Pilot scheme aims to strip plastic and carbon from our homes

Prototype houses are set to be built in Liverpool, testing new techniques to make zero-carbon, plastic-free and fuel-efficient homes that are economically viable.

Not-for-profit environmental company Changing Streams CIC is partnering with housing provider Your Housing Group and the University of Liverpool to design and build the six prototypes, which they hope will provide a blueprint for sustainable development across the world.

The houses will encompass six different solutions to tackle carbon, plastic pollution and fuel poverty, identifying potential clashes between the different objectives.

Once built, six families will be asked to move into the homes and to work with the research team to understand how they function in everyday life.

man in black sweatpants using DEWALT circular saw and cutting a wood plank

Dr Gareth Abrahams, Head of the University of Liverpool’s Changing Streams Research Centre and Co-Founder of Changing Streams CIC, said: ‘When we talk about carbon-zero housing we often think about what a building does: how much heat it retains. But we overlook another important question: what are these houses made of? Many of the products we use to build and insulate new homes are made from plastic-based materials. The risk is that by focusing on carbon-zero targets alone we produce housing with larger quantities of plastic. Further downstream we know that plastic has a devastating impact on the natural environmental. This 5-year project is the first to address the balance between carbon and plastic reduction in the design and construction of affordable housing. The outcomes of this research will transform the housing built by Your Housing Group over the next 25 years, but we also hope it changes the way we think and talk about sustainability globally.

 ‘It will not be a quick fix. The project will involve very intensive research and innovative problem-solving. There are many plastic alternatives currently available that can be used within the construction process, for instance, but they are not all viable due to price, availability, performance, and installation. At the same time there are many plasticated products for which no alternative exists. Our research will highlight all these areas and help inform us of the barriers to change whilst developing new and inventive ways of working.’

Brian Cronin, Chief Executive of Your Housing Group, added: ‘We have a substantial, multi-million pound investment programme to deliver over the next five years that includes the development and delivery of a carbon reduction strategy. However, we recognise that this alone will not achieve our ultimate goal of making our homes truly sustainable whilst providing social equality. Talking with Changing Streams we recognised that plastic pollution is a serious threat, which we cannot ignore, whilst the embedded carbon in plastic conflicts with our carbon reduction program. We do not want to develop carbon free houses that move the problem from a climatic emergency to an environmental one.

 ‘So, we are essentially pushing fresh thinking into this project, whilst also utilising the wealth of knowledge we jointly possess. No other company has considered how we can achieve a combined carbon and plastic reduction strategy. The research we are undertaking with Changing Streams and the University of Liverpool will address this in a holistic way for both new build and retro fit projects.’

In related news, Cornwall Council has been awarded £7.8m to help make 400 homes more energy efficient and lower carbon emissions.

Photo by Greyson Joralemon



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