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March 2, 2010

Ulster Students To Design Green Homes Of The Future

The University of Ulster, with help from an Irish rock star, is giving students the chance to design the home of the future – a self-sustainable house made entirely of sustainable materials.

With the support of Invest NI and Biotecture Ireland Ltd, a new green development association called the “˜Biotecture Network’ is giving students of the Masters of Architecture course, the opportunity to submit design briefs and schematics of their ideas for a carbon-zero, self-sustaining house. The modern homes will be designed to eliminate the owners’ dependence on fossil fuels, and will meet the British government’s Code for Sustainable Homes. Biotecture Ireland’s Business Development Director is Mark Hamilton, guitarist and vocalist with rock band Ash.

He said: “The project is all about building a self-sustainable house that would work well in a European environment. There are already examples of ‘Earthships’ in New Mexico, and what we are looking for is for the students to design something that would sell in a European market, with European design and cultural aesthetics. We want the students to be innovative and create.”

The winners of the competition will win £1,000 and a pair of VIP tickets to the 2012 Carling Weekend: Reading Festival.

Professor Neil Hewitt, Director of the Centre for Sustainable Technologies at Ulster, said: “The chance for our students to develop these types of homes shows the innovation in the University of Ulster in sustainable expertise. In a time of heightened environmental awareness, our students will show leadership in sustainable development by designing innovative homes.

“There is a greater focus now on carbon reduction strategies and energy efficiency and this competition will hopefully highlight these issues, as well as providing working blue-prints for self-sustaining properties of the future.”

In designing the properties, students will have to fulfill six key design principles. The home will have to have renewable energy micro-generation, including solar, wind geothermal and energy-efficiency technologies; passive solar design with advanced, energy-efficient construction techniques; use local, natural and recycled building materials; water harvesting, to collect rainwater to re-use in the home and garden; contained sewage treatment; and food production.

Types of housing built in this way have shown how recycled materials can be used for building, with support walls being made from recycled tyres, internal walls made from an adobe mix, and roof insulation made from recycled clothes.

The long-term possibility of the joint University of Ulster and Biotecture Ireland project is to build a self-sustainable building at Ulster’s Jordanstown campus.

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