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Future buildings

The Home for Life
Denmark

With buildings accounting for 40% of carbon emissions in the Western world, and 30% of buildings having deficient indoor climates, the VELUX Group sought to create a carbon-neutral building that would benefit from solar energy, both actively by producing electricity and solar heat and passively by benefitting from the heat of the sun.

Home profile

The Home for Life was built in Lystrup, Denmark, 10 km north of the bustling city of Aarhus, in 2009. The 190-m2 home is distributed over one and a half storeys, with a total window area (façade windows and roof windows) equivalent to 40% of the floor area, compared to the usual 20-25%.

A futuristic ‘energy machine’, the Home for Life fuses comfort, energy efficiency and design to create an exceptional living environment that also benefits the world around it. The building is carbon-neutral, producing more energy than it consumes while offering an excellent indoor climate with high levels of daylight and comfort – and the standard of living suited to a modern family.

The Home for Life’s plentiful natural light, active facade, relationship between indoors and out, and flexible layout make it a unique architectural achievement.

It’s been interesting to see that, in some cases, the house’s reaction seems to be a direct function of human requirements. For example, the sun shading goes down when you start squinting, and just before the sun breaks through, the skylight blinds come down. If you didn’t know better, you might think the house was wired up to your nervous system.

Model Home residents

Key design elements & achievements

Purposeful construction and a beautiful, active façade. 
The home’s active facade uses slate covering on the walls and roof and ensures durability, low CO2 impact and minimal maintenance. Aesthetically, the façade helps to integrate the dark surfaces of the solar cells, the solar panels and the windows in a sculptural composition.

The warmth of the wood covering and flooring provides a contrast to the industrial, cool expression of the slate. The active façade regulates light and solar gain and changes according to seasons and needs, opening to let in light and heat or closing to screen against the sun and retain heat at night. The south-facing roof overhang also plays a functional role, creating shade from a high summer sun and admitting light from a low winter sun.

Ample daylight and solar power. 
Sunshine is key to a healthy home and minimal daytime energy consumption. Following simulations in the VELUX Daylight Visualizer and model studies in a light lab, the design team opted to install windows in all four façades as well as the roof to ensure plenty of natural light throughout the home.  

The Home for Life uses the energy-optimised windows of the future, with linings that transmit light deep into the rooms. The windows’ size and placement were determined by the position of the sun in the sky, seasons, energy optimisation and the needs of the residents. The floor-to-ceiling windows in the main living areas in particular create a sense of connection to the surrounding world, while shutters and blinds throughout the home provide privacy when needed – and help regulate solar heat.

Even on an overcast day, the sun contributes considerably to the building’s energy balance, making the windows serve as an actual heat source. In fact, about 50% of the Home for Life’s heating requirements are met by passive solar heat from the energy-optimised windows. Electricity, hot water and heat are produced by a combination of solar cells, solar heating and a heat pump.

Optimised energy consumption. 
io-homecontrol®, a solar-powered, CO2-neutral electronic control system, helps ensure a comfortable indoor climate and minimal energy consumption. For instance, io-homecontrol® allows users to programme the windows and blinds to automatically close at night to avoid heat loss, and switches off lights when a room is not in use.

The building itself generates renewable CO2-neutral energy, minimising total energy consumption. After about 30 years, the surplus energy will be equivalent to the amount of energy represented by the materials used to build the house.

Intelligent ventilation and temperature control. 
A combination of natural and mechanical ventilation and internal and external sun screens ensure a healthy living environment year round.

In warmer months, comfort is achieved through optimised sun screening and the hybrid ventilation system controls. Fresh air enters through natural ventilation controlled by a sensor to ensure that the home is not over-ventilated. The natural ventilation replaces the mechanical system during the warm months, reducing energy consumption. Openable windows in every room enable easy, frequent ventilation.

In colder months, fresh air enters through the mechanical ventilation system with heat recovery so the cold air can be heated without the use of additional energy. The equipment is programmed to adapt to the ventilation needs of the rooms. The air is circulated into the ‘clean’ rooms (bedrooms and living rooms) and exhausted from the utility rooms (kitchen, bathroom, laundry room).

Award-winning design. 

The Home for Life won the Green Good Design Award in 2010, selected from thousands of submissions from over 46 countries.

Partners

Home for Life was developed by VELFAC and the VELUX Group in conjunction with Aart Architects and Esbensen Consulting Engineers. The project group also involved the Engineering College of Aarhus, the Alexandra Institute, the Aarhus School of Architecture, the Danish Building Research Institute, and the Municipality of Aarhus. The contractor was KFS-Boligbyg. Financing for the Home for Life was provided by VKR Holding.

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