Our zero carbon house is built on the island of Unst, Britain's most northerly island in the UK. We have owned the site since 1983. The original building was the Unst headquarters for Alexander Sandison Ltd (still trading on the island to this day) which included a shop, a chandlery, a sail making and net repair service and two ovens for baking bread. It was also home to the Old Batavia hotel.
Sadly, in 1992 the island was hit by 215mph hurricane force winds and the building was so badly damaged that we were ordered to take it down completely, leaving us with just a brownfield site. This occurrence hastened a new beginning. We decided to build a new and completely different house on the site and set out off to Canada, Scandinavia and the UK for ideas.
After much research, we opted for an off-the-shelf house from Scotframe - a company based in Inverurie, Scotland, whose houses were found to be the most efficient and easy to heat.
Inspiration for "Eco House"
In 2001, we met Dr Jeff Kenna, Chief Executive of Energy for Sustainable Development, now an AIM-listed company and one of the largest sustainable energy consultancies with offices throughout the world. When Dr Kenna learned of our plans to build on the most northerly isle of Shetland, he suggested that we should build an eco house.
This idea struck a chord and we started researching the technology that would be required for such a project. By this time we had moved back to Unst so our research was done remotely by telephone and email.
Together with Dr Kenna, we put together a proposal to the Carbon Trust for funding but this was turned down at the time for being “too innovative”. It was at this point that we decided to fund the project by seeking private sponsorship. Since then, companies have been coming forward to help, either financially or by providing discounted services, to get the house up and running.
We are eternally grateful for all of our sponsors' support - the project could not have happened without them.