'World first' eco-home in Sheffield could be yours for £65,000

Jon Johnson outside the prototype eco-house at Heeley City Farm
Jon Johnson outside the prototype eco-house at Heeley City Farm
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New eco-homes described as a world first could soon be popping up across Sheffield - with a two-bed house available for £65,000.

Made from shipping containers, the homes have been designed by the newly-formed social enterprise REACH Homes to meet the demand for affordable housing in the city.

The planned retail price for a two-bedroom, 12,000sqft eco-house is 65,000

The planned retail price for a two-bedroom, 12,000sqft eco-house is 65,000

The prototype is taking shape at Heeley City Farm, but plans are already in the pipeline for developments featuring the energy efficient homes at brownfield sites across the city.

Jon Johnson, who lives in Sharrow and runs the furniture 'upcycling' centre Strip the Willow in Abbeydale Road, said he wants to break down barriers to home ownership while training up apprentice builders.

"There's a massive shortage of affordable housing, and there are a lot of people living at home with their parents because they can't afford to buy their own place. I thought there has to be an alternative," he said.

"This will put Sheffield at the forefront of eco-house building in Europe. We're reinventing housing and trying to give people what they need in terms of affordable, energy efficient homes."

Jon believes this is the first example in the UK and possibly worldwide of shipping containers being converted to Passive housing, the name given to ultra-energy efficient homes which can reduce a family's gas and electricity bills by up to 90%.

The former police inspector says a two-bedroom house, made from five shipping containers and 80% recycled materials, will boast an ample 1,200sqft of floor space and come with a price tag of £65,000.

Even including the estimated £20,000 for land, he says the total cost will be a snip compared with the average £160,000 for a two-bedroom new-build property.

Jon says he is in talks with Sheffield Council and South Yorkshire Housing Association over a number of potential sites for the solar-powered homes, and he hopes to secure a deal soon.

The venture has already received £5,000 from UnLtd, which supports social entrepreneurs, with Jon funding the additional cost of building the prototype from his own pocket.

He hopes the non-profit social enterprise will generate enough money by 2021 to plough up to £12m into local charities tackling homelessness and energy poverty, as well as providing many training opportunities and jobs.

But for now he is seeking investors who share his goals to help him take the project to the next level.

"My partner and I were looking into building a new house for ourselves and we soon realised we could provide truly affordable, full-spec eco-homes for everyone at a fraction of the cost of traditional housing," said Jon.

"We think this could change the housing market in the UK, and the next step is to finish the prototype and market it to ethical investors."

Jon has spent the last four months building the one-bed prototype with Strip The Willow staff Chris Dawkins and Will Woods, and the trio have been learning on the job.

He hopes to harness the expertise at Sheffield's universities to incorporate the latest eco-friendly technology into the finished product.

He envisages small scale developments with six to 12 houses, featuring landscaped communal grounds planted with fruit trees and vegetable patches.

As well as all the many benefits for buyers, he says neighbouring residents will suffer less disruption, noise and dirt than with a traditional build, as the eco-homes can be constructed off-site before being moved into place.