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Smart Energy Home (SEH) can meet IPCC challenge: SusChem partners outline pioneering sustainable home project

A multi-sectoral industrial partnership originating from the European Technology Platform for Sustainable Chemistry (SusChem) has outlined its blueprint for an ambitious European programme to increase the sustainability and innovation content of residential housing: the Smart Energy Home (SEH). The blueprint provides a direct solution to one of the main challenges of the recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) - increasing energy efficiency in buildings.

But the SEH concept encompasses more than improved energy efficiency. It is looking to integrate much wider innovation content such as health and convenience into new building construction and refurbishment of existing structures to provide more services and facilities for the future sustainable home user. Currently the innovation content of a dwelling is estimated as € 3 000. Of course, required additional investments for a specific situation depend on geography, orientation, type, luxury level and a range of other factors. Nevertheless, for a substantial part of European new-build dwellings, increasing the innovation content by as little as €12 000 (to ~€15 000) would already yield substantial ecological and economic benefits in Europe without substantially raising housing costs.

Three main (research) topic areas will be addressed by the SEH project: energy and resources; health and comfort; and the underpinning smart technologies needed to deliver a more energy-efficient, comfortable and healthier dwelling.

The project will cover practical integration of all the technologies mentioned in the IPCC report as current and future climate change mitigation technologies for buildings. The project will aim to raise awareness both with home builders and designers and the wider public as consumers.

Three action areas

The SusChem SEH blueprint has three main components: homeLAB, DEMOhomes, and supportSMART. Together these separate projects can provide fully integrated building technology solutions, demonstrate the viability of these solutions in sites across Europe and facilitate the dissemination of best practice and “ready to use” components to architects and other construction professionals.

homeLAB will address the current lack of integration of new products, services and materials that are being developed for application in the home. It will use a consumer-centred analysis to boost market acceptance. Cross-sectoral collaboration both in pre-competitive R&D and innovation will ensure optimal technology deployment. Examples of the work that homeLAB could undertake include the integration of functionalities in building components including renewable energy, energy management, waste disposal, security and medical monitoring and combined development of consumables with equipment (e.g. white goods).

DEMOhomes will be the showcases for the SEH concept. Built in initially three locations and settings around Europe, they will use the technologies and materials proved in homeLAB and other projects. These homes will be real family homes and volunteer families will live in them as “sustainability pioneers” providing feedback and analysis for the R&D programme to ensure that only those products are developed and marketed that will eventually be accepted by the consumer. Building the DEMOhomes could start in 2008.

supportSMART is the vehicle that will ensure the knowledge and best practice produced through the SEH programme is delivered to construction industry professionals. Its activities will include developing an extensive web portal, providing education and training modules and resources, and creating marketing and publicity materials.

Next steps

The SEH blueprint will now be considered by its initial partner organizations that cover a wide swathe of industry including the chemical, consumer and construction sectors. Given sufficient commitment from these companies the project could start in September 2007 with the creation of a central project office and other governance structures. In early 2008 activities in the three actions (DEMOhome, supportSMART and homeLAB) would commence.

The SEH programme is one of three visionary projects that have been developed by SusChem. The other two projects are fully Integrated Biorefinery concepts and the F3 factory – a future, fast and flexible process plant concept.

Tim Reynolds | alfa
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