The first house in the UK that produces more energy than it consumes has been built in a Welsh town by Cardiff University researchers.
The prototype smart house combines renewable energy generation with multiple approaches to reduce energy consumption. These include layers of thermal insulation to minimise heat leaks, and energy-efficient design features such as double-glazed aluminium-clad timber frame windows and doors.
Its south-facing roof is covered with glazed photovoltaic solar panels that are fully integrated into the structure of the building.
The solar energy produced could be used directly to power efficient appliances inside the house including LED lighting and a heat pump, or be stored in a battery unit for later use. The house could actually generate more energy than it needs, feeding the rest into the grid.
"This is the first house in the UK that has been purposely built, using a systems approach, to be carbon positive," said Professor Phil Jones, from Cardiff University’s Welsh School of Architecture, who designed the house a part of the SOLCER House project.
"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,” he added.
To decrease heating cost, it uses a solar air heating system to preheat ventilation air.
"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,” said Professor Jones.
The three-bedroom family house was built in 16 weeks on the site of Cenin Renewables in Pyle, near Bridgend, costing approximately £1,000 per square metre – on a par with the cost of social housing.
"Buildings that can generate, store and release their own renewable energy could be a game-changer,” said Kevin Bygate, chief executive of the Specific Innovation and Knowledge Centre, a consortium which aims to develop clean building technology.
"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."
The project has been part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Wales European Funding Office. The SOLCER project is run by the Welsh Carbon Research Institute with the support of Swansea University.
"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,” Welsh Assembly economy minister Edwina Hart commented. “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."