The homes — based in the Liverpool city region — will encompass six different solutions to tackle carbon, plastic pollution and fuel poverty.
The first house will be designed and built to prioritise carbon reduction, while the second one will focus on plastic reduction.
The remaining four will be developed as a chain of hybrid carbon/plastic reduced homes that will be used to identify and address the potential clashes between these two objectives.
Once built, six families will be asked to move into the homes and to work with the research team to understand how they function in everyday life.
The partnership aims to create a new standard in the industry and will underpin Your Housing Group’s plans to develop new homes over the next 25 years.
The three partners have secured the necessary funds to deliver the initial project, which will cover researching and developing the prototypes.
Part of the investment will be used to support the Changing Streams Research Centre based in the University of Liverpool’s School of Environmental Sciences.
The new centre will work closely with industry firms, like Your Housing Group, to find innovative and practical solutions to reduce plastic in construction.
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Brian Cronin, CEO at Your Housing Group (pictured above), said: “Talking with Changing Streams, we recognised that plastic pollution is a serious threat which we cannot ignore, while the embedded carbon in plastic conflicts with our carbon reduction program.
“We do not want to develop carbon-free houses that move the problem from a climatic emergency to an environmental one, so we are essentially pushing fresh thinking into this project, while also utilising the wealth of knowledge we jointly possess.
“The prototypes we develop within this partnership will be highly innovative, but they may not be the final solution.
“As a business, we intend to keep pushing the boundaries of what is possible and, as an industry, we must be prepared to make such commitments if we are to achieve our goals in reducing climate change and environmental pollution.
“We also want to ensure that the people who call these houses their homes do not suffer because of rising fuel bills and the prospect of fuel poverty.
“This unique initiative will place residents and the future at the heart of our objectives and put the social back into social housing.
“Another key focus of the project will include research and creating educational tools to help both residents and maintenance teams.
“We want to build homes that work towards carbon neutrality and address plastic reduction, fuel poverty, and wellbeing.”
Dr Gareth Abrahams, head of the University of Liverpool’s Changing Streams Research Centre and co-founder of Changing Streams, added: “When we talk about carbon-zero housing we often think about what a building does and how much heat it retains, but we overlook another important question: what are these houses made of?
“Many of the products we use to build and insulate new homes are made from plastic-based materials.
“The risk is that by focusing on carbon-zero targets alone we produce housing with larger quantities of plastic.
“This five-year project is the first to address the balance between carbon and plastic reduction in the design and construction of affordable housing.
“It will not be a quick fix; the project will involve very intensive research and innovative problem-solving.
“There are many plastic alternatives currently available that can be used within the construction process, but they are not all viable due to price, availability, performance, and installation; at the same time there are many plasticated products for which no alternative exists.
“Our research will highlight all these areas and help inform us of the barriers to change, while developing new and inventive ways of working.”
Neal Maxwell, co-founder of Changing Streams CIC, added: “We set-up Changing Streams in 2019 with the sole intention of changing the construction industry’s reliance on plastic both in terms of the materials that form our homes and the plastic that is wasted in their fabrication.
“Our aim is to disrupt the industry and tear up the traditional rule book and to do this, we are now embarking on an incredibly ambitious programme of work in partnership with Your Housing Group and the University of Liverpool, which will lead to a fundamental change in the way social housing and housing in general is created.
“We are confident that this game-changing project will lead not only to lasting changes within the housing sector, but that it will have far-reaching and transformational impacts on the wider construction industry.”