While climate protestors cause disruption with their demands for the UK to urgently cut its carbon emissions, in a quiet corner of Oxfordshire a pioneering property company is diligently going about doing just that.

Developers Ssassy Property are 30 years ahead of the Government’s 2050 zero-carbon target at Springfield Meadows in Southmoor, where 25 sustainable homes are under construction.

These new timber-clad houses are built by Ssassy’s construction partner Greencore. On offer are 16 custom-build plots, allowing the buyers to choose their floor layouts, kitchens and bathrooms, plus nine affordable homes designed and constructed to the same meticulously high standard.

Oxford Mail:

Ian Pritchett, director of Ssassy Property and Greencore Construction, enthused: “We think this is the first development of zero-carbon, net zero-energy houses in the country.

“Our houses are all electric and generate electricity from PV [photo-voltaic] panels which can be stored in a battery or used as it is generated. We combine this with mechanical ventilation with heat recovery and mini heat pumps to generate the heating and hot water.”

Oxford Mail:

The homes at Springfield Meadows are built using Greencore’s Biond Building System, which consists of a closed panel timber frame insulated with lime-hemp, which has a natural “phase-change” property to control temperature changes, and natural fibre insulation made from waste timber, all made in a local factory near Wheatley.

The use of these bio-based materials locks up CO2 to such an extent that the sequestered carbon balances out the CO2 emissions from the high-energy materials to give a zero-carbon footprint. The houses are built using the principles of the Passivhaus standard, a robust German standard developed to deliver houses that need virtually no heating or cooling. Each house then has sufficient PV panels on the roof to generate as much energy as it will use each year.

Oxford Mail:

Ssassy aims to bring something new to the housing market, working with landowners who want to leave a legacy of sustainable houses.

Ian revealed: “We believe very strongly that we can achieve more by working with partners. We work with Bioregional to help us with the softer elements such as health, happiness, wellbeing and community as well as waste, water and transport. This has led to Springfield Meadows being awarded One Planet Living Global Leadership status.

“We are also working with Bucks, Berks and Oxon Wildlife Trust to help make our project nature-friendly, looking to develop a unique five-year agreement to protect and increase the biodiversity of the site.

“This goes far beyond the normal process of ticking boxes to get points from the planners. We want to make our developments great places to live, where the residents co-exist with the nature around them to enhance their lives.”

Oxford Mail:

Whilst Springfield Meadows will bring truly sustainable housing to Oxfordshire, the wider house-building industry still has some way to go, says Ian, who believes that zero-carbon housing will only be delivered if it is demanded by discerning buyers, or legislated by Government.

He said: “Unfortunately, the Government relaxed the proposed 2016 zero-carbon targets after being lobbied by housebuilders. At present, the main housebuilding corporations control the land and only build at the rate they are sure will sell, maintaining the UK’s housing shortage so that the normal rules of “supply and demand” don’t apply. When there is a shortage of housing, buyers have to purchase what is available rather than what they might want.”

Ian said that current planning legislation and building regulations do not demand, or even favour, zero-carbon houses. In fact, he said, the planning process can hinder the creation of eco-houses by imposing extra restrictions, or demanding additional planning applications to instal PV panels. According to climate scientists, he added, we have now missed the chance to restrict the global temperature increase to 1.5C and we are now fighting to keep it to 2C. In order to achieve this, the advanced economies of the world need to be zero-carbon by 2035 and the rest of the world to follow by 2050. The construction and use of buildings in the UK is responsible for around 50 per cent of the country’s CO2 emissions.

Oxford Mail:

Ian continued: “In any sensible society, we would expect the planning system to actively encourage zero-carbon houses and be tough on anyone failing to deliver the necessary standard.

“Instead, we have a planning system that focuses other issues such as numbers of bedrooms, garden sizes, and parking places.

“These are important issues, but they pale into insignificance compared to the catastrophic implications of climate change. The planning process could be the answer to the problem if only someone had the sense to make real sustainability part of the process.

“Ssassy and Greencore are building houses today that achieve what we need to be doing by 2035 or 2050. If we can do it, anyone can!”

Just eight of the 16 custom-build plots with options for two-, three-, four-and fivebedroom homes, remain on the market at Springfield Meadows.