The most ecological house in the world
Life on the most uninhabited island in the north of Great Britain can be very difficult. In Unst the winters are harsh and the winds, brutal and relentless, regularly hit the treeless landscape at more than 170km / h.
But Unst is the island chosen by a retired Wiltshire couple to build one of the greenest houses in the world - a zero-emission house that runs entirely on power from the wind and the sun. It's on the same latitude as southern Greenland, but you'll soon be able to flaunt your greenhouse's lemon trees, grapevines, and green pepper plants, a wind-powered electric car, and heated floors harnessing the heat from the air.
The three-bedroom house designed by Michael and Dorothy Rea, near the shore of a lonely bay, has become a test bed for living "off the grid": generating all the energy you need from renewable sources , growing most of his food at home and driving a car that doesn't need to go to the gas station.
His house, built for just over £ 210,000 from a pre-fab log home, has gradually become famous. The Scottish Executive, in Edinburgh, is using it as a reference for the new regulations for the construction of sustainable houses; officials from the Prime Minister's office are watching his progress and Chinese government officials are studying his innovative technologies to build a new 5,000-house ecovillage in Guangzhou, southern China.
Last year, the Reas discovered that their website (zerocarbonhouse.com) was the fourth most popular in the world on Google. Michael Rea often stays up until 5 a.m., responding to emails from graduate students, environmentalists, and even Canadian senators.
The house is very well insulated and its underfloor heating uses heat captured from the outside air and stored in a giant "water coil". A ventilation system captures the heat inside the house and reuses it. Rainwater is collected for use in the toilets and the washing machine. Its large windows capture the heat of the sun.
The energy for the dishwasher, the kitchen, the toaster, the refrigerator, the computers and the light comes from a wind turbine, which charges the fuel cells capable of storing energy for four days. The LED lights in the house will consume the same energy as a 100W bulb.
The greenhouse will have its own wind turbine. The plants will be grown in nutrient-rich hydroponic liquids, with special LED lighting to create artificial daylight and stations. The Toyota Yaris, reconverted to run on battery, will be charged with energy from fuel cells.