Midlands & East Anglia

Building the future

 UK's First Solar Powered Home, Great Glen, Leicestershire

With energy prices continuing to soar and not a day going by without a story appearing in the news about the need for sustainable energy, the future of energy efficient housing has finally arrived.

Built by Caplin Homes in partnership with New Form Energy, the UK’s first solar powered new build home has been constructed in Great Glen, Leicestershire.

The new house is the perfect example of innovation through simplicity and in basic terms, stores the sun’s energy during the summer, for use during the winter. The house captures the energy during the warmer months, which is then kept underground until it is brought back into the house where it can be used for heating and domestic hot water.

Keen to find out a little more about this exciting development, Premier Construction caught up with Dr Michael Goddard, Director of Caplin Homes, to learn how this new build project came about.

 UK's First Solar Powered Home, Great Glen, Leicestershire

“Working towards the 2016 legislation concerning zero carbon housing standards, we have been carrying out a programme of works, aimed at producing building fabric that is highly insulated and affordable. The final stage of these works was to add to the technology that could provide the residual amount of energy that is required to heat the home on a zero carbon basis. The secret was to store energy under the ground during the summer so that it could become available during the winter”, said Michael.

“The biggest question we had whilst undertaking this work, was, ‘why had no one thought of this before?’ This seemed rather strange to us. All sorts of means have been found to take energy out of the ground, but no one had ever thought to put energy back in!

“We came up with the idea and having patented the methodology in the UK as well as across Europe, we plan to help the building sector adopt this principle.”

Work began on the project in February 2013 and reached completion towards the end of September. The building was constructed from a timber frame, allowing for a rather swift erection.

 UK's First Solar Powered Home, Great Glen, Leicestershire

The house is situated within open countryside, which allowed for the architectural innovations on the project. Planning permission was granted for the project on the fact that this was to be an exceptional design, which would embody new technology.

Covering 360 surface meters, the house employs a considerable amount of triple glazed south facing glass, with more solar gain than losses through the glass. A solar wall has also been included, which pre-warms incoming air into the house.

The new home includes five bedrooms, living room, kitchen, bathrooms and associated areas and was built to a very high standard. New Form Energy was Caplin Homes partner on the project, providing the building with the solar capture, the heat pump and the control system; all vital elements of the project.

Michael said:

“This was a very straight forward build, which amazed us, considering all the new elements within the house.

 UK's First Solar Powered Home, Great Glen, Leicestershire

“Our aim is not to just build one solar house; it is to provide the technology for the building industry to incorporate the concept so that we can meet the zero carbon standards of 2016. The whole enterprise has been designed to be applicable to all different housing types, from terrace rows through to semi-detached houses. The technology can’t be incorporated into an existing building, because the structure requires the building’s fabric to be up to a very high standard of insulation and air tightness.”

Since completing the project, the feedback has been understandably fantastic, which is something that Michael is very proud of.

Michael commented:

“We have had a lot of people coming across to see what we have achieved – there has been a tremendous amount of interest. Housing associations and builders are all accepting that what we have done is providing a simple and cost effective solution to zero carbon.

“This has been a very important project for us, as well as New Form Energy our technology partners. This is not a bolt-on piece of technology, this is a holistic approach to housing energy management and it has been great to be a part of this project.”

 UK's First Solar Powered Home, Great Glen, Leicestershire

 MTE (Leicester) Ltd

MTE (Leicester) Ltd specialise in the design, manufacture and erection of timber frame superstructures. MTE works on projects nationally for a number of clients, including one off ‘Grand Design’ dwellings through to multi-story large residential and commercial buildings; including nursing homes and hotels.

Formed in 1996 MTE operate from three sites in Leicester and work with a number of small to medium developers as well as blue chip construction companies including Leadbitter and ISG.

Having previously worked with Caplin Homes on other timber frame projects, MTE were proud to be involved with the Solar House scheme given the complexity and unique challenging demands of the design and performance expectations to achieve and exceed the government zero-carbon targets.

 UK's First Solar Powered Home, Great Glen, Leicestershire

MTE strive to be involved with projects of significant technical evolution in order to maintain a competitive advantage within the construction industry. Future ambitions are to work closely with Caplin Homes to roll out and include the technology used with the Solar House as a standard within mainstream housing projects.

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