Asians take initiative to build low energy homes in Britain

With energy and climate policies and programmes in the UK in a state of flux these days, it is encouraging to see how Asian technical and financial experts are teaming up with Spanish experts to build low energy homes in Britain. Asians are planning to invest in new nuclear power supply in Britain. It is good to now see them involved in “green” consumer-oriented projects. Judith Evans explains recent developments in the Financial Times. Hopefully this will encourage British companies to follow their lead.

 

WElink Energy agrees £1bn deal to build 8,000 green homes

WElink Energy, a renewable energy specialist, has signed a £1.1bn framework agreement with China’s state-owned National Building Materials Group to build at least 8,000 “zero carbon” homes in the UK.

The UK unit of Hong Kong-based WElink Global said on Friday that it will work with the Chinese company to build the homes to pre-engineered designs from Barcelona-based architects Cesar Martinell & Associates.

The first 4,000 units will be built by 2018, WElink said.

The deal comes despite the UK government scrapping initiatives in support of renewable energy, such as a target for all newly built homes to be “zero carbon” — generating at least as much energy on-site through renewable sources as they use — by 2016.

WElink said the companies would use the Barcelona Housing Systems approach, a low-cost housing format with rooftop solar panels, power storage and waste-to-energy technology.

The Barcelona design is under construction at development sites in Chile, Spain and Croatia. Its modular housing units are generally built in factories close to the development site.

“We can expand rapidly to fulfil the appetite for the development of affordable housing in the UK,” said Barry O’Neill, chief executive of WElink Energy.

The 8,000 dwellings will cost £800m, while the remainder of the £1.1bn will be devoted to deploying more than 130MW of solar panels in the UK this year in collaboration with Somerset-based British Solar Renewables.

Song Zhiping, chairman of CNBM, called the agreement “a milestone for our rapid expansion in the UK”.

The UK faces a housing shortage that has been worsened by the departure of thousands of skilled construction workers from the trade during the financial crisis.

This has prompted companies to experiment with modular housing, with parts assembled in factories rather than on-site, enabling rapid construction that does not require specialist skills such as bricklaying.

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