This Isn't Just a Passive House, It's a Power Station

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©. bere:architects

Lark Rise by bere:architects could be the poster child for a Green Technology Revolution.

Most of the time we think of houses as consumers of energy. On TreeHugger we like to promote houses built to the Passive House standard, that need very little energy; lately we have been seeing Passive House Plus designs that are Net Zero, producing in a year as much energy as they consume. Now Justin Bere has designed Lark Rise, which raises the bar to a whole new level; It is not a house but a power station, generating twice as much power as it needs.

Lark Rise

© bere:architectsCurrently it can't offload that power, as the crappy National Grid in Buckinghamshire, UK is not set up to accept the excess. However after two years of careful monitoring to determine their actual consumption, they are installing a 13kWh battery this spring that will soak it up.

Once the battery has been installed, we will be able to assess how much excess solar-generated energy is available to power an electric car and when the excess power is available for this, and to assess the potential for an electric car to store energy not just for its own use, but for the benefit of the house and its occupants’ needs.
interior of lark rise

© bere:architects

I used to complain that Net-Zero homes wired to the grid put an unfair burden on people that didn't have the money or the roofs to install solar panels, because they would have to pay for every kWh and the utilities would still have to maintain infrastructure to handle peak loads. (It's the Duck Curve problem) Batteries change all this; Houses as power stations like Lark Rise actually can buffer the grid, shave those peaks, and significantly reduce demand on the grid. Bere writes:

At the same time as removing peak supply spikes from the grid, the battery will also help eliminate peak demand spikes from the grid. This is important because national peak demand (the ‘triad’ scenarios) is mainly what sets the national power station capacity requirement.

Where warm sunny climates have a duck curve problem every day, more northern climates have a serious seasonal problem where the sun is really low and there isn't a lot of solar power to be gained, so the utilities have to have enough capacity to keep the heat on. But by going to the Passive House standard, far less energy is needed for heating. Engineer Alan Clarke has designed the mechanical and electrical systems so that the house can meet most or all of its energy needs in winter. In fact, the thermal performance far exceeded projections, using half as much energy as predicted.

house detail showing solar panles

© bere:architects

Bere has grand ambitions for this concept of house as power station; he sees it as an alternative to building the new nukes that are on the boards in the UK.

Lark Rise demonstrates the potential for the UK government to drive policy initiatives that will save money that will otherwise be required for power stations to supply the alternative business-led scenario. Gentle nudging of market forces can provide a new focus for UK industry to facilitate a joined-up plan to enable the emerging microgrid vision to materialise smoothly – in short, to provide the stimuli needed to create a new Green Technology Revolution.
lark rise interior

© bere:architects

There are a lot of other things to love in this house; it seems to be just about plastic foam-free with foamed glass under the concrete slab and mineral wool insulation above grade (although the roof is insulated with polyisocyanurate). An electric air-source heat pump serves the underfloor heating, domestic hot water, and heat recovery ventilation.

I recently wrote about how the vast majority of our carbon emissions comes from two things: our buildings, and traveling between our buildings. Imagine if all our homes were power stations capable of supplying their own needs and charging their owners' cars. Justin Bere is right; this would truly be a Green Technology Revolution.

More at bere:architects, where you can also download a serious monitoring report.