28 February 2013
OISD researchers help to future-proof eco-homes to withstand global warming
Eco homes planned for NW Bicester, the UK’s first eco town, will be designed to cope with more extreme weather such as heat waves, following predictions that the climate in Britain will become more erratic due to global warming.
The designs have been enhanced by extensive research carried out by the Low Carbon Building Group of the Oxford Institute for Sustainable Development (OISD) at Oxford Brookes, who assessed the impact of future climate change and considered the hazards, exposure and vulnerability on a new development.
Professor Rajat Gupta, Director of OISD and Low Carbon Building Group, said: “It is increasingly recognised that future warming climate change may cause overheating in zero carbon homes due to the improved thermal efficiency of building fabric and reduced infiltration rate. The research work carried out by the Low Carbon Building Research Group at Oxford Brookes University has shown that key adaptation packages for tackling overheating combine shading, ventilation strategies, colour of fabric and material of construction elements. This will help policy makers and designers to understand the effectiveness of adaption measures in avoiding overheating now, and in the future.”
Funded by the Government’s Technology Strategy Board Design for Future Climate: Adapting Buildings competition, the cutting edge study focused on the first phase of NW Bicester; the first development in the UK designed with housing that will not only be very energy efficient but will also include technology to prevent any future overheating and ensure home owners are always comfortable; it is designed to stay cool during hot weather and will be able to accommodate window shutters in future when they become necessary.
Steve Hornblow, project director at A2Dominion, said: “Experts say heat waves could peak at 10 degrees hotter than current heat waves, so it is vital that homes are designed to cope with extreme and unpredictable weather patterns. The work carried out by the OISD really helped us to develop measures to achieve high standards of environmental sustainability, enabling residents to live within managed environmental limits and in communities that are resilient to climate change.”
As well as being adapted to cope with climate change, homes are also designed to be true zero carbon, meaning they will not contribute to climate change. All of the electricity in the exemplar phase will be generated from solar panels equivalent to the size of two and a half football pitches, making it the UK’s largest residential solar array. Heat and hot water will come from a gas fired combined heat and power plant (CHP). This is a very low carbon source of waste heat, essentially a bi-product of the electricity that the plant generates. Excess electricity will be exported to the national grid. The exemplar phase, which will consist of 393 homes, will also feature energy efficient street lightning, rainwater catchment and water recycling. Furthermore, residents of NW Bicester will pay less for the energy they use, within normally expected levels. Appliances installed in the homes will be of the highest environmental standard, saving energy and reducing cost.