Project to develop smart homes to tackle climate change
Boosting the sustainability and innovation content of residential buildings is the goal of the Smart Energy Home (SEH) programme, an initiative arising from the European Technology Platform for Sustainable Chemistry (SusChem). In its recent report on how to mitigate the effects of climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) identified energy efficiency in buildings as an area where CO2 emission reductions could be made with net economic benefit. Other benefits of energy efficient buildings include improved indoor and outdoor air quality, improved social welfare and enhanced energy security. 'Opportunities for realising GHG [greenhouse gas] reductions in the building sector exist worldwide,' the IPCC wrote. 'However, multiple barriers make it difficult to realise this potential. These barriers include availability of technology, financing, poverty, higher costs of reliable information, limitations inherent in building designs and an appropriate portfolio of policies and programmes.' With its Smart Energy Home initiative, the SusChem partners plan to address these challenges. The project will cover all the mitigation technologies identified by the IPCC which could reduce energy use in buildings. Technologies which are currently commercially available include more efficient lighting, more efficient electrical appliances, improved insulation, solar heating and cooling and alternative refrigeration fluids. Technologies which are likely to be available by 2030 are integrated design of buildings including technologies such as intelligent meters that provide feedback and control. However, the project is about more than just energy; the partners are also hoping to integrate innovation content such as health and convenience into the construction of new buildings and the refurbishment of existing buildings. According to the project partners, for a large part of newly built European dwellings, increasing the innovation content from its current average of €3,000 to €15,000 would generate significant ecological and economic benefits without substantially raising housing costs. As well as looking into the technologies and their integration into the building, the project partners will also raise awareness of the issues within the building and home design industry, and among the wider public. The project will have three main components. HomeLAB will focus on the integration of new products, services and materials that are being developed for application in the home, such as renewable energy, waste disposal and security and medical monitoring. DEMOhomes will be built to showcase the SEH concept. Located at three sites across Europe, these will be real family homes, equipped with the technologies and materials developed by the HomeLAB and other projects. The 'sustainability pioneer' families living in the homes will provide feedback on the technologies to the R&D programme. Finally, the supportSMART programme will deliver the knowledge generated by the project to the construction industry. It will do this via a web portal, educational resources and marketing and publicity materials. The project partners will now consider the initial plans for the project and it is hoped that it will start in September 2007, with work on the three project components (homeLAB, DEMOhomes and supportSMART) getting underway in 2008.