architecture design

Building of the week – St John’s Vicarage

I haven’t posted a building of the week for a couple of months, but here’s another one. Why do I want to highlight sustainable architecture? Because buildings account for almost half our energy use. It’s the biggest source of CO2 and unless we build better in future, there’s little chance of meeting carbon targets. More efficient houses is also the most obvious solution to rising energy prices and in the longer term, energy shortages.

Since new buildings will be there for decades, every new building ought to be as energy efficient as possible. This series aims to show that any building can be made with the environment in mind, and it doesn’t need to be expensive or avant garde. Previous buildings are here, and here’s todays:

When the Church of England needed a new vicarage for St John’s Church in Wembley, they set the bar for the new building high: code six, the highest environmental standard that a building can achieve in Britain. At code six, a building is essentially carbon zero in daily operation.


The new development includes a home and office for the vicar, a community centre and a range of affordable housing, all built on an old brownfield site. It also had to be built using traditional materials so that it wouldn’t clash with the Grade 2 listed Sir George Gilbert Scott church building next door. The result is a modest stone clad building that proves that sustainable homes don’t need to be outlandish or high tech to be as green as they come.

The building has large glass windows to make the most of solar gain, and a heat recovery system that captures 92% of the building’s heat as it ventilates. What little heating the building does require comes from a ground source heat pump. The roof has a large solar array and a rainwater harvesting system.

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