A box in a box in a box… CDT visit to the Salford Energy House, 4/2/13

A box in a box in a box… CDT visit to the Salford Energy House, 4/2/13
13th February 2013 Karen Holmes

Do you know the movie ‘The Truman Show’? Remember the scene in which Truman alias Jim Carrey discovers that it is raining only on top of his head but not anywhere else? The recent CDT visit to the Salford Energy House made me think of this scene.

Salford Energy House

Dave, Virgina, Ashley and Sofie in the bedroom of the Salford Energy House. The stars of the picture, however, are the heat flux sensors taped on the wall in the background.

The Salford Energy House is a reclaimed 1930 Victorian terrace, which was demolished and rebuilt inside a climate chamber. It is basically a house within a lab, used by researchers to understand phenomena of heat loss in real buildings. And because weather has a big effect on heat loss, the team from the Salford Energy Hub cannot only simulate outside temperatures between -10 and +30°C, but they can also make it rain. Only on top of the house, of course!

The Salford Energy House is an impressive example of how little we actually know about the physics of things that appear so familiar: buildings. While most people spend more of their lifetime in buildings than outside them, even researchers and experts in the construction industry disagree for example about how much heat exactly is lost through a dwelling’s walls. Or what indicators we should be using in the first place to describe it.

The team at Salford has spent many hours installing and trialling sensors to pick up on temperature and relative humidity in all rooms and corners of the typical Victorian house. Doors, windows and even the fridge in the house can be opened automatically to simulate occupancy. The collected data will enable the researchers to have a closer look at energy use in real buildings – but under controlled conditions.

I can only speak for myself, but I certainly enjoyed the tour of this house in a lab in a university building. We didn’t see it rain because supposedly it is a lot of work to push all the water down the drains. But even without, the facility was impressive enough. And what’s more, I am really looking forward to learning about the results of the efforts with the Energy House.

Paula Morgenstern