Carbon Neutral Lighthouse in the UK


In England, a handful of efficient demonstration homes have been built on the grounds of the Building Research Establishment Ltd, including “The Lighthouse,” which is the first net zero carbon house in the UK.  The house is also the first to attain level six in the Code for Sustainable Homes, which indicates that it is carbon neutral. The two-bedroom house is only 93.3 square meters (barely over 1000 sq. ft.) in a 2-1/2 story building.  The building has solar panels and evacuated solar tubes on its roof, as well as making use of passive measures with ventilation chimneys.  It also incorporates rainwater catchment as part of the building design.

The materials used include highly insulated, airtight building fabric which has been designed to provide generous daylight levels and includes effective solar control, together with integrated building services based around a platform of renewable and sustainable technologies. These include water efficiency techniques, renewable energy technologies, passive cooling and ventilation, as well as mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR).

A biomass boiler burns fuel pellets (which are considered carbon neutral because the carbon they release is offset by growing the plants that are used to make new fuel).  While a typical house of this size would be expected to have an annual energy bill of around 500 pounds, the Lighthouse’s annual energy bill would be roughly 31 pounds.






1. Wind catcher, for summer ventilation
2. Solar array at back of house for hot water and electricity
3. High-level of wall insulation
4. Biomass boiler

Related Links and Information:
++Building Research Establishment Ltd. 
++Sheppard Robson Architects
++First zero-emission home unveiled [BBC]

Images via: Sheppard Robson Architects +BBC

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  • Sea Wolf

    Love this house. But am I missing something about its carbon neutrality? Burning biomass pellets may be carbon neutral, mathematically speaking and by a sort of sleight of hand reckoning, but how is it any different from burning wood, which, while carbon neutral, ain’t necessarily a great idea . . . at least not as a paradigm for the majority of us?

  • Philip Proefrock

    On the one hand, I agree with you that burning anything seems counter to an expectation of carbon neutrality. But the measure is carbon neutral, and not carbon negative. So the inputs and the outputs from the system balance.

    That the building can get by on not much more than 1/20th of the energy budget of a typical house is still a significant step forward.

    Burning stuff for supplemental heat may not be the perfect method, but, since little supplemental heat is needed, it probably makes much more sense to do it this way than to have a much more expensive (and presumably much more material intensive) method for providing that extra needed input. So the tradeoff probably makes sense from that broader perspective, even if it seems a bit counterintuitive.

  • Konstantinos Tolias

    Very nice approach, excellent results, however I believe this house is almost the opposite of compact! Despite that well done! I would like to get hold of some heating and cooling results of this project.

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