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.

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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