This week I visited an eco-village to look at some of the latest designs in eco-homes. The latest design by Barratt Homes meets what is called Code 6 standard i.e. a zero carbon footprint home. The home will require any eventual owners to change their living habits. Rooms are highly insulated with small windows (not to everyone’s taste) which do open, but keeping them closed is encouraged. Apparently the house is designed to retain heat or alternatively take cool air and convert it to warm air (the opposite of what a fridge does). Small windows also mean less heat coming into the house through direct sunlight, which would upset the electronically balanced heat/cool flow within the home. The house is also designed to have a nil fuel bill, photo-sensitive panels and wind turbines generated power which is stored or if not used, sold back to the National Grid – over the year the use of power and selling of surplus power should net off. Whilst the external appearance was not the most attractive, some of the earlier prototypes were striking, modern and may well attract buyers. There’s the rub. At present because so few eco-homes are built the add on cost of the panels, turbines etc adds about £15,000 to a home costing about £250,000 and apparently home-buyers, when asked by Barratts, said they would pay that much extra.

So there is going to have to be a major expansion of eco-homes to make the eco-technology cost effective. The cost of doing nothing is huge, but a little less tangible than an extra £15,000 on a new home. Consumers will need to feel comfortable that the cost to their pocket is a price worth paying.

Given that Barnet will house many new homes in the next ten years and the bulk of the purchasers will be the very people that need to be persuaded to change their habits and perhaps pay a little more, should Barnet house an eco-village? I’m tempted to encourage a number of house builders to come to Barnet and build a few eco-show homes. If the voice of the suburbs is going to be carbon neutral, where better than to start in Barnet?