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Sanjida O'Connell

Dr Sanjida O'Connell is a writer and a TV presenter. Sanjida writes about science and green issues. Her latest novel, The Naked Name of Love, was published by John Murray in March. Her latest TV series was on BBC 2: Nature's Top 40, and was a guide to our top British wildlife spectacles. Find more details about Sanjida's work at her website, sanjida.co.uk

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The truth about life in a 'green' house

Posted by Sanjida O'Connell
  • Wednesday, 26 November 2008 at 02:25 pm

A year ago I covered a story for The Independent on a new green development in Bristol. Six years previously a group of local residents had successfully campaigned against a property developer, bought the land themselves, and built their own environmentally-friendly houses.

I loved the place so much that five weeks later – and before the article came out – I ended up living in one of the  houses. My house is made out of recycled copper and has a green roof: carpeted with sedum plants, it’s good for insects, particularly butterflies, and birds come and drink the water that pools on the skylights so when I do my sit-ups, I get to stare up a magpie’s bottom. The house is upside down – the bedrooms are on the ground floor where it’s cooler and heat rises to the open-plan living room and kitchen.



It’s well insulated too so the gas bill is low, but unfortunately, doesn’t have solar panels or solar hot water like the other houses in the street. I don’t think panels would give a good enough return for the start-up costs but solar hot water would make a difference – both to the environment and my bill. One of the problems of trying to fit them though, is where and how to site a rather large water tank. If you live in a normal house, my recommendation would be to put your money towards insulation, draft excluders and double-glazing before going for big-budget operations like solar water.

 As for the rest of the community – I’ve met most of the residents and how many of us living in cities tend to know our neighbours? This might have a lot to do with the lack of cars on our street. A recent report by the University of the West of England showed that on busy roads residents have less than one quarter the number of local friends compared to those living on similar streets with little traffic.

As everyone knows everyone else’s business, it’s a bit like living in the seventeenth century but with email. Let’s hope I don’t upset my neighbours as here there’s no hiding behind your Leylandii.

Read the full story in The Independent.

Pictures by John Lawrence