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‘Tea Cosy’ House Could be Blueprint For Future Low Carbon Homes

By Katie Anderson on June 29, 2011

Research by the University of Salford’s energy hub has found that houses built thirty years ago are more energy efficient than homes built to the latest standards.

The ‘tea cosy’ house design created by the University of Salford in the mid-1970s, was built in the early 1980s for low-income council tenants, and could provide a blueprint for meeting tough Government targets to cut carbon emissions from homes.

According to a report by the University of Salford’s energy hub, with the prototypes costing just 7% more to build than similar conventional homes, highly energy efficient buildings can be delivered without greatly adding to construction costs. Research shows these houses are 50% more energy efficient than the average home, and use a quarter of the average energy for space heating. They use less than two-thirds of the energy of homes built to meet 2010 building regulations, and will still be 25% more efficient than houses built to even more stringent proposed regulations for 2013, the report concluded.

The report also suggested that the ‘tea cosy’ house design is one of only a few that will be able to economically meet the Government’s targets for new homes to be zero-carbon by 2016.

The 200 houses – which look like ordinary terraced homes – were designed to provide low-energy housing, and rely on an internal concrete structure that holds in heat, protected by a highly insulated surround which produces a ‘tea cosy’ effect. They also rely on more windows on south facing sides, with northerly facing doors protected by porches.

Originally installed with just one or two gas heaters per home, although most now have central heating, they rely on passive heating from the sun and high insulation to maintain a stable temperature inside. In fact, to be comfortable, they only need to use heating for three to four months of the year, compared with seven months for UK homes on average, and can be habitable with no heating at all.

Phillip Brown, of the energy hub research team, said: “There is little difference in cost between traditionally thermally inefficient build and the relatively simple Salford House low-energy design.

“With many house builders currently worried that new homes are going to be much more expensive to build in order to meet the Government’s ambitious targets, the Salford model shows that this need not be the case.”