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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 March 2006, 12:04 GMT
Casting light on homes for future
By Louise Batchelor
BBC Scotland Environment Correspondent

A'Chrannag has won a clutch of design awards
A'Chrannag has won a clutch of design awards
You have to cross the water to the Isle of Bute to find some of the most futuristic "social housing" in Scotland.

There I discovered David Reynolds and his two-year-old son Kieran building a jigsaw in a pool of sunlight.

In 25 years' time Kieran will have moved onto bigger things - like his own home.

He is the future and - in many ways - so is the family's new flat in Rothesay. They have big, south-facing windows, massive insulation in the walls and triple glazing.

David say it's much better than their old tenement flat, which was cold and damp.

The seven-storey block called A'Chrannag - or the Crow's nest - was commissioned by the housing association Fyne Homes, with lots of help from local schoolchildren.

Social economy director Peter McDonald says it represents a big departure from the past.

"Twenty five years ago peoples' aspirations amounted to a tenement flat which was single-glazed, maybe a small kitchen - and people were happy then.

"But now, 2006, people have got balconies that face south, triple glazing, super insulation, very energy efficient and 25 years from now this will be standard."

Zero heating

And it's won a clutch of awards.

The architect is Gokay Deveci from Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen.

He's creating a reputation for zero heating homes - so well insulated that all they need is heat from the sun and human activity.

He showed me round his latest design - an airtight timber house with lots of glass - for private clients on the Crathes estate on Royal Deeside.

He's put in a wood burning stove as a "social focus".

Gokay sees homes becoming self sufficient, with roofs designed to collect water for household use and external cladding, like photovoltaic cells, for generating electricity.

'Guinea pigs'

On the Berwickshire coast at Eyemouth they're not harnessing wave power - as you might expect - but creating hydrogen from gas to power a home.

It's a European prototype and reduces dependence on the national grid.

Alastair Brown's director of operations for Berwickshire Housing Association and says he sees this kind of "mini power station" as the future.

He believes it will also help protect tenants from rising bills.

The mini hydrogen station is in a shed beside the house and tenant John Ritchie says they don't think much about what goes on in there.

Family life as Europe's 'hydrogen guinea pigs' is much the same as in a conventional house.

So hydrogen could be the future: and in other places like the Shetland island of Unst they are already making it from wind energy for use in an industrial unit.

He believes that 25 years from now our homes will be programmed to meet our energy needs

Using your home to create and conserve energy is emerging as the strongest theme.

That's certainly the thinking of Dr Graham Ault of Strathclyde University.

I caught up with him at Scotland's centre for architecture - The Lighthouse in Glasgow - where many energy saving and generating ideas are being put into practice.

He believes that 25 years from now our homes will be programmed to meet our energy needs.

Beside the electricity and gas meters there could be a new device monitoring the power supply and bills.

"It will decide when to switch on our generation source which might be a wind turbine, it might decide when to store electricity as well."

And this isn't sci-fi - some of these ideas are already being tested in America.

Where does that leave Scotland?

Still lagging behind much of northern Europe with the state of much of our housing - but holding the keys to some seriously pioneering ideas.


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