UK's first zero-emission home prototype

Posted: 6 July 2007

Author: Jeremy Hamand

The UK has unveiled its first zero emission home, which meets environmental standards to be compulsory for all new homes in the future.

The two-bedroom house is insulated to lose 60 per cent less heat than a normal home. It also features solar panels, a biomass boiler and water efficiency devices such as rainwater harvesting. The design, unveiled at the Offsite 2007 exhibition in Watford in June, meets rules to be applied in 2016 that aim to make UK homes more energy-efficient.

Lighthouse ecohouse
Lighthouse ecohouse
The Lighthouse Ecohouse, the UK's first zero-emission home. The chimney-like structure is a wind catcher, for summer ventilation.
The Kingspan Off-Site's Lighthouse design is the first to achieve level six of the Code for Sustainable Homes - which means the house is carbon neutral. The Code for Sustainable Homes is the new mandatory scheme for all new houses in the UK, and applies ratings at six different levels. Whereas a house trying to meet Level 1 requirements would need to have a 10 per cent improvement over current regulations, a Level 6 home has to meet a zero-carbon emission rating. Level 6 is expected to be mandatory by 2016.

The Lighthouse is a two-bedroom, two and a half storey house, with a floor area of about 100m2. The curved roof sweeps down providing the living areas with a double height ceiling, making the occupant feel as though they are in a generous open-plan house, and concealing the rather tight and compact geometry of the house.

In addition to achieving Code Level 6, Lighthouse is future-proofed to address predicted increase in temperature due to climate change. This is achieved through the incorporation of a wind catcher/light funnel providing passive cooling and ventilation and bringing daylight and reflected sunlight into the heart of the home and supported by window openings on the east and west elevations, shaded by balconies and shutters to restrict direct sunlight and heat gain.

Hanson Ecohouse
Hanson Ecohouse
Another prototype at the exhibition, the Hanson Ecohouse, awarded a Level 4 rating under the new Code for Sustainable Homes.
About a quarter of UK carbon emissions come from homes. Chancellor Gordon Brown (now Prime Minister) announced in his Budget in March that zero-carbon houses would be exempt from stamp duty, a tax on property transfer.

Among the features in the Lighthouse are a biomass boiler, which runs on organic fuels such as wood pellets. It counts as zero-emission because the carbon dioxide it gives off during the burning process is offset by the amount absorbed when the fuel crop was grown. It also has a waste separation system that allows combustible waste to be burned to help provide power.

While the bills may be cheap, Kingspan, an Ireland-based materials specialist, admits the building cost is 40 per cent more than the standard home. But Alan Shingler, of architects Sheppard Robson, was confident that costs would fall when more of the homes were built. "It gets cheaper when you build, say, 250 of them," he said. "For a whole development you can introduce other ways of generating electricity - which is where most of the extra cost comes."