A former London businessman who was architecturally inspired by new friends he made during a six-year stint in Spain has now built the first ‘eco house’ of its kind in the UK - here in south Warwickshire.
Chris Christou, who had no experience of working in house-building, design or property during his former life running a document storage firm, settled in Harbury with his wife Kay and two teenage children, Johnny and Georgia, after they returned to the UK last year. Being used to the sunny climes of Barcelona, the family found living in the former windmill they chose as their home rather cold - and so Chris, having taken on a wealth of ideas from some friends in Spain who had built their own eco house, decided to transform a plot of empty land across the road into a brand new environmentally-friendly house of his own.
Eight months on, Chris and his family are planning to move in on Tuesday as the house - a bungalow - is very near completion. “It feels good,” he says, admitting that it is perhaps Kay who will be the most relieved by the end of the project.
A low-lying, flat-roofed, timber-framed house in the shape of an ‘L’, the building is completely tucked away in between streets full of conventional houses close to the village hall. Once standing before the house, its appearance - with its sweeping long glass doors and windows (triple glazed) and elegant wooden structure - is reminiscent of a luxury villa in Spain. Yet, as contrasting it is to the rest of Harbury’s houses, it seems amazingly unobstrusive.
But what’s so unique about it?
Chris explained: “We are using the first Ice Stick underfloor heating system in the UK. It’s like the opposite of a fridge: it heats up cold air using copper and a compressor. We think it will provide enough underfloor heating, but we also have a log-burning stove.
“It’s all sustainable technology, turning natural resources into heat.”
After seeing pictures of the concept shown to him by his friends in Spain, Chris felt inspired to introduce it to the UK. He said: “I am a guinea pig, but it works in Norway and Sweden.”
He has now taken the brave move of giving up his job and setting up a new company, Eqohouse, through which he will market the design of his own home to others.
Chris took on the skills and expertise of the Northamptonshire-based Roger Coy Partnership and the Leamington building firm Onsite Construction.
Roger Coy, who was on site with Chris during the Courier’s visit, said: “We tried to take the best of Spanish architecture and combine it with German technology.
“This house does not fill the space in the same way as conventional houses as it’s low-lying, so it was easier than we were expecting to obtain planning permission.”
And Chris, who estimates that the total building costs will amount to £500,000, says that those neighbours who have commented on his project have mostly been supportive - although he added: “A lot of people don’t even know it’s here.”
To find out more about the Eqohouse concept, visit www.eqohouse.co.uk