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Lighthouse Zero Energy Home (UK)

Credits: ©2009 Ben Reed of Shepherd Robson

The heart of the concept for the Lighthouse is the ambition to create homes where the innovative environmental systems and construction methods do not compromise the quality of the occupants’ life but add to it – creating adaptable, flexible spaces that are designed for sustainable modern living. The prototype is a 93m, two-and-a-half-story, two bedroom house. It has been designed in line with Lifetime Homes and Housing Quality indicators. The home has a simple, “barn-like” form with a 40 degree pitched roof that includes solar panels and rainwater harvesting. The home also boasts high levels of thermal insulation, passive cooling and ventilation, biomass boilers and downstairs bedrooms. Biomass boilers run on organic fuels such as wood pellets and count as zero-emission because the amount of carbon dioxide they give off when they are burned is offset by the amount that was absorbed when the crop was grown. The house also has a waste separation system that allows combustible waste to be burned to help provide power. Built by Kingspan, its strategic move towards low and zero carbon technologies includes solar thermal (vacuum tube or flat plate) hot water package solutions, solar cooling solutions, solar photovoltaic (thin film tandem) systems and air source heat pumps, all of which are suitable for new or existing building integration.


Lighthouse Zero Energy Home Main Floor Plan

Main floor plan of the Lighthouse Zero Energy House. Although not mandatory to the UK Code, every building material and component used has been specified for its ability to optimize the house’s overall sustainability credentials and minimize embodied energy and maximise recycled content and reuse. ©2007 Shepherd Robson

STRUCTURE The structure of the Lighthouse is a simple barnlike form, derived from a 40 degree roof accommodating a PV array. The sweeping roof envelops the central space – a generous, open-plan, top-lit, double height living area, with the sleeping accommodation at ground level. The living space uses a timber portal structure so floors can be slotted between the frames or left open as required. At ground level a timber frame structural layout carries the vertical loads of the open-plan frames above and provides stability to the load bearing shear walls. Stability is achieved through the moment connections at first floor and ceiling level. It is constructed using Kingspan Off-Site’s TEK Building System – a high performance SIPS (structurally insulated panel based system). For the Lighthouse, this will provide a high level of thermal insulation and performance reducing the heat loss by potentially two-thirds that of a standard house. U values of 0.11W/m_K and air-tightness of less than 1.0m_/hr/m_ at 50Pa. The foundations consist of off site timber floor cassettes on a ring beam of timber beams supported off the ground level by screw fast pile heads. The piles provide minimal disturbance to the ground and provide suitable supports for domestic scale dwellings. When the building reaches the end of its useful lifespan, the fast foundation support point can be removed.

TECHNICAL DESIGN Inherent to the design of the Lighthouse is the response to the predicted increase in temperature due to climate change. This is achieved through a combination of design techniques and systems.

SOLAR GAIN AND SHADING To achieve Level 6 there is a mandatory heat loss parameter which demands high U-values for the building fabric. As a result, the ratio of glazing to wall in the Lighthouse is 18% as opposed to 25-30% in traditional houses. This drove the decision to locate the living space on the first floor, enabling us to maximise daylight and volume, with a top-lit double height living space. Shading to the west elevation is provided by retractable shutters restricting direct sunlight and minimising heat gain in the summer. These can be folded away when not required to shade the space from evening sun. Future temperatures in the UK may reach those similar to southern Europe, however, sun angle will remain low. There will still be a need to maximise sun and daylight mid-season and in winter. The passive design of the house must balance the technical considerations with the occupants’ expectations who are more accustomed to light and airy living.

SELECTIVE THERMAL MASS Phase changing material in the ceilings absorbs the room heat by changing from solid to liquid within microscopic capsules embedded in the board. This process is reversed when the room is cooled with the night air, working with the passive system of the wind catcher.

WIND CATCHER/LIGHT FUNNEL Located on the roof, above the central void over the staircase, the wind catcher provides passive cooling and ventilation. When open, this catches the cols air forcing it down into the heath of the house, to the living space and the ground floor sleeping accommodation, dispersing the hot air, slowing it to escape. The wind catcher also brings daylight deep into the plan of the house and provides the ground floor sleeping accommodation with secure night-time ventilation.

BUILDING SERVICES Integrated with smart metering and monitoring which records energy consumption and enables occupants to identify if any wastage is occurring, thereby helping to promote more environmentally aware lifestyles. Renewable energy is provided by a biomass boiler with an automatic feed system for heating. Photovoltaics provide all electricity for the home and a solar-themed array, which supplies hot water and allows the boiler to be turned off in the summer, acts to significantly reduce fuel consumption. These renewable energy features have reduced energy fuel costs for space and water heating in the Lighthouse to around £30 per year and, as all electricity is supplied via solar technologies, electricity running costs are completely eliminated. The overall cost of fuel in each house has been reduced by about 94% (not including standard charges). Water efficiency techniques that have been included in the Lighthouse design consist of low volume, water efficient sanitary ware and appliances, such as spray taps, a dual flush toilet, low flow showers and a small bath. Water from the shower and bath is recycled via a stand alone grey water system that fits behind the toilet and supplies water for flushing. Rainwater from the roof is collected in a below ground tank in the garden, which is filtered by a rainwater harvesting system and re-used by the washing machine and for watering the garden. The roof-mounted wind catcher provides secure night-time ventilation for passive cooling, in conjunction with thermal mass boards in the ceilings and external shading. This helps to control the temperature of the interior environment, improving occupier comfort and keeping the house cool in the summer months. The Lighthouse also includes mechanical ventilation with heath recovery (MVHR), controlling ventilation and maintaining an airtight environment in winter months.



  Lighthouse Zero Energy House Timber Frame Article (222 kb)

  Lighthouse Zero Energy House Article (75 kb)

  Lighthouse Zero Energy House Fact File (4,949 kb)


Lighthouse Zero Energy Home (UK)

Lighthouse Zero Energy Home (UK) Video Link

Lighthouse by Kingspan