The UK's first purpose-built, low-cost energy smart house

10th August 2015
Siobhan O'Gorman

Experts from the Welsh School of Architecture have designed and built the UK's first purpose-built, low-cost energy smart house, capable of exporting more energy to the national electricity grid than it uses. The house, designed by Professor Phil Jones and his team based at the Welsh School of Architecture, has been built as a prototype to meet tough new targets for zero carbon housing set by UK Government.

Designed and constructed as part of the Wales Low Carbon Research Institute's (LCRI) SOLCER project, and supported by SPECIFIC at Swansea University, its unique design combines for the first time reduced energy demand, renewable energy supply and energy storage to create an energy positive house.

The design of the SOLCER House is based on the 'Buildings as Power Stations' concept developed by the SPECIFIC Innovation and Knowledge Centre, and is unique in that it uses a number of technologies and design approaches developed by the LCRI's Low Carbon Buildings Research Programme.

In order to drastically reduce the energy demand, the house was built with high levels of thermal insulation reducing air leakage and uses an innovative energy efficient design which includes low carbon cement, structural insulated panels, external insulated render, transpired solar collectors and low emissivity double glazed aluminium clad timber frame windows and doors.

The south facing roof comprises of glazed solar photovoltaic panels, fully integrated into the design of the building, allowing the roof space below to be naturally lit. This has been designed to reduce the cost of bolting on solar panels to a standard roof.

The house's energy systems combine solar generation and battery storage to power both its combined heating, ventilation, hot water system and its electrical power systems which includes appliances, LED lighting and heat pump. The TSC solar air system preheats the ventilation air which is topped up from a thermal water store.

"The Welsh and UK Governments, and governments across the EU, have set targets for very low 'nearly zero' energy buildings by 2020, and zero carbon new housing can deliver this and more. This means that as an academic community we have to rise to that challenge and come-up with innovative new ways to build houses of the future," commented Professor Jones. "Through this project we have risen to this challenge and used the latest design and technology to build the UK's first smart energy positive house."

Kevin Bygate, Chief Executive of SPECIFIC, said: "Buildings that can generate, store and release their own renewable energy could be a game-changer. The SOLCER House is intentionally built with the best off-the-shelf, affordable technologies, so it proves what's possible even now."

"Now the house has been built our key task is to ensure that all of the measures that we have put in place are monitored to ensure the most energy efficient use,” added Professor Jones. “We will use this information to inform future projects with the aim of ensuring that Wales remains at the heart of the development of a zero carbon housing future.”

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