What BedZed did next

The brains behind BedZed have set their sights on suburbia with ruralZED, Britain’s most affordable green prefab home…

 When the Government threw down the gauntlet to housebuilders with a new green building rating system, ZEDfactory looked at it and thought they could do even better.

They took the new guidelines, and set themselves a target for their new homes that reaches beyond the Government’s gold standard Code Level six, zero carbon goal.

The result is ruralZed, Bedzed’s eco-friendly country cousin. Could this be the future of housing in the UK?

What is ruralZED?

 It’s basically a flat-packed timber-framed home that has been designed to exceed the standards set for sustainable homes.

So why buy a whole new house? What’s wrong with adapting our own homes?

“The problem with existing stock is that it’s very difficult to upgrade to a high level,” says ZEDfactory’s Matt Hoad.

“I’ve managed to do it in my 1930s cottage and I got a zero gas bill this year. But it’s much better to buy the right type of house at the beginning.

“The point of ruralZED is to make it as economical as possible. It’s not a new idea to harness the sun, but the renewables must be affordable.”

How does it work?

ruralZed at EcoBuild show


Aware that the initial outlay involved in zero carbon living is out of the reach of many, ruralZED homes are designed to allow owners to gradually upgrade the environmental performance of their homes.

The most basic model is pitched at the Government’s Code Level 3 sustainability (which will not be a legal requirement until 2010) with super insulation, thermal mass, airtight construction, low water fittings and green flat roof.

Then further green features can then be added, either as extras when you buy the house, or as and when you can afford it later on.

To reach the standard of the Government’s Code Level Four, you can add passive heat recovery ventilation, solar hot water and wood pellet heating that should only cost around £120 a year to run.

For Code Level Five you can add a pitched roof (with green roof on the north slope), seven photovoltaic (PV) panels to generate your own electricity, and rainwater harvesting.

Then, for Code Six and to achieve zero carbon emissions, you can add a sunspace (a floor to roof high-performance triple-glazed conservatory) that looks fantastic and allows the building to gain from the sun’s heat) and 14 PV panels.

 With a total of 21 PV panels a ruralZED home should be able to generate a typical home’s energy requirements for all lighting and appliances.

If you can’t afford to go straight to Code Six Matt Hoad would advise you to start at a Code Four. “By putting in the solar water heating it makes a massive difference.”

Code Level Seven?

ruralZed at EcoBuild show


Code Level Seven, a standard invented by ZEDfactory, basically means adding wind turbines so that your house can prduce more power.

As well as offsetting the embodied carbon of the construction of your house, with the electricity you generate from your home ruralZED suggest that you could run a small electric car or sell your output back to the grid for a profit.

The catch is that, although the ruralZED frame is pre-engineered to take the turbine loads, it is only really possible on sites with good wind and you’d need planning permission.

OK, they’re green, but what do they look like?

ruralZed at EcoBuild show


In theory, they can look however you want.

The traditional medieval barn construction creates an airtight box onto which different roofs and cladding can be added.

By using natural materials, timber windows, self-coloured lime render, timber weatherboarding and green sedum roofs, these homes should fit in with the local vernacular better than much of the architecture of the last few decades.

But, if you’re looking for a building that makes a statement, a detached ruralZED with a south-facing double-height wall of windows would certainly get the neighbours talking.

Internally, the moveable partitions mean that the homes can be altered to suit individual needs, and disabled access and lift locations are built into the plans.


 As for the size, they range from a dinky two-bed to a large detached five-bed home. But the most economic layout will be the terraced homes with up to six units in a row sharing one communal wood pellet burner and store.

Plans have also been made for urban blocks with a variety of flats, townhouses, terraced three-bed homes and live/work units.

Even at a density of 50 homes per hectare each property would have enough south-facing roof surface clad in photovoltaic panels to meet most household demands.

Can I see one?

ruralZed at EcoBuild show

 If you want to see a ruralZED you’ll have to take a look at their website, because so far there are no completed houses ready for public inspection.

They did, however, construct one for the EcoBuild show and there’s an impressive picture gallery on the website to whet your apetite.

In the meantime, the first ruralZed scheme is under construction at a secret location, and is currently awaiting a Code 6 assessment.

If it is successful they claim it will be the first Code 6 in the UK (though Potton make the same claim for their Lighthouse – see below).

What’s the cost?

For the most basic unit, the Code Level 3, kits cost £89,000 for an 88m2 3-bed house, or £113,000 if it is erected for you.

This rises to £125,000 for a DIY Code Level 6 (which would now cover an area of 100m2 because of the additional sunspace) and £150,000 erected.

And there are several other financial benefits to such green housing.

Under new legislation, if you can prove that your house is zero carbon emitting you will be exempt from Stamp Duty.

And there is currently talk of ‘energy mortgages’, with which you can pay for your solar panels, turbines etc over a period of 25 years which should, in theory, work out greener and cheaper than buying in energy.



What else is available?

1. Lighthouse by Potton

 The range is still being developed but at the moment a very impressive-looking 2-bed carbon neutral detached property is available either in kit form, or ready built.

Completed prices start at £280,000.


2. Huf Haus Solar Home

Part of the Huf range, made famous by Grand Designs, the Solar Home’s entire energy requirement is met by solar energy and renewable wood sources.

Completed prices start from £380,000.

3. Baufritz

 Although not zero carbon in terms of use (they have an energy consumption of less than one sixth of a typical UK house), the company claims that their homes are carbon positive because they lock away more CO2 than is emitted during manufacture, transportation and construction.

Completed prices start at around £250,000.

Nikki Sheehan




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