The Energy Showcase

A Pioneering Solar House


Where Is It?

On a rural site in the parish of Lyonshall, north-west Herefordshire. It is connected to mains electricity and telephone but there is no natural gas, mains water or mains drainage.

What Does It Do?

It provides the typical comforts of modern society using very small amounts of energy. It has a low environmental impact; e.g., it will have negative net CO2 emissions. It points to ways to build rural houses in a way that sharply reduces their environmental impact.

How Does It Differ?

Energy efficiency and renewable energy are built into its design, not bolted on. This gives better aesthetics and affordability. Extensive work went into combining good aesthetics and energy performance and ensuring that important points would be visible to visitors.

Why Does It Differ?

Among other reasons:

  • To reduce climate change risks;
  • To help to provide energy security once oil and natural gas are no longer widely available; and
  • To reduce energy bills to more affordable levels.

What Did It Cost?

The house itself cost some £1,000 per m2 to construct. The ancillary spaces, such as porch, greenhouse and larder, cost less in £ per m2 than this. This seems reasonable, bearing in mind its low heat and electricity consumption and its high specification, low maintenance finishes and claddings. The book has some extra analysis. More figures will follow as small components are finished off and final accounts are prepared.

Its Heating Bill?

A house this size, constructed as recommended, would be expected to cost £125-175 per year for space heating and hot water. This assumes a normal indoor temperature of 20oC and the consumption of 2.5 to three cylinders per year of LPG at a price of £45-65 each. This stored fuel provides top-up space heating from November to March and supplements the hot water supply at times when solar cannot produce all of it. Long term, renewable fuels could supplant LPG.

Old rural homes of this size may have an oil bill of over £2,000 per year. That equates to a consumption of 45,000 kilowatt-hours, or 4,500 litres, per year at an assumed price of 60 pence/litre.

Why The Name?

To acknowledge some of the pioneers. The Energy Showcase was a 1980 housing development in central Canada that incorporated the main ideas from the Saskatchewan Conservation House (SCH). Designed in 1975 and constructed in 1976-77, the SCH was very well-insulated and draughtproof. It needed relatively little space heating energy, even in a harsh climate. The North American work predated the first Passivhaus development in Darmstadt, Germany by 15 years.

May I Visit?

While construction continues, individual visitors or small parties are welcome by appointment only. There may be a small charge for a guided tour. After construction has finished, there will be a room with exhibition material which is intended for use by and to inform visitors. The press, TV and radio are very welcome on the usual terms and are invited to make contact.

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