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The Tree House: London's Pioneering Zero-Carbon House

Will Anderson was studying for an MA in energy and sustainable design when he began his ambitious self-build, zero-carbon home in Clapham, south London, in 2004. It was completed in 2006 and is a prime example of best practice in green building. His Diary of an Eco-builder catalogues the whole building process and the architecturally stunning final result:


September 30, 2004: Will Anderson found his plot of land in Clapham, south London, in an estate agents. It had planning permission for a house he didn't want to build


November 10, 2004: After the site is cleared for construction and foundations laid on virgin ground, heat pump pipes are inserted into boreholes 25m deep. Coolant is pumped through the pipes, drawing energy from the Earth to heat the house


December 14, 2004: The outline of the house footprint emerges for the first time. A wooden mold is constructed before concrete is poured in.


July 20, 2005: A moisture-permeable air barrier is laid over plywood sheeting. This will let moisture escape from the walls but prevent heat losses from uncontrolled droughts


September 7, 2005: The crucial final layer of the roof is installed: the photovoltaic power station. Installers from Solar Century prepare the specially designed rain screen that the PV modules are fixed to.


Staircase: Tree trunks supporting the staircase were hand-picked by Will Anderson from a sustainable forest floor in Sussex, managed by Timber Resources


Bathroom: The bath was salvaged and Kirkstone slate was used for the walls and floors. Kirkstone quarrymen rebuild the fell behind them to protect the landscape in the Lake District national park. Hot water is provided by a combination of the heat pump and a solar thermal panel and water consumption for the house is low: only 60 litres a person a day compared with an average of 150 litres a person a day.


Study: Huge windows allow maximum daylight to pour into the room at the top of the three-story house. The parquet flooring was salvaged and laid by Will Anderson himself, which he says was a 'nightmare' job.


Garden: The pond in the completed house. Rainwater is collected but only for garden use

Living room: The living area is furnished with secondhand furniture — Will Anderson's four cats particularly appreciate the underfloor heating


The completed house: All the hard work pays off. The sycamore, which inspired the Tree House name and the design for the gates, can be seen to the right.

This piece originally appeared in The Guardian.

Image credits: Will Anderson

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What a lovely house!

I wish the article included information on square footage, and number of people living in it. I also wish there was some information on approximate cost of materials, and labor, and something about what plants were in the garden.

One of the things that those interested in sustainable architecture need to think about is what plants and materials we use, and from how far away they must come, to work in the environment where we choose to live. That requires "Outquisition", as this site has noted, meaning that we must share resources and information about what works, and what does not.

Posted by: Andrew Watt on 22 Nov 08

I don't quite understand one thing. Is a "zero-carbon" house the same as a "zero-energy" house?

Posted by: Geekofriendly on 22 Nov 08

No shortage of detailed information on this place, including a book and the diary mentioned in the article.
Inspiring on one level but phew, hard work!

Posted by: ken Webster on 13 Dec 08

Our site at shows another zero carbon house project currently under construction in Birmingham, which incorporates the recent Code for Sustainable Buildings Level 6 specification. The two projects share a concern for architectural flair.

Posted by: Chris Duggan on 5 Jan 09

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