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Viability of ‘house as power station’ concept in a North European climate

Laura Davila Ponce de Leon, Justin Bere & Alex Whitcroft, Bere:Architects, London
Alexandre Pecourt & Clément Castel, Energelio, France
Graham Taylor, Darke & Taylor, UK

Awards RIBA President's Awards for Research 2018
Category Design & Technical

Lark Rise, upper ground floor, © Peter Cook

Our research objective is to test the concept of ‘house as power station’. Our hypothesis is that housing can generate an excess of energy for at least 9 months of the year, use at least 90% less winter energy, avoid drawing peak load energy from the grid (peak load being the main determinant of total power station capacity) and be a balancing element on the grid.

If our hypothesis is proved correct, it raises the question whether money allocated for constructing power stations may instead be more productively spent on improving buildings? If implemented at scale, it might be cheaper to reduce energy demand per kWh in housing than increase supply by new power stations. Zero carbon power export to the grid would be a bonus.

Our method analyses detailed energy data from one of the UK’s most advanced houses, built to minimise all-year energy demand, maximise energy production and optimise energy storage. Cost is a consideration in the prototype house, but: (1) Our main aim is proof of concept. As with any prototype, costs will come down if the solutions go into mass production. (2) Large sums of money are being applied to new power stations, such as £27 billion to Hinkley Point C. We should compare the cost per kWh saved by advanced construction with the cost per kWh of new power generation.

Our findings are, in the words of a grid expert and advisor to BEIS “game-changing”. The prototype building was found to have 98% less demand per m2 from the grid (for all energy uses including heating and power sockets) than a standard UK building, it was found to draw from the grid only 2% of an ordinary house while exporting 10 times as much energy to the national grid as it imports each year.

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