Britain’s first low cost ‘energy positive’ house, which can generate more electricity than its occupants will use, opens on Thursday despite George Osborne axing plans to make housebuilders meet tough low carbon housing targets from next year.
The modest three-bedroom house built in just 16 weeks on an industrial estate outside Bridgend in Wales cost just £125,000 to build and, said its Cardiff University designers, will let occupants use the sun to pay the rent.
Using batteries to store the electricity which it generates from the solar panels that function as the roof, and having massive amounts of insulation to reduce energy use in winter months, it should be able to export electricity to the national grid for eight months of the year.
For every £100 spent on electricity used, it should be able to generate £175 in electricity exports, said Professor Phil Jones, whose team from the Welsh School of Architecture designed the house specifically to meet the low carbon housing targets set by the Labour government in 2006.
These were scrapped last week by the Conservative government on the the grounds that housebuilders should not be over-regulated.
“It was disappointing to see Osborne scrap the plans,” said Jones. “But the devolved Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish governments can set their own building standards. One reason we built this house was to demonstrate to builders that you could meet the standards at an affordable price with off-the-shelf technology. The housebuilders could do it too if they wanted to.”
According to Jones, the building costs of the 100 square metre energy-positive house could drop below £100,000 if several were built at the same time. “We save money and space by making the photovoltaic panels the roof itself and by dispensing with radiators and making the air collector part of the wall,” he said.
“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,” said Jones.
“Buildings that can generate, store and release their own renewable energy could be a game-changer. [This 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,” said Kevin Bygate, chief executive of Specific, a consortium of major companies including BASF and Pilkingtons.
Welsh economy minister Edwina Hart, who is due to open the house on Thursday, said it showed what could be done with little money.
“This unique property 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.”
Photo: The Solcer House at Cenin in Stormy Down, Wales, was built as part of the Low Carbon Research Institute programme. For every £100 spent on electricity used, it should be able to generate £175 in electricity exports. Source: Cardiff University.