The built environment in the EU is responsible for 40% of energy consumption and 36% of Greenhouse Gas emissions. The Energy House 2.0 project is a facility that will help bring innovative products that tackle decarbonisation of our homes to market quicker and at lower cost.
The journey started in 2010, when the University of Salford developed the original Salford Energy House. The laboratory facility contained a Victorian House in a climate-controlled chamber and provided a new way to understand how products in our homes performed.
The approach allowed innovative companies to understand how their products performed quicker and at lower cost than had previously been possible. By controlling the conditions of the house, it allowed the team to conduct repeatable experiments, providing detailed data at the whole-house level. The facility was designed to address the essential UK retrofit challenge.
In late-2015, Professor Will Swan and Dr Richard Fitton - who lead Energy House Laboratories at the University of Salford - developed the Energy House 2.0 concept. This new facility was specifically designed to address the issue of decarbonisation of homes at a global level, not just in the UK.
The Energy House 2.0 facility would go a step further than the original concept. It would allow for a much wider range of temperatures and conditions to be tested (covering 95% of the populated globe), as well as provide the ability to build any type of domestic or small commercial property within the chamber, rather than a single property typical of the UK. The Energy House 2.0 proposal was submitted for European Regional Development Agency funding in 2017 and was funded in 2018.
Working with partners Bowmer and Kirkland, AECOM and NG Bailey, the team at Salford developed the £16m project, which will be completed in early 2022. The site will provide an international focus for improving the performance of the domestic and small commercial buildings. It will to show the UK taking leadership in not only driving down CO2 emissions, but also supporting rapid innovation in the sector.
In 2022, the team will be working with four consortia of businesses to demonstrate innovation in the field of domestic energy, pushing the boundaries with the aim of decarbonising property. The work will explore new materials; new ways of building; new types of heating systems and controls; and the integration of smart technology, all within a controlled environment. This approach will allow the University of Salford and innovative businesses to understand how these products and systems come together to create our homes of the future and understand their real-world performance.
We had an existing facility, the Salford Energy House, which was a high risk venture in 2010. However, we soon discovered it addressed a major gap in helping businesses and other stakeholders quickly understand how innovations could be applied by allowing us to conduct repeatable experiments. We took the lessons from Salford Energy House and looked at how they might be applied to the global problem.
We worked closely with business, other research institutes and Greater Manchester Combined Authority to refine the concept. We kept an open dialogue with interested parties and built a strong community around the idea. We did not have a clear idea of the funding pot, but we had a well established concept and stakeholder engagement when the funding opportunity arose.
It was a large project so it carried a lot of risk and required good communication. Additionally, it required strong project management to ensure we effectively engaged with the funders and match funding partners. If people were to follow with a similar large scale project, it is important to recognise the risks, address the detail and communication. This kind of large scale project takes time and building confidence and a coalition around it requires you to be open to other people's ideas.
It is an ambitious project, but ambitious projects do generate their own excitement and it is important that this is maintained and exploited, by making sure that there is a good level of engagement. The important things is for the project to be sustainable and drive benefit for the UK. This can only be done if people are aware of the capabilities ad opportunities projects like this present.
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