A green home for the church

A pioneering eco-vicarge has been built in Worcestershire

Said to be one of the first of its kind in the UK, a new eco vicarage has been built in Webheath on the outskirts of Redditch. The building is expected to cost only £100 a year to run.

The four-bedroom vicarage built for the Diocese of Worcester, has been designed as a carbon neutral family home by Birmingham Associated Architects in consultation with Couch Perry & Wilkes, specialists in eco friendly building design. The vicarage was built by Speller Metcalfe who are a specialist eco building firm based in Malvern.

The vicarage is PassivHaus accredited and meets the strictest British and European guidelines for carbon neutral homes, being a net zero carbon producer covering the needs of both appliance and occupier energy use. The build also follows the wishes of the Church of England to use low and zero carbon technologies in all ecclesiastical new builds.

A ground to air heat exchanger has been installed to bring heat from the earth into the vicarage. The air is circulated by a mechanical ventilation and heat recovery unit, which filters the incoming fresh air before being heated. This system replaces a conventional boiler, cutting the need for gas or oil heating. Heat will be retained by the use of a super-insulated building envelope with triple glazing. A high thermal mass has been created by using block walls and a concrete floor.

At least 30% of water used by the vicarage must be recycled from grey water or rain collection. Water is heated by roof-mounted solar thermal evacuated tubes. These are installed on the south-facing roof along with solar photovoltaic panels to provide electricity. All instillations, including lighting and white goods have a low energy specification, resulting in a net surplus of electricity which is sold to the grid.

The materials used in the build were logged with details of their origins in order to ensure that the construction has the lowest carbon footprint it can. Some materials are recycled from other projects instead of having being scrapped. All materials used are ecologically sound with low embodied energies.

The vicarage and garden are to have a number of homes for wildlife that was recorded visiting the site during the building process. These include bat boxes, bird boxes, an invertebrate box and a hedgehog home. There are two nesting sites for swifts on the vicarage itself. Through planning and careful observation the site should be a haven for wildlife as well as a home for the vicar. Extra soil needed for the garden was recycled from another construction site across the road where some conventional homes are being built.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has said during the Shrinking The Footprint Campaign: “For the Church of the 21st century, good ecology is not an optional extra but a matter of justice. It is therefore central to what it means to be a Christian.” The new Webheath vicarage follows this sentiment to the letter.