A unique zero carbon house in inner city Birmingham, meeting the stringent requirements of Level 6 of the UK Code for Sustainable Homes. It’s an eco-house that will produce at least as much energy as it consumes, and it’s been built around an existing house!

Designed by John Christophers of Associated Architects as a family home, the ground-breaking carbon-neutral building is now occupied as a family home. It’s an extension of a redbrick Victorian house, converting a 2-bedroom semi-detached into a 4-bedroom dwelling with a studio loft. It extends upwards and outwards: upwards to catch the sun otherwise obscured by a taller neighbouring house, sideways for more space. The original 1840 brick house is preserved, as are the mature ash trees in the garden. Integration with the surroundings is important, and the design takes account of the neighbouring architecture.

New York Times feature with ten pictures, 16 December.

Watch a short video tour from RIBA Manser Medal Awards, or an older one by Midlands Today on youtube.

The house is part of the Old Home Super Home network.

Winner of a RIBA award for architecture and nominated for the 2010 RIBA Manser Medal for the best new house (“a robust and thoughtful design of exceptional quality”), covered by Architects Journal. It also won the Retrofit Award 2010 in the single domestic dwelling category, and 2011 BREEAM Award for “the best examples of sustainable design and construction across the UK and the world”.

“I have seen the future – and it’s in Birmingham.” – Ruth Bloomfield’s cover story in The Times.

Green Building magazine ran an 8-page feature on the house.

The design conforms to Level 6 (the highest level) of the government’s Code for Sustainable Homes. It’s not the first Level 6 house under the sun, but as far as we know it’s the first in the UK to incorporate an existing building, and may be the first to be lived in. (For similar projects, or to record yours, see Other Level 6 Houses). Architectural flair, user-friendliness, and a pleasing living space are as much a part of the design as the demands of the Code.

This is another milestone in the history of eco-homes and energy-efficient buildings in the UK – seven years ahead of the government target, which decrees that all new homes should be carbon-neutral by 2016. We see it as a contribution to the groundswell towards green lifestyles and the enjoyment of a sustainable way of life, in the shadow of global warming caused by human emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. It’s designed to protect the environment and enable its occupants to enjoy the environment.

Contractors: SpellerMetcalfe

Environmental design consultant: Matthew Hill at Leeds Environmental Design Associates

Structural engineers: Richard Hartshorne at Shire Consulting

Written by Chris Fewings |

93 Responses to “Home”

  1. Lolita says:

    We are Chinese top press, we want to report on your wonderful works, please connect with us. Thank you.

  2. Vaughan Perkins says:

    Hi John, I met you at the TIDE course in Birmingham last week and thoroughly enjoyed your presentation on the Zero Carbon House. Have just shown your website to my Year 8 class and used it as an example for our Eco homes assessment.
    Thanks once again, Vaughan

  3. Tony McNally says:

    Dear John,
    Hope this finds you well and congratulations on being on of the 50 WM Green Leaders. Unfortunatly I was on holiday last week so could not make the event at SWM.
    I would like to consult you re the business plans for retrofitting the 1920’s 4 bedroom farm house at Garden Organic which we are working on and where CCS is now located.
    Tel. 024 76 217746
    Best wishes

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  5. Tur says:

    I would like to come to the open house.
    Can you tell me the direction to go there?
    Thank you

  6. Ausra says:

    Hi, I’m an architect from Lithuania and in this time I prepare an article of smart, active homes for press. Can I get some photos from your website, maybe you can sent some by e-mail or put into the server? Lot of thanks

  7. Robert Hamon says:

    I / we live in a 1910 detached in Hampshire and seeing this I now know what I want / need to do. Wife not so enthusiastic.

  8. Beibei Shi says:

    Hi, I saw your house in a Chinese website:www.6park.com, and very interested in your design. I hope I can visit it in future if possible, though I am not major in architecture.

    Could you contact me when you decide open days?

    Thank you

  9. David Learmonth says:

    Thank you for the very interesting lecture and open day visit last October. We have now got to the point of submitting a planning application for a modest new build zero-carbon house. We’d like to install rammed earth floors in the south facing rooms, having found yours delightful (and for thermal mass). I’ve not found any organisation who really seems to do this. May I ask who did yours? Alternatively, what are the sand/clay/and what mixture proportions, how thick is it and how have you finished it (do I remember citrus oil and beeswax or is that just the wood)? Many thanks,

    • The above website is a consultant based in London who is a top authority on Rammed earth- and passionate about avoiding concrete use. He does workshops occasionally which would give you the hands on skills or would work with yourselves/ a contractor. Realise this is probably too late-but highly recomended

  10. Mark Hoskin says:

    Can you tell us what size solar panels you have used, what inverter and the direction and angle of the panels?

  11. Michael Rea. says:

    Interesting concept. but, you cannot be zero carbon when you have a wood burning stove / heater. This is stored carbon that is being released into the atmosphere.

    • Chris Duggan says:

      The wood burner is only used sparingly because on most days it is not needed. It uses prunings from two large ash trees in the garden – such trees reabsorb the carbon dioxide released. The stove is highly efficient and smokeless.

  12. Richard Phillips says:

    I am very critical of the title ZERO carbon……., inthis case “house”. It is entirely inappropriate to bastardise the use of ZERO. The title MINIMAL Carbon would be quite acceptable, but not seemingly to the marketing lobby. Wat a pity. Invidentally I am not of the opinion that carbon footprints are significant in the matter of climate change, but then I am just a scientist who has looked at the numbers!!!

    My best regards

    Richard Phillips

  13. Kate Fox says:

    A fab house!

  14. Marcia Larpner says:

    Pleased its in Birmingham. Hopefully start more houses like this. really impressed with how the house is finished. looks fantastic since I came before it was complete

  15. Jane says:

    thank you – an inspiration to visit!

  16. Jenny Walters says:

    Thankyou for opening your lovely home to the public. Its v inspiring & shows how sustainable design does not have to have that “hair shirt” quality…

  17. Malcolm Mummery says:

    Amazing what can be achieved in old or new property. If there were more projects like this (many more) there would obviously be less need for power stations & wind farms etc!

  18. Nancy says:

    I rent my house & feel powerless to improve its many ineffficiencies! Great to see the place although I can’t even get my landlord to install a modern boiler. would like to consider a co-operative/communal living model – might be more accessible to me.

  19. Catherine Rock says:

    Inspirational! many of the principles you have applied should be mandatory for all new-build and extensions/refurbs.

  20. Mike says:

    Thank you and your family most sincerely for generously
    opening your magnificent home. You have achieved something really quite remarkable and your translation of vision into reality is truly inspirational, as was your impromptu and fascinating presentation. Quite
    aside from all the exemplary green aspects, I was also deeply impressed by your skilful use of space and light. The house seemed quite “Tardis” like and I hope you all enjoy many happy years in it.

    It also reminded me of the successful integration (and
    fluidity) of living space and immediate environment in (the pictures and film I have seen of) leading contemporary Japanese domestic architecture.

    Finally, it also seemed to have a grounded, peaceful and entirely human scale and feel.

    I work in the public sector and although we have won a couple of national awards for good corporate citizenship, I am sure that there is much we can learn from your pioneering work.

    I hope that, in time, your example can translate into standard construction practice generally and contribute to the world which we are leaving to the next generation.

    • John Christophers says:

      Thank you Mike for your very kind appreciation. Your point about contemporary Japanese architecture interests me, as I think the philosophy/approach/aesthetic they call “wabi sabi” is similar to what we are trying to do with using natural materials (earth floors etc) and valuing their “imperfections” as part of the character, quality and richness of those materials.


  21. Hanjit says:

    This is a great design. I am not aware of their being many zero carbon houses around, so for one of the first to built in Birmingham is very good. This is simply fantastic becasue it will produce lots and lots of energy. Also it will effectivly help the enviornment and it is a great news that it won the RIBA award, lets jsut hope there will be plenty of other ‘zero carbon houses’ to come as I believe we may have just seen an insight into the future.

  22. Alison says:

    I think this house is a great achievement, see the link to The Times write up, beginning “I have seen the future – and it’s in Birmingham”. We really need to do imaginative and green things with our terraced houses in UK. Ten out of ten!!

  23. Hannan says:

    Thanks John and Jo for a great visit, the house is really interesting and the work you’ve done is amazing. Thank you! :)

  24. Mike Kalam says:

    John fantstic house – would love to come and take a look at the house in greater detail. I think many of your design features need to be made mandatory for new build projects!

  25. Hi,

    I noticed that your website said “Zero Carbon”. You might be interested to know that last month we were banned from saying “Zero Carbon Solar” after 12 years of doing so.

    Here is our own story: http://www.solartwin.com/asa-ban-on-our-zero-carbon-strapline-reflections-after-a-week-of-hell

    You might be next – unless industry states their case. If you want to make you views known to ASA now, please feel free to do so. The ASA’s Chief Exec is: Guy Parker. Guy GuyP@asa.org.uk phone 020 7492 2150.

    Hoping this is interesting. Regards, Barry.

    Barry Johnston

    Managing Director
    Solar Twin Ltd
    50 Watergate Street, Chester CH1 2LA

    Tel: (00 44) +1244 403 404
    Fax: (00 44) +1244 403 654


  26. Moog says:

    Congratulations on your success in Civic Trust Awards, I just seen http://www.civictrustawards.org.uk/winners/2012/CTA006751/ Looks like brilliant scheme. I wish the Government was doing more to encourage projects like yours, we really need a serious step-change with our older housing…

  27. This is brilliant! I love projects like this. We need more exposure for this sort of thing in the national news coverage!

  28. Babs Day says:

    Thank you so much for generously sharing your fabulous home today at the open day. very inspiational!

  29. Jordan Thea says:

    Amazing home, well done on the build. we need more people to attack climate change by reducing energy in the home.

  30. Greg Robson says:

    Very interesting to see a real-world example. It’s like stepping into an episode of Grand Designs!

  31. Mark menezes says:

    Very interesting, was not aware of this though being born and bred in Birmingham. a wonderful ambassador for birmingham and these kind of projects.

  32. David Ravenscroft says:

    Wonderful! I want to do this! “Green Shop Solar” is one lead I will chase. Thanks++++

  33. Caroline Courtney says:

    Thank you for showing us your house on the open day – it was really interesting

  34. Sue Wild says:

    John and Jo have created a wonderful space. I’m absolutely blown away by all the design features. Thank you, it took me a while to get here, I’m so glad I came.

  35. Richard says:

    I recall my visit on the way back from CAT in Oct 13 when on the OBU SBPD MSc. A real joy to behold such a surprise!

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