Britain’s first carbon neutral new-build church

Last week I wrote about a historic church that had achieved zero carbon status. I thought I’d follow that with a related building of the week – Britain’s first carbon neutral new-build church. You’ll find it in Walsingham, a village that I hadn’t heard of before but apparently a site of Catholic pilgrimage. The Roman Catholic Church of the Annunciation had been languishing in a 1950s building that was supposed to be temporary, and in 2006 they built themselves a new home.

Designed by parishioner and architect Anthony Rossi, the building has a large solar array on the roof, and a deep bore heat exchange system for warmth. The round tower echoes traditional Norfolk architecture and was constructed with stones from an older church building.

Beyond that, the internet has almost no information about it. So let me tell you about something else – two buildings of the week for the price of one.

While I was looking into this I came across a church that planned to build a new building to PassivHaus standards, right in the middle of Sheffield. An architect I know was involved, and it got planning permission in 2013. It was designed with lots of sunlight, an insulation envelope, and a south facade that would maximise solar gain in the winter. Embedded energy was taken into consideration from the beginning, with construction using reclaimed bricks and timber.

Christ Church Central would have been Britain’s first PassivHaus church. Unfortunately, it’s always going to be more expensive to build to that standard and funding it was a problem. When an opportunity came up to buy a nightclub across the street, the price matched what the church had managed to raise so far, and it seemed like too good an opportunity to miss.

So we’re still waiting for a PassivHaus church in Britain. There’s one in the United States though, and two different projects under construction in Canada that are due to open this year. A reader informs me that they visited one in Germany, and there may be others.

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