Schoolmasters: A smart and sustainable prefabricated Scottish home

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Schoolmasters was completed in October 2014 (Photo: build different)

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UK-based sustainable construction firm build different recently completed work on an energy-efficient prefabricated home located near Aberdeen, Scotland. Dubbed Schoolmasters, it follows Passivhaus principles and draws most of its required energy from renewable sources. Such things as lighting and heating can also be monitored and controlled with a smartphone or tablet.

The single-story Schoolmasters comprises a total floorspace of 195 sq m (2,098 sq ft), and features four bedrooms and three bathrooms, in addition to a lounge, kitchen, dining area, and office. Stuart Duncan, who designed the home, told Gizmag that it follows Passivhaus building principles, but that he didn't seek certification as he wanted more flexibility regarding its design.

Though connected to both the electric grid and water mains, much of the home's required electricity comes from a roof-based 5.5 kW PV array. As Schoolmasters was only completed in October 2014, it's still not clear exactly how well the home will perform year-round, nor what proportion of its electricity will derive from renewable sources, though it may well end up running solely from solar power.

"Its always difficult to estimate but the EPC [Energy Performance Certificate] predicts that the total energy requirement is 6,094 kWh," Duncan told Gizmag. "The solar PV should produce 4,400 kWh. "The house has not been lived in, but is being heated etc. At the moment the solar meter is around 200 units less than the mains electric meter. Its entirely possible that over a year they should be about the same. We will monitor this."

Any surplus electricity from the roof-based PV array is diverted to heat the domestic hot water, and a pellet-burning stove is also hooked-up to provide hot water when in use. Duncan told Gizmag that this is only needed in winter, and besides a small underfloor heater for the bathroom, the home maintains a comfortable temperature without heating throughout much of the year. "All summer there is no heat requirement, the triple glazing actually has a special solar control coating that prevents overheating and it really works," added Duncan.

The atrium sports a remotely-operated window that opens if additional ventilation is required, and a mechanical ventilation and heat recovery (MVHR) system draws in fresh air from outside and ensures ventilation is kept at the correct level (always a concern in any home with a near-airtight envelope).

Like El Refugio Inteligente, Schoolmasters can also be controlled from inside or afar using the IFTT service via smartphone or internet-connected tablet. Duncan is currently using an iPad Mini to both control and monitor the external lighting, sockets, showers, underfloor heating (for the bathroom), pellet stove, and Philips Hue lighting.

The prefabricated home was built over 4 months in Sussex, England, including all fittings, before being disassembled and transported to Scotland in four trucks. The timelapse video below shows it being constructed.

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