Gallery: THE LIGHTHOUSE: The UK’s first zero-emission home


With the new housing regulations coming into effect in England, which will mandate that all homes in the country be emission free by 2016, the race was on for designers and builders to come up with the first prototype of what such a house will look like. Currently being exhibited in the Big Build Innovation Park area of the BRE’s OFFSITE2007 exhibition, The Lighthouse designed by Sheppard Robson, in conjunction with Arup and Kingspan Off-Site is the first house to meet these strict requirements.

The Lighthouse is a two bedroom, two and a half storey house, with a floor area of about 100m2. It does some things just a bit differently from the standard housing model such as locating all the sleeping areas at ground level. This allows the living areas to be located at the top, where they can make use of most of the natural light coming in through the windows and skylights. 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.

The Code for Sustainable Homes is the new mandatory scheme for all new residences in England, and is divided into 6 different levels. Whereas a house trying to meet Level 1 requirements would need to have a 10% improvement over current regulations, a Level 6 residence has to meet a zero-carbon emission rating. Level 6 is expected to be mandatory by 2016. So how does the Lighthouse prototype reach this goal? For starters, the house has been designed with sustainability in mind. By having a clear target, the design team was able to make sure that the design was integrated with the technologies that were going to be provided, rather than having those technologies retrofitted to the building. The residence has been highly insulated with high performance structural insulated panels (SIPS). The 40 degree pitched roof houses the photovoltaic array for electricity generation. Water efficiency techniques, such as water-efficient taps, toilets, a biomass boiler and mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR), are some of the technologies being used on the prototype.

But the goal of achieving a zero-emission house was not realized simply by using new technologies. Simple design concepts such as designing in a wind catcher/light funnel, which will provide ventilation and light to the house, and lower levels and the shading of windows by properly placed balconies and shutters, have all been used to reduce the heat gain and improve the performance of the building. And finally, with good old fashioned conservation in mind, the house has been fitted with smart metering and monitoring systems, which will enable the occupant to monitor the usage of resources in the house, and hopefully adjust their lifestyles as needed.

+ Offsite 2007
+ Sheppard Robson
+ Zero-emission House @ BBC


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  1. Inhabitat » PREFA... March 7, 2008 at 4:25 am

    […] number of model houses have already been developed, and some of them were shown last year, but this is the first house […]

  2. THE LIGHTHOUSE « ... July 6, 2007 at 12:44 am

    […] THE LIGHTHOUSE  The UK’s first zero-emission home […]

  3. Dan Burr June 24, 2007 at 9:08 am

    interesting comments

    as one of the guys who designed it here’s a few responses in no particular order

    Its a prototype, which we designed and built in 4 months. Its a starting point not the finished article.

    its the first home in the UK to be certified level 6 of the UK governments new code for sustainablity. its net zero carbon ie it produces more energy than it consumes over the year. I’m sure that there are many examples of effectively zero carbon homes around but this is the first that relates directly to the new UK code.

    we had to design around the available footprint of about 5x10m to fit on the plot we were offered.
    so the 2storey + mezzanine pretty much derived from that. we used the straight flight and stairwell to ensure natural light from the top flows down to the ground floor and to help with the natural ventilation strategy.

    in order to limit heat loss we could only allow ourselves 18% glazed area (as proportion of wall area) so the top light is important. all windows are triple glazed. We were concerned that the interior might be a little gloomy especially given our current climate, thank fully it feels really light and spacious when you’re inside it…

    the north facing ‘wall you don’t see’ is simply clad in timber with two window openings relating to the stairwell.

    we’re working up about 20 different designs uincluding terrace versions which you rightly point out would be more efficient way to develop….

    its had lots of coverage and interest so hopefully we’ll get to roll out something pretty much like it.

    oh, by the way I’m 40 with a 4yr old and pregnant wife we live in a 3 storey townhouse with the living room on the first floor….. we love it stairs n all!

  4. Cris Dias June 23, 2007 at 9:46 am

    This house looks rather interesting but I hope it isn’t what the future as in store for us. I red some of the comments posted above and can’t help but agree with their point of view. This house was most probably designed buy a single 23 year old with no kids that eats out everyday. If he had a 3 year old daughter, a pregnant wife and had to carry an endless amount of grocery bags up the stairs, I’m sure his design would have been a little more human friendly.

  5. Craig June 21, 2007 at 4:11 pm

    These aren’t the first zero emmision homes in the UK. I think it may have been BedZED in Beddington, which pips this by having a truely sustainable build; utilising existing buildings as aggregate and using locally sourced materials. They’ve got a carpool scheme utilising electric vehicles chareged by the onsite Biomass system as well.

    The other thing that really worries me about these homes is the inevitable un-sustainabilty of the build process once the major house builders jump on the green wagon. That and the total lack of sustainable communities in (most) modern developments.

    I do like the high ceilings though. I’m fed up of walking into light fittings and door frames in modern homes.

  6. rek June 21, 2007 at 3:29 am

    Very few people are in wheelchairs, and they can have their own one-level designs, sheesh.

  7. cj June 20, 2007 at 11:58 pm

    im in the US so i dont know if this changes anything but stairs are not an issue at all… all two story houses typically have 8 or 9′ high ceilings….the cross section above shows about 15 or 16 risers (typical) it looks like alot because they are in a straight run and were use to seeing them with broken up with landings…..and the facade, its unique and new and screams substainability…..its all about the house being zero emissions and its about time someplace is mandating it…..i cant wait for it to happen in here in the US

  8. BDan June 20, 2007 at 2:30 pm

    adwoa: In the States, at least, wheelchair accessibility is only required for public buildings; the vast majority of private homes are not accessible. Having three floors means that the house takes up a much smaller footprint, which is an important consideration anywhere that space is an issue (i.e. anywhere with a reasonably high population density). It wouldn’t even be impossible to make this design accessible, if the owners desired it — just install wheelchair lifts on the stairs.

  9. Ana June 20, 2007 at 10:42 am

    The house looks beautiful on the outside but inside the space is poorly organized. I live in a 60m2 house and I have much more freedom to walk around because I had the chance to design the layout of the rooms in the way they provide the most usable space. I’m just sorry I don’t have the solar panels because, except for that, my house is great when it comes to saving energy. It’s an attic which means that with only two windows on the roof over the living areas (kitchen and living room – there’s one in the bathroom too) I don’t need light in the house at all until it’s really dark outside. With good insulation it doesn’t take much to heat it during the winter since the house is pretty small in area and yet comfortable.
    The issue of the stairs could easily be solved by using a spiral staircase – they take much less space and using glass & metal it won’t get in the way of the light. Apart from them taking up space, the only problem I see with this these stairs is the use the bathroom over the course of the day, since it’s on the ground floor. Still, we’re all getting fatter so they end up being quite healthy.
    João Sousa who commented up here is right. The wall we don’t see, if made of double glazing could eliminate the need to place the living areas on the top floors and provide much more light to the whole house – I really hope it’s not made of an opaque material.

  10. Jonathan June 19, 2007 at 6:15 pm

    Dudes! Why would the stairs be so much trouble? Peeps in the Netherlands usually have two/three story homes. (depends on english or american version of stories). I should know. I used to live in a house with two long stairs. Horrible? Nay, you learn to live with it. Heh. It’s not so bad anyways. Really nice design. I totally love the woodworks. :)

  11. THE LIGHTHOUSE: The UK... June 19, 2007 at 11:44 am

    […] text/images via inhabitat […]

  12. adwoa June 19, 2007 at 6:24 am

    the only issue with the stairs is that it makes it awfully difficult for people in wheelchairs; i wouldn’t think that sustainability trumps handicap access laws already in place.

  13. Nick Simpson June 18, 2007 at 4:11 pm

    SURELY this isn’t the first zero-emission house in the UK? I’m sure there must be loads of examples by now. I’m really proud that we’re going carbon-neutral by 2016 though, I just hope the government at the time sees it through…

    As for this design, can it be terraced? I’d hope so although it doesn’t look that way… If you can’t build these to a reasonable density the sustainability is compromised a little… Still, no more looking for the cloud attached to the silver-lining – these are great, a real mix of sustainability and quality, contemporary architecture!

    As for the stairs, two flights is nothing, I don’t see the issue…

  14. rachel June 18, 2007 at 4:08 pm

    Yes, there are a lot of stairs in this house. Granted, some more reasons to exercise are always welcome. At some point, however, sustainability and universal design are going to have to converge. This is not to detract from achieving a zero-emission building; nor is it an invitation to rest on our (not yet awarded!) laurels.

  15. ALEX CASTILLO June 18, 2007 at 3:40 pm

    I agree about the stairs, but think of it this way; with a world of ever increasing waistlines perhaps this is exactly what the doctor ordered.

  16. The Groundswell Blog is... June 18, 2007 at 1:43 pm

    […] the BBC and Inhabitat. You can check out the exhibition at OFFSITE2007, or view the designer’s […]

  17. João Sousa June 18, 2007 at 10:36 am

    It’s an interesting project, but i wonder what happened to the façade that never shows here. Is it a big wall of concrete? I don’t know..

    Also in terms of internal organization, the house seems to be well organized with the living spaces at the top but it requires a lot of stairs to travel around the house.

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