Forget zero carbon – this home is carbon positive

As the building industry adjusts to the news that new homes will no longer be required to meet zero carbon standards by 2016, designers from Cardiff University have unveiled the UK’s first purpose-built carbon positive home.

Designed by Professor Phil Jones and his team based at the Welsh School of Architecture, the energy efficient SOLCER house was built as a prototype to meet zero carbon requirements.

Not only does the house export more energy to the national electricity grid than it uses; its construction cost falls within the normal budget for social housing.

The house took just 16 weeks to build, at a cost of £1,000 per square metre. According to the university, its unique design combines for the first time reduced energy demand, renewable energy supply and energy storage to create an energy positive house.

So what makes this house different from other energy efficient homes?

It incorporates high levels of thermal insulation and is made with 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 is made of glazed solar photovoltaic panels, fully integrated into the design of the building, allowing natural light into the roof space below.

Energy systems inside the house combine solar generation and battery storage to power both its combined heating, ventilation and hot water system and its electrical power systems.

The design of the house is based on the ‘Buildings as Power Stations’ concept developed by the SPECIFIC Innovation and Knowledge Centre at Swansea University.

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 — and there’s plenty more technology in the pipeline.

Professor Jones added: 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.

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.

The building demonstrates our leading edge low carbon supply, storage and demand technologies at a domestic scale which we hope will be replicated in other areas of Wales and the UK in the future.

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