An English house that generates as much as it consumes (New York Times, December 2010)

An English house that generates as much as it consumes (New York Times, December 2010)

When John Christophers, a British architect, and his wife, Jo, a midwife, were granted permission by the local planning council to begin their renovation, they were told that theirs was the only application that had ever been accompanied by letters of support from the neighbors. The nature of the project may help explain that unexpected source of enthusiasm: the Christophers were planning to retrofit a 19th-century house, turning it into a structure that would generate as much energy as it consumed.

“The implications for our existing housing stock are very wide reaching,” said Mr. Christophers, now 51, who practices architecture here, in a city that was once a powerhouse of the industrial revolution, about 120 miles northwest of London.

He and Ms. Christophers, 45, spent two years searching for the right property — somewhere they would also have enough room to raise their son, Theo, now 5 — finally settling on a two-bedroom brick house built in the 1840s with a 12-foot-wide strip of land beside it being used as a parking spot, where they could build an addition.

One of the first steps was to remove all the radiators, as well as the gas stove; the fireplaces; most of the lighting, which wasn’t energy efficient; the windows, which weren’t insulated; and all the inefficient plumbing fixtures.

When the gas meter was disconnected, Mr. Christophers said, they held a party “to celebrate no more fossil fuel being used in the house.”

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