‘Energy bill-free’ eco-home wins major award

A home which is 60 times more draught-proof than average and creates more energy than it uses, has won a major award for a Durham architect.

Tuesday, 31st May 2022, 2:39 pm

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Mark Siddall, of LEAP (Lovingly Engineered Architectural Practice) in Crossgate Moor received the award from RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) at a ceremony in London.

Mark designed a carbon-neutral home, Shepherd’s Barn, in Lanchester, County Durham. It was named North-East Building of the Year 2022 by RIBA.

He and his clients, climate campaigners Paul and Sonny Shepherd, hope that the national spotlight will encourage others to “retrofit” their homes to save cash and energy while protecting the planet.

The award winning Shepherd's Barn.

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The barn actually generates more energy than it uses, partly due to photovoltaic (converting light into energy) panels. Even before the energy crisis, Paul and Sonny were able to live in an energy bill-free home.

LEAP say that to test the system in February 2021, the owners of Shepherd’s Barn’s heating was switched off to see how long it could remain comfortable during winter.

Ten days later they switched the heating back on and the average temperature was 18.5C.

A nearby regular 1920s semi-detached house, which also took part in the challenge, survived for less than 11 hours as the average temperature fell below 17C. The barn also achieves zero carbon status.

Mark Siddall, left, celebrates with Alison Church, structural engineer at Jackson-Church and Shepherd's Barn owner Paul Shepherd who lives there with his wife Sonny.

The Shepherd’s Barn project had already picked up four regional awards over the last 12 months. But the national award brings more attention to the ground-breaking work.

Mark said: “The fuel crisis and rising energy bill crisis could be solved overnight if homes were built or retrofitted to Passivhaus standards.

“I’m delighted that RIBA has recognised the social importance of the work at Shepherd’s Barn and I hope that both the Government and the public quickly take up the challenge of retrofitting homes.

“The best way to slash energy bills, avoid fuel poverty and address the climate crisis is to retrofit our homes. Once these measures are taken, they produce savings that are permanent, not temporary.”

A citation at the RIBA Awards said: “Shepherd’s Barn is not only an exemplar project as far as its sustainability credentials, but it is also a home, and to quote the judges ‘with such a heart’”.

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