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World’s First ‘Energy House’ to be Built

14th June 2010

Scientists at the University of Salford are building the world’s first ‘Energy House’ in order to investigate ways of making old properties in England more energy-efficient.  The residents of the house are yet to be announced but no doubt many students will be keen to volunteer if it saves on rent.  In order to meet targets to cut greenhouse gas pollution from homes in the UK by 29% by 2020, it may be necessary to look at retrofitting older houses and the ‘Energy House’ will be built in the style of a pre-1920s Coronation Street-style home.   4.5 million homes in the UK are pre-1920s and although they make up 15% of UK homes, they actually account for 23% of carbon dioxide emissions.  Hence the pressing need for this new project.  The two-up two-down house will be built in a sealed testing chamber three storeys in height, and a unique climate system including rain, wind, and solar will be simulated in order to analyse the specific impact of the climate.  The house will also be fitted with water, gas and electricity supplies in order to provide the detailed and concrete research needed to retrofit this style of property, research which is currently sorely lacking. 

Former Friends of the Earth director and keynote speaker Tony Juniper recently launched the ‘Energy House’ which is part of the ‘Energy Hub’ research centre at the University of Salford.  The Hub is a multidisciplinary centre involving academics from 13 departments and the Energy House project will not only involve designers, engineers and scientists, but also health experts, psychologists and sociologists.  The team is keen to discover whether smart meters that show the real-time cost of energy will affect consumer behaviour, and whether certain colours do affect how we perceive temperature and would actually lead to a reduction in our energy use. They aim to establish data for both effective and realistic energy-saving options, and behavioural change.  This multidisciplinary approach has also been adopted by technology futurist and keynote speaker Rachel Armstrong whose current work involves sustainable building materials and the development of new materials that have the properties of living systems but are not actually ‘alive’.  Rachel has collaborated with artists, scientists, and architects in her ground-breaking approach which combines the insights of brand new technologies and environmental science.

The building project will now begin and the house should be ready for occupancy in Spring, and no doubt Tony and Rachel will be among the fascinated spectators who will keenly await the findings. 

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