Homes in London account for 44% of the city's CO2 emissions, more than twice the amount spewed out through transport. Worse still, the city needs to add 35,000 more every year to keep up with London's ballooning population.
That's why, on a brownfield site in the city's docklands, builders plan in 2010 to open the city's first large-scale zero-carbon housing development. All 233 homes on the 3-acre spot will hook up to a combined heat-and-power plant that turns wood chips into electricity and hot water, with extra juice from solar panels and wind. And should a chilly winter call for extra energy from the national grid, the plant will return an equivalent amount once demand from residents has dropped off. Renewable energy isn't the only advantage. Home owners can expect greenhouses for organic food, plus car and bicycle clubs to reduce commuters' emissions.
A response to the challenge from London's mayor to show that zero-carbon homes can be commercially viable, the development could cost just 5% more than standard projects. At least a third of the homes will be reserved for affordable housing. Helping the planet need not cost the earth.
This is an extended version of the article that originally appeared in TIME Magazine.
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