news from BRE

published: 16/12/2008

Construction to start on Prince's Foundation Natural House

Construction starts at the end of January 2009 of The Natural House – a low energy home built from natural materials by the Prince of Wales’ architectural charity the Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment. The house is being built on the BRE Innovation Park in Watford and will demonstrate an alternative response to environmental efficiency in sustainable homebuilding.

The Prince's Foundation House: artist's impression

The Prince’s Foundation expects the Natural House to deliver significant energy savings right from manufacture to daily use, to offer good indoor air quality, to be simple and quick to construct and to appeal to the increasingly eco-aware homebuyer.
Hank Dittmar, Chief Executive of The Prince’s Foundation explains “Climate change is forcing us to radically re-think our built environment. It is vital that we find a simple, high volume, low carbon approach to house building, creating a new eco-vernacular that people will love and enjoy for hundreds, not tens of years.  We tend to assume that that low carbon must mean high-tech, but that’s not the only option.   We must deliver low carbon in a way that is appealing to home buyers, and we must also address issues of indoor air quality, the use of natural materials and the creation of adaptable, flexible buildings.”
Peter Bonfield, Chief Executive of BRE comments “The aim of the Innovation Park is to show, test and trial a range of design, building and technology approaches for sustainable homes and buildings. The Natural House will be the first home we have that delivers sustainability using natural materials. We are excited about the new body of knowledge that it will generate. “
Key features of the Natural House are:
Natural Materials
The Natural House will rely on natural materials either grown or taken from the ground. Walls are formed from a single skin of aerated clay blockS (which have high levels of thermal insulation but lower embodied energy), with external lime render and internal woodfibre board to provide high levels of insulation with minimal heat transfer. Outside walls are rendered in lime and hemp; roof tiles are clay and all timber for floors and windows is made from ethically and locally sourced timber, certified by the Forestry Stewardship Council.
High Air Quality
Research will examine the impact of natural materials on air quality, on allergy resistance and on general sense of wellbeing.   
Ease of manufacture
The Natural House will be simple to construct and this is expected to be a significant benefit for commercial housebuilders, minimizing the need for specialist training and maximizing speed of construction.  
Versatility and adaptability
The Natural House can be constructed in a range of architectural forms including paired dwellings, squares and terraces. It is designed to be highly adaptable and can be subdivided to form a family home, maisonette or smaller flat, reflecting changing demographics and needs over the long term.
Emphasis on health
Healthy, non-toxic materials will be used throughout to provide a natural and wholesome environment
Local labour and materials
Local sourcing of materials and use of local labour will be encouraged to shorten supply chains and reduce emissions from transport.
Repair and Recyclability
The simplicity of materials and construction make the building easy and inexpensive to repair and materials will be sourced with a view to maximising end of life recyclabiity.  Where possible recycled materials will be used in the original construction,  
A sense of place
The prototype Natural House will embody generic building traditions but it is hoped that when built commercially, local sourcing of materials and skills and respect for local building traditions and architecture will result in a product that echoes the “DNA” of the building context.
Whilst the house delivers vital energy savings within its own building “envelope”   The Prince’s Foundation believe that massive additional savings can be made if groups of Natural Houses are built as communities, close to public transport and local amenities.   
Pilings and foundations are supplied by Roger Bullivant plc, the clay blocks are supplied by Natural Building Technologies and the principle developer is Swan Country Homes, a leading building of energy efficient homes in the West of England. 

The Natural House is one of a number of new buildings being added to the BRE Innovation Park ready for the INSITE09 exhibition and conference in June 2009. You can follow progress of the build and learn more about INSITE 09 at the event's website:


For further information contact Linda McKeown T 01923 664569

Notes to Editors:

A visual of the house is available – please contact BRE Press Office 01923 664569

The Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment is an educational charity which seeks to improve the quality of people’s lives by teaching and practicing timeless and ecological ways of planning, designing and building.  

The BRE Innovation Park, at the centre of BRE’s Watford site features a number of homes and buildings that demonstrate world leading sustainability credentials. Since it opened in 2005 over 25,000 people have visited the park to see how the construction sector is rising to the challenge of building in a better way.


BRE has been Building a better world for almost 90 years through cutting edge research, consultancy and testing services. Our unrivalled knowledge of sustainability and innovation is now used across the construction industry and in the corporate world creating better buildings, communities and businesses. BRE is part of the BRE Group of companies owned by the BRE Trust, a registered charity.