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Housing

These zero-carbon homes for homeless people offer a future for green housing

Hope Rise in Bristol is revolutionising social housing for young people at risk of homelessness by building net-zero carbon homes.

Pioneering net-zero carbon homes designed for homeless people are on show at COP26 in a bid to offer green housing solutions to both the housing crisis and the climate crisis.

The 11 homes in place at Hope Rise in Bristol provide homes for vulnerable young people who are at risk of homelessness. The modular homes are erected on stilts above an existing public car park and are fitted with low-energy heating systems, rooftop solar panels and other green technologies to drive down carbon output.

The homes, which have been in place for a year, are being exhibited at the COP26 climate conference alongside 16 other projects at Build Better Now, a virtual reality online exhibition.

green housing
The 11 homes sit on stilts above an existing public car park and hope to revolutionise how urban land is used to house people at risk of homelessness. Image: Bristol Housing Festival

Dr Rehan Kohdabuccus, a director at architects ZED PODS Limited, told The Big Issue: “Hope Rise is looking at delivering a zero carbon lifestyle and to prove that it is affordable for local authorities at social rent levels.

“We want to push the boundaries of social cohesion. We want to show that living in a net-zero carbon home is affordable and think about how we use our land.”

Developed in conjunction with Bristol City Council, Bristol Housing Festival and the local arm of the YMCA, the homes are manufactured off-site in two modules before being assembled within five days on site.

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The use of cross-laminated timber to speed up construction is part of the push to drive down carbon emissions that is designed into the whole project.

The homes use a controlled ventilation system to recover heat as well as a low-energy heating system and rooftop solar panels to generate and store power. 

green housing
Insulation, low-energy heating, solar panels and clever ventilation helps to drive down carbon emissions. Image: ZED PODS Limited

Electric car charging points have also been installed at the car park while the city centre location is designed to promote the use of public transport and local amenities rather than carbon-heavy travel.

Dr Kohdabuccus told The Big Issue the project is “scalable” and the initial Bristol homes are intended to show building economical homes on brownfield city centre sites could tackle the UK social housing crisis.

He added that discussions are underway to bring more of the homes to other parts of the UK, including a London debut in Bromley. 

As well as housing young people at risk of homelessness, the project also houses ‘community builders’ to help the youngsters adapt to living independently.

Samantha Lindo, a 36-year-old teacher, is one of the ‘community builders’ on-hand at the site. She told The Big Issue providing a support network and tackling loneliness was vital in helping young people living at Hope Rise.

green housing
The homes are being exhibited at COP26 virtually with talks underway to replicate the project in other parts of the UK. Image: ZED PODS Limited

Lindo, who is also a singer-songwriter and recently released a song highlighting youth homelessness alongside a video filmed outside Hope Rise, said: “Our role is to build a sense of community, belonging, create a sense of home and build relationships so we arrange community events, we cook with people and we’re proactively community minded.

“Loneliness is the biggest problem among the age group of people at Hope Rise and lots of people are isolated and don’t have the family networks that others do. So having someone to do the things that sometimes you rely on your family to do is the type of thing that improves your quality of life and the feeling that someone has got your back. It increases that sense of having a home.”

Currently, Hope Rise is being presented to a more global audience as part of the Build Better Now exhibition at COP26.

With buildings responsible for around 40 per cent of global energy-related carbon emissions, according to UN research, the climate summit is a chance to showcase green housing which will contribute to lowering emissions around the world.

Julie Hirigoyen, chief executive at the UK Green Building Council, said: “Everyone on the planet has a stake in our buildings and cities.

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“I invite everyone to take inspiration from Build Better Now as a global showcase of pioneering solutions to climate change and hope that it supports the industry to create more sustainable buildings, places and cities of the future.”

Shelter said last year that 90,000 good-quality social homes are needed each year to make up for decades of neglect from successive governments which have led to a severe shortage.

green housing
ZED PODS Limited’s homes are a response to both a severe lack of social homes and the ongoing climate crisis. Image: ZED PODS Limited

The Westminster government has promised the £11.5bn affordable homes programme will bring 32,000 social rent homes over the next five years.

In August, the Welsh government laid out plans to build 20,000 low-carbon social homes by 2026. Meanwhile the Scottish government announced a £3.2bn affordable housing fund in July, pledging around 70,000 social rent homes by 2032.

Speaking to The Big Issue last week, Claire Brown, a PHD researcher at the University of Manchester, said the required surge in building affordable accommodation must be coupled with an eye on future emissions.

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“I think we’ve got this gap in supply of social housing in particular but also we’ve got this gap in what is being built, which I think is just creating this big problem for the future,” she said.

“I want to see more bravery, and boldness in councils taking the lead to build climate resilient social housing without waiting for legislation to catch up.”

Take a virtual look around Hope Rise at the Build Better Now exhibition here.

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