The Waterside is understood to be the first zero carbon retirement development in the UK. This is something at Middleton Hall, we are very proud to be leaders in. A number of residents have occupied their new properties for over a year now and the results are quite interesting.
I am always a great believer in under-promising and over-delivering. The other way round can only end in disappointed customers.
When we planned The Waterside project, we believed that our version of zero carbon must be simple and low maintenance in the longer term. The Carbon Trust provided some advice including five recommended renewable energy solutions. They were not simple, so we did some of our own research and asked them to analyse our own proposal. Electric panel heaters and an immersion heater were the core of our low tech approach with electricity being generated through photo voltaic (PV) panels.
“That will never work for zero carbon”, our advisor said while shaking his head in disbelief at our naivety. A couple of weeks later he returned with his detailed analysis. Our low tech solution actually proved to be the most cost effective over 20 years.
During our research that involved visiting several sites and talking to a range of people, I discovered that low carbon buildings have a poor reputation for actually delivering the theoretical energy costs in practice. And that is before taking account the long term maintenance costs.
Over promising and under delivering in fact.
When the technical calculations were carried out for the Waterside by our energy consultant, the projection showed that people could, over a year, end up with a negative energy bill. In other words, using less energy than the PV panels produced (taking account of the Feed in Tariff). This was however based on a standard lifestyle model of working people who are out during the day. Our residents normally are in rather more than that so could be expected to use more energy. We did not promote these calculations with our customers but merely suggested they should, over a year, have a relatively low energy bill compared to a normal house.
Interestingly, we now have had the first property on the Waterside achieving an energy bill of minus £125 and another of zero.
Of course, we are delighted with the results. Not just simple but very effective. Of course, our glow of pride is nothing compared to the warm glow that a zero or negative energy bill causes our new Waterside residents.