Solcer House: Affordable Energy Positive Housing

Solcer House, located near Bridgend in South Wales, is an exemplar for the UK of affordable, energy-positive housing that combines renewable energy supply, thermal and electrical energy storage and reduced energy demand.

Our story

by Dr Jo Patterson, Senior Research Fellow, Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff University

Our Low Carbon Built Environment (LCBE) interdisciplinary team at the Welsh School of Architecture has spent the past 12 years designing and monitoring a combination of innovative low carbon energy technologies within the built environment.

Our building projects have significantly contributed towards carbon reductions and helped stimulate Welsh low carbon technology supply chains. One such project is the Solcer House - which was completed in February 2015 and became the first affordable energy positive house built in the UK. It is located near Bridgend in South Wales and was constructed in 16 weeks using local supply chains and has been designed to meet social housing standards.

The project was part-funded by the EU’s European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the Wales European Funding Office (WEFO).

The 100m2, three-bedroom house utilises novel technologies that work together to form a ‘whole house systems approach’. It combines renewable energy supply, thermal and electrical energy storage and reduced energy demand, to create an energy positive house at an affordable cost – the first of its kind.

We've carefully designed the house to maximise energy generation from photovoltaic solar panels integrated into the roof. We store excess energy during the daytime, which is then used overnight to provide electricity for heating and appliances. The solar panels form the south-facing roof, reducing the need for roof tiles, whilst a solar air collector heating system make up the first-floor external wall finish, instead of a traditional render.

The Solcer House also uses heavily insulated fabric throughout, an exhaust air source heat pump and mechanical ventilation to provide the best internal conditions for the occupants, reducing the energy required to heat the home. We aimed to keep the construction costs affordable, to provide the housing market with something to replicate, particularly social housing. Keeping energy bills low for residents is especially pertinent at this time, with the spike in energy prices.

Over the course of a year the house exports 1.3 times more electricity to the grid than it consumes, resulting in overall net negative carbon emissions. More energy positive homes will help the Welsh Government reach its target for net zero carbon housing by 2050.

The Solcer House project has been used as a demonstration of advanced Welsh construction technologies and as a ‘smart’ housing template that can be copied. Fourteen more affordable energy positive homes have been constructed by Wales and West Housing in Bridgend.

Since the Solcer House was built, our research has led the Welsh Government to invest £91 million in grants to private and local authority developers. This has seen the construction of over 1,400 affordable and low-carbon houses, many of which were based on innovative technologies demonstrated in the Solcer House.

Our advice

One of the main things we’ve learnt – working on the Solcer House and subsequent projects – is the importance of applying a three-step strategy to our workflow: plan, design and monitor.

It’s important to plan and design the project meticulously so that things get delivered on time and meet the desired specifications. Monitoring the performance of the building and the technologies used once the work is completed is essential, so that you can identify any elements that may not be functioning as expected and rectify this to maximise performance.

Finally, communicate and collaborate closely with your supply chains so that they’re aware about all the other different elements of the project. Giving them the ‘bigger picture’ certainly contributed to the Solcer House becoming a success.

Our metrics

The south facing roof of the Solcer House is an integrated 4.3kWp PV panel system. Over an annual period, generation is around 4,400kWh. Energy demand at the house is approximately 4,175kWh per year compared to the UK average home which uses around 15,000kWh per year. Not only is the home generating more than enough energy to fulfil its needs, but it also uses 2/3 less than the typical UK home.
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The Solcer House
Windows being installed
Construction process