A Look at One H.O.U.S.E. of the Future

At the recent Ecobuild Expo and Conference in London, England there was an element that I thought merited mention:  The University of Nottingham entry to the Solar Decathlon Europe.

University of Nottingham Solar House at Ecobuild

University of Nottingham Solar House at Ecobuild

In June 2010, Madrid, Spain will host the International Solar Decathlon Europe. This event alternates years with the U.S. Solar Decathlon held in Washington, D.C.  University-based teams will travel to Madrid and reconstruct their solar designed houses. The entries are judged on 10 separate environmental areas, including solar systems and sustainability, market viability, and architectural merit. The University of Nottingham team dismantled and reassembled their solar house on the show floor at Ecobuild. It was exciting to see what they accomplished.

The Solar Decathlons – International competitions for colleges and universities to design and build the most effective and energy efficient house – are making great strides to prepare future architects to find the best solutions for creating sustainable homes, focused on solar power.

A key objective for the students was to ensure that the Nottingham H.O.U.S.E. would comply with the U.K.’s code for sustainable homes. The Code covers nine sustainability issues such as responsible sourcing of materials, limiting consumption of drinking water, health & wellbeing and of course Energy & CO2 emissions, the latter being the most important and the one that will be progressively converted into Building Regulations towards zero carbon. The students also have to live in the house to demonstrate its effectiveness and energy efficiency.

Saint-Gobain U.K. has partnered with The University of Nottingham, not only with many of the products but also with technical expertise.  This home meets both Code Level 6 of the code for sustainable homes and Passive House standards which, I am told, is an industry first for the U.K.

This type of partnering is a wonderful way to provide the designers and innovators of tomorrow with real world experience working with professionals who are currently designing and perfecting products for the marketplace. 

We should all take a closer look at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon when it comes around again in October 2011.  From what I saw of the Nottingham H.O.U.S.E., it is well worth the time.

Eric Nilsson

Eric Nilsson

Eric Nilsson is Vice President, Corporate Marketing for CertainTeed Corporation.

Ecobuild is an Eye Opener for the Green Movement

Saint-Gobain booth at Ecobuild 2010

Saint-Gobain booth at Ecobuild 2010

In early March, I attended the Ecobuild 2010 Conference and Expo in London, England to see how the sustainable and green awareness message and activity level is handled in the United Kingdom and Europe.  Our parent company, Saint-Gobain was an event sponsor and large exhibitor at this event displaying our sustainable solutions and systems. This show is the equivalent of the GreenBuild Conference and Expo held annually in the U.S.  It was an eye-opener, to say the least.  The U.K. is far ahead of us in the development and integration of energy efficient products. The show had 1,000 exhibitors, attracted 41,000 attendees, and hosted 600 speakers on sustainable topics. The enthusiasm on the show floor ran high. It is clear that even in this time of downturn in the construction industry, the goal of a lower carbon built environment continues to accelerate in other parts of the world.

The heavier emphasis on energy efficiency at Ecobuild verses the trade events I have seen here in the U.S. could be because the cost of energy in the U.K. is higher for both homes and automobiles. In addition, government regulations are more stringent with regard to requiring industry to reduce carbon emissions.

Not surprisingly, there was a strong emphasis on insulation products, primarily fiberglass but also reflective foils and foam insulations.  I am an Insulation guy so I was particularly interested in these products. A new product I saw was a wood fiber insulation product that is used in side walls as a replacement for other types of insulation. Solar panels, either for roofs or ground installation, were also heavily displayed.

But most intriguing was the fact that in every product display, regardless of its place in the building structure, for example a roof truss or steel stud, the marketing story had some energy efficiency twist to it.  They weren’t just selling wood, roofing or insulation every product had an element of how the product contributes to saving energy and reducing the carbon footprint.  The small effort to include more energy efficiency visuals and words in terms of the products we promote would go a long way in raising the consciousness of energy efficiency in the U.S.

The construction industry could learn a good lesson from the activities that the U.K. is undertaking in terms of the development of energy efficient products, and in generating awareness of energy efficient products.  We shouldn’t wait until regulations change or mandates kick-in to step-up sustainable product development and implementation.  The momentum started over there could easily be transferred over here which would not only be good for our planet but also for our pocketbook.

 

 

 

Eric Nilsson

Eric Nilsson

Eric Nilsson is Vice President, Corporate Marketing for CertainTeed Corporation