Cardiff University: UK's first 'smart' carbon positive energy house

Experts from Cardiff University 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.

24th July 2015

The Solcer House is the UK’s first positive energy house and a CEW Award 2015 winner. Designed by Professor Phil Jones and his team based at the Welsh School of Architecture, it has been built as a prototype to meet tough demands on the energy and housing sectors and was officially launched by Edwina Hart AM, The Minister for Economy, Science and Transport on 16th July.

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 house took a total of 16 weeks to construct and was completed in February 2015.

"I am delighted to see Wales leading the UK with the launch of this unique property which has the distinction of being the first building of its kind in the UK. It is a great showcase for the technologies being developed in Wales, with the potential to be adopted and replicated in future housing developments across the UK creating wide ranging long term benefits for the economy, the environment and occupiers," said Economy Minister Edwina Hart

Professor Jones, who heads the project, said: "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.

"Through this project we have risen to this challenge and used the latest design and technology to build a smart energy positive house. This is the first house in the UK that has been purposely built, using a systems approach, to be carbon positive." he added.

Zero carbon energy performance involves a combination of reduced energy demand and renewable energy supply, using the electricity grid to import and export energy. Electrical and thermal stores have also been used to allow energy generated at the house to be used directly by the occupiers.

The design of the SOLCER House follows the 'Buildings as Power Stations' concept developed by the SPECIFIC Innovation and Knowledge Centre. It is unique in using a number of technologies and design approaches developed by the LCRI's Low Carbon Buildings Research Programme.

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."

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 (SIPs), external insulated render, transpired solar collectors and low emissivity double glazed aluminium clad timber frame windows and doors.

Professor Jones adds: "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.

One of the stars of the team behind the Solcer House is Ester Coma-Bassas, a research assistant at Cardiff University’s Welsh School of Architecture, and winner of the CEW Young Achiever Award this year. Her enthusiasm for the project, coupled with her technical knowledge and ability to inspire and motivate others, are what caught the judges’ eye. Ester is an excellent example of what it takes to drive change in what can be a conservative sector, but that needs to heed the lessons of the Solcer House.

 

You can find out more details about the Solcer House here and the launch day here