insulated houses. Even if no council will take up the challenge of building such green homes for them they should at least be subsidised to make the savings themselves.

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