House of the future makes its debut in Århus

The 'Home for Life' project is still in the construction phase.

The 'Home for Life' project is still in the construction phase.

Minutes away from the Beyond Kyoto conference, an energy efficient and carbon-neutral home receives visitors.

Denmark’s very own energy-producing house saw its first visitors today, as sister companies VELAC and VELUX gave officials from the U.S. embassy a sneak peek at their ‘Home for Life’ project.

The house in Aarhus’ suburb Lystrup, will be energy efficient and carbon neutral, using the latest technologies to harness solar power.

The house will produce energy on its own, providing the house with electricity and heating, and even generate enough extra energy to charge an electric car or give back to the electrical grid.

Velfac and Velux have high hopes for their ‘Home for Life’ project, hopefully paving the way for future housing projects.

“The most important thing is to make a house for people”, says Ellen Katherine Hansen, project leader and architect for VELFAC. “That’s why it’s called Home for Life”.

Hansen says the team designed the ‘active house’ not only to be energy-efficient and sustainable but also to be aesthetically pleasing and comfortable to live in.

An Example for America

Acting US ambassador to Denmark, Terence P. McCulley, was on hand to see the house of the future. Now that President Obama has passed his $800 billion stimulus package through Congress including a tax incentive for renovating homes to be energy efficient, McCulley says these energy efficient houses could be very marketable in the States.

“I’m very impressed by the concept”, says McCulley. “Here is a very practical concept developed by business. It achieves the practical effect while achieving the aesthetic aspect. The whole concept works”.

In Obama’s first speech to Congress in February, the President plans to ‘modernise 75 percent of federal buildings and improve energy efficiency in two million homes.” Additionally the US will strive to double the nation’s supply of renewable energy in the next three years, from 1.5 percent to 3 percent.

In his speech at the Beyond Kyoto conference in Arhus, John D. Hofmeister, Head of non-profit group Citizens for Affordable Energy, calls for change in the US, with it being the largest consumer of energy, consuming a quarter of the world’s energy supply.

Team Effort

The project is the first of its kind; it is made up of a multidisciplinary team from across different fields, from architects, engineers, scientists and even philosophers.

“The project represents a challenge to the different trades, because they have been forced to think in different, innovative ways”, says VELFAC managing director Finn Jespersen.

Realistic or unpractical?

According to Hansen, it cost four million Danish Kroner for VKR Holding to build the model house. Crucially most of the new technologies used in the house are not on the market, therefore making it difficult for the company to list a retail price for the home. This is a general problem for carbon-neutral houses; the initial costs are too great for the average consumer and resales of these homes don’t recuperate the initial costs.

Another set back for the ‘Home for Life’ project is that it is a long term solution to the climate and energy crisis. It will take 35-40 years to pay back the energy costs for the construction of the house, the manufacturing of materials used in the house, and for living in the house. And it will take around 20 years for homeowners to see any savings from heating and electricity says Hansen.

The house in Aarhus is just one of eight energy-free models in Europe, the second of its kind in Denmark. VELFAC and VELUX don’t plan on mass producing these ‘active houses’ but hope to inspire change developers to follow their example.

“This should be an inspiration,” says Hansen. “Not something that you can just copy, just like a Rolls-Royce. We want to give a kick to the industry to do something better”.

The house is set to be officially open on April 20th this year, where a test family will move in and live at the model house for a year.

By: Sophall Duch

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1 comment to House of the future makes its debut in Århus

  • lisa123

    This sounds like a great development - there are housing crises in a lot of countries now, not just America - however, the problems with initial building costs and the delay in seeing any long-term financial benefits would obviously put a lot of consumers off.

    The development of these sorts of houses is really important though. We have to start somewhere to find energy efficient methods for housing, and future developments could only improve from here.

    It will be interesting to see how the test family goes, and how they settle into it as a home, as opposed to just a house.

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