Over the past 18 years we’ve hosted thousands of students of energy, water, and environmental sciences but increasing number of visits from other strands of academia is both heartening and fascinating.
Recently we hosted Nottingham University’s School of Mathematics, as part of their work on MASS: ‘Modelling and Analytics for a Sustainable Society‘, and are delighted to hear we were cause for both inspiration and optimism.
“HHP showed me that I was wrong and it is possible to live in a (much more) sustainable way without diminishing our quality of life. I would even argue that the ‘Hockerton lifestyle’ might even be far more enjoyable than the busy, consumption-focused lifestyle most of us enjoy”
“Highlights on the day included “the house tour as we got to see how it all came together in reality”, “the aquaponics, as this was not something I was aware of before, the conservative and careful use of water (e.g. less filtered water for showering and the toilet), their own water filtration systems and being off the grid for water”.
“[we] were all surprised at the toasty warm floor despite the absence of any central or secondary heating!”
You can read their views in full here, or contact us to find out how we can bring your area of work or study to life for your students, colleagues or clients.
Today the Committee on Climate Change published its ‘Next Steps for Heat Policy‘.
Heating and hot water for UK buildings make up 40% of our energy consumption and 20% of our greenhouse gas emissions. It will be necessary to largely eliminate these emissions by around 2050 to meet the targets in the Climate Change Act and to maintain the UK contribution to international action under the Paris Agreement.
It’s been widely welcomed for highlighting the stalling of Government policy in recent years. But one point sticks out to us in particular:
New-build. Buildings constructed now should not require retrofit in 15 years’ time. Rather, they should be highly energy efficient and designed to accommodate low-carbon heating from the start, meaning that it is possible to optimise the overall system efficiency and comfort at a building level.
The document expands on the potential for heat pumps and district heating, but where is the option of zero-heating? Why not build homes so they don’t need central heating? Whose heating system helps with summer cooling? And use solar PV and wind to top up efficient immersion heated water stores when renewable power supply surpasses time-critical demand?
It can be done, with existing technology and skills, at roughly the same cost as a new home built to building regulations alone, and here’s our energy use from the last 15 years, and a related temperature study to prove it.
The average energy use by the homes at Hockerton Housing Project has consistently been less than a third of that used by the ‘average’ UK household, and two-thirds of that demanded by the Passive House standard.
So why is this approach not being followed more often?
- The Government’s preferred energy performance calculation (RdSAP and SAP) can’t calculate the benefits from interseasonal storage.
- There is no great commercial incentive to lobby for this low-tech and affordable approach. It profits residents rather than manufacturers or standard-setters.
- There’s an assumption that high thermal mass, in the form of concrete, is inherently bad. It’s not if it removes the need for heating, reduces maintenance, and increases the durability of the home. Parity with timber-framed homes is reached at about 20 years.
- That’s it.
And here’s the small print:
- 5 homes, averaging 2 adults, 1-2 children
- Increase use over time reflects increased home-working and children becoming teenagers. Savings in the general population are not mirrored as homes at Hockerton have always had energy efficient lightbulbs, sought the most efficient appliances, and had energy-aware residents.
- Temperature tracking was undertaken when home was drying out and with low occupancy in that first winter, so not a perfect study, and overheating is now minimised through shading of conservatory sunspaces during summer. Even before this, the instances of overheating met the requirements of the Passive House standard.
- When space heating is required, it can be delivered by small electric heaters with far lower capital and operational costs. Such occasional use is included in the usage graph above.
- The ‘average household’ energy use data is taken from UK Government statistics for household energy use.
- Readings are taken manually so some of the quarters are thirds, or very small quarters. One particular peak can be put down to our Christmas party in 2012! If anyone wants to fund/test automated reads, do get in touch!