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Solcer House will be 'energy positive'

Solcer houseThe Solcer House, south Wales, is claimed to be the UK's first 'energy-positive' house - it should generate more electricity than it uses thanks to its energy efficient design. Image courtesy of the Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff University.

The first 'smart energy-positive' house in the UK is the claim made by Professor Phil Jones of Cardiff University for the Solcer House, a newly constructed eco house near Bridgend in South Wales. Designed by Ester Coma of the Welsh School of Architecture, it demonstrates that it is indeed practical and affordable to construct zero-carbon homes using principally off the shelf materials from local suppliers, in just 16 weeks. It is thus ironic that the government recently caved in to pressure from house builders and scrapped the target to make all new homes zero carbon by 2016.

'Active generator'

The Solcer House "combines reduced [energy] demand with renewable energy supply and energy storage" according to Professor Jones. Among the many technologies incorporated in the design are high levels of thermal insulation, an array of glazed solar panels forming the actual roof, batteries to store electricity, and a heat pump for space heating. This means that in theory it will generate more electricity than it uses. As Ms Coma emphasizes, the house was "designed as an active generator".

Construction of the 100 m2 building uses structural insulated panels (SIPs), external insulating render, and low emissivity double-glazed timber frame windows and doors clad in aluminium to keep the heat in. The batteries, charged by the solar panels, power the mechanical heating and ventilation system, LED lighting, and appliances. Incoming fresh air is warmed by transpired solar collectors - a perforated steel skin on the south-facing facade of the house.

Inform future designs

The house is to be carefully monitored for insights into improving the efficiency of energy use, and help inform designs for the future. "The building demonstrates ... technologies at a domestic scale which we hope will be replicated in other areas of Wales and the UK", added Professor Jones.

And the name? It stands for Smart Operation for a Low Carbon Energy Region - a collaborative project involving Welsh universities, industry and government, funded by the EU. More information and a video record of the construction can be found on the website of the Welsh School of Architecture.