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The Build Philosophy

The best building in the world is just a box full of uncomfortable people until you can control the environment!

Without effective building services to condition the space to a habitable state of warm or cool, light or shade, airflow etc., it’s no better than a cave.

Technology is only useful if it is user transparent and user friendly!
80% of the population can’t program their video recorder to capture some future event, so any ‘intelligent’ building must either be idiot proof, or have some resident ‘anorak’ in a cupboard somewhere to run it!

Security, in its broadest sense, matters!
We, as humans, need to feel secure to be happy. We need to be warm, well lit, ventilated and locked up. We also need to know what when we leave our home, there is a fair chance that it will be there, undisturbed, on our return. It should be possible for us to summon help easily if we need to and, in the ‘really’ intelligent’ homes of the future, the Building Management System (BMS) will almost certainly do that for us – the house will know if it is occupied and if the occupancy sensors don’t detect movement for a set period of time, the BMS will query if the occupant is OK. If there is no response the BMS will assume that the occupant has collapsed and raise the alarm.

The less visible and therefore ‘less sexy’ technology is often the most efficient and effective, Better quality and thicker insulation will do far more than wind turbines and photovoltaic panels to save our World eco system, but the government gives grants for the latter two technologies and not the former!

So – what are we doing in Bluebell Bungalow to address these issues?

Ground to air passive ventilation system
Big pipe stuffed in the ground, blow air through it and into the building. Warms the air in winter and cools the air in the summer – this saves about 2000kWh per annum of energy according to the ‘conservative’ design software. That roughly equates to £200 worth of electricity, if that were the alternative. Really low ‘overhead’ for this technology. We are digging the trench anyway so we just have to make it a bit deeper. Issues to overcome with condensation, build up of crud in the pipes, microbiological growth within the pipes, etc, so it’s not quite as simple as it sounds!

Passive heat and recovery ventilation units.
Extract the moist stale and energy conditioned (heated/cooled depending on the season) air, pass it over a plate to plate heat exchanger and transfer (typically 80%) the energy to the fresh air you are bringing into the building.

Underfloor heating and cooling.
Pipes carrying temperature conditioned water buried in the floor structure (and possibly some walls) will provide the bulk of the conditioning input

Ground source heat pump.
Basically an industrial sized fridge, with planet earth in the ice box and our building wrapped around the radiator on the back. It sucks out energy from the ground and dumps it into the building to keep us warm in the winter. I has a Coefficient of performance (COP) of about 3.5:1. so, for every pound you spend on electricity, you get £4.50 worth of heating, as all the energy ultimately ends up as heat,. It will run overnight on cheap rate electricity, as far as possible, using the thermal storage mass of the building as a heatsink. Bypass the fridge in the summer and the ground is inherently cool enough to provide passive cooling to the floor coils.

Shallow bore pile field as ground collector
Another really ‘low overhead’ technology. We have to drill the holes and fill them with concrete anyway so throwing some pipe in and using them as a source of energy is really cheap. The building will operate (at a thermal level) a bit like a cathedra. ‘Big’ building mostly don’t have heating, or cooling systems, they rely on the huge thermal mass of the building to keep them cool in summer and warm in winter, The building takes so long to heat up or cool down that it is only a few degrees warmer at the end of sumer than at the beginning, It then loses this gained energy over the winter, so that it is back where it started by the start of the next summer cycle. We will use a huge lump of Kent - 2200m3 which is approximately 3500 tonnes of clay just within the pile field, ignoring the surrounding land mass as our ‘cathedral’ mass. We will cool it down in the winter and warm it up in the summer like a huge rechargeable battery.

Roof solar collector.
Soak up some sun energy and use it to pre-heat the hot water of dump it into the floor to heat the building.

Paul’s personal favourite and the least sexy of all the technologies. It is relatively cheap, mostly invisible and very effective, Additionally, all our glazed opening will have insulated shutters that can be closed at night to help save all this precious energy we have worked so hard to harvest, This also has the added security advantage of being able to ‘close up’ the house when it is unoccupied, thus deterring burglary. They will be electrically operated an arming the alarm system will trigger a building close-down event via the BMS.
The BMS. All of the above needs something to monitor and instruct it. The BMS will be the life-force within the building, monitoring the environment and controlling the various systems to provide a comfortable, secure environment to live in. It will almost certainly be LON ( local operating network) based. This system relied on a network of interconnected, stand alone, intelligent devices, rather than a single control processor system. In the event of component failure, only some functionality is lost whilst repairs are carried out, compared to catastrophic failure if the controller in the ingle processor model fails. It will make all the decisions on heating/ cooling, air change rate, etc, and monitor the fire and intruder detection systems, access control, external lighting etc, It will probably also provide the low level infrastructure for the lighting control and dimming and may even profile the use interface to the distributed AV system . Look in any lounge and I guarantee you will find a proliferation of remote controls to get the fairly basic non distributed, AV systems to work! Add in another controller to provide the user interface for the house (temperature up/down, shutters open/close, curtains open/close, lights on/off/dimmed, alarm set/cancelled, door entry phone/cctv communication, gates open /close etc. – multiply that by the number of rooms you need to control and the problem starts to take on some perspective!