Although his detractors are abundant and vocal, Prince Charles is no enemy of sustainable building. Construction of the “Natural House,” a pet project of the Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment, will commence today at the BRE Innovation Park (pictured below) in Watford, England, according to BREEAM News.
The foundation's project has generated a fair amount of publicity (read: controversy) in the British press after being announced last year. Since the house will be constructed exclusively from natural, non-synthetic materials, it won't be airtight and thus will fail to achieve zero-carbon status, reports the Guardian. In accordance to British sustainable building code, a home must be rated "6" to receive zero-carbon rating. The Natural House is expected to reach a "3" or "4" rating.
And as reported by Brit architecture magazine, Building Design, the Prince's house will eschew modern design -- dissimilar to its neighbors at the BRE Innovation Park -- and be styled with a nod to the past, closely resembling the work of German neoclassicist Karl Friedrich Schinkel who rose to prominence in the early 1800s. Talk about old school.
In the face of criticism from the press and raised eyebrows from the architecture and design community, the home will continue to be built from clay, hemp, lime, locally sourced timber, and other ecologically sensitive materials. The construction of the Natural House will also emphasize versatility of design, the use of local labor and materials, clean air, human health, and other aspects. The primary objective of the project? To present "a challenge to house builders and the government to build homes in a radically different way once the economy recovers,” says Building Design.
It’s unclear if the Prince’s Natural House will go on to become inhabitable after its construction and run at the BRE Innovation Park, which describes itself as a "showcase of the very latest in innovative methods of construction, and in cutting edge but practical and affordable sustainability." The park, part of the Watford-based Building Research Establishment, officially opened in 2005 and welcomes visitors. I wouldn't consider it a green theme park by any means, but its attractions are certainly the antithesis of Disneyland's Innoventions Dream Home.
For those of you who follow Royal Family-related goss: In late 2006 and early 2007, rumors swirled that Prince Charles was planning to build a semi-opulent eco-palace complete with solar panels, wood chip boiler, and a rainwater harvesting system as a wedding gift for Prince William and his girlfriend Kate Middleton (neither of them being environmentalists or green building enthusiasts, as far as I know) on an estate near the Welsh border. Details on this project have been scarce lately, but if and when the decidedly on-the-grid couple wed, expect to hear plenty more. Also in 2007 came the announcement that Prince Charles planned on opening an eco-friendly B&B to paying guests on the grounds of another estate in Wales.