Today kicks off the opening of the first of six energy efficient houses on the campus of the University of Nottingham as part of the School of Built Environment’s research and education initiative. The initiative shows energy-efficient houses are possible under the UK government mandate for every new house built by 2016 to reach a zero-carbon standard.
“We’ve been working with industry in the UK to design and construct six environmentally friendly homes of the future, and each of the houses is going to become a research test bed for new ideas, for innovation,” says Dr. Mark Gillott, co-director of the Institute of Sustainable Energy Technology at Nottingham.
The first house, opening today, is sponsored by BASF and features a number of BASF materials including Micronal PCM (phase-change microcapsules), the material embedded in plaster board that has the equivalent thermal mass of a concrete wall but is much thinner. “It’s effectively encapsulated wax that melts and solidifies and in doing so can absorb or give out a huge amount of heat,” says Gillott.
The Micronal phase-change board from BASF was also used by the University of Technology in Darmstadt, Germany for their winning entry to the 2007 Solar Decathlon in Washington DC.
The BASF-sponsored house features no central heating system because it is highly insulated and air tight but uses various heating solutions including a solar thermal system and a biomass system for wood pellets and wood chips. All air going into the house is either preheated or cooled through a ground-air heat-exchange system, which is a network of pipes under the house.
The house uses all energy-efficient appliances including LED lighting and an induction hob, which uses magnetic technology for cooking. The house also features an affordable home automation system to monitor and control energy usage throughout the house. The system uses Web bricks connected by broadband and placed throughout the house.
The house is grid tied for electricity because of the cost-prohibitive nature of photovoltaic cells. This first house is required to feature affordable energy-efficient solutions for first-time buyers and low-income families.
People will be living in all six houses to place real-world conditions on the energy systems and environments. “We’re going to get continuous monitored data from them,” says Gillott.