First results from Sunlighthouse

The first personal experience report of the temporary residents shows that the expectations for the innovative building concept have been completely fulfilled.
Sunlighthouse is allowing the VELUX Group to provide evidence that carbon-neutral, resource-saving home-building is not incompatible with good architecture and outstanding habitation quality. The first personal experience report of the temporary residents shows that the expectations for the innovative building concept have been completely fulfilled.
Sunlighthouse in Pressbaum, lower Austria, is part of the Europe-wide VELUX Group initiative called Model Home 2020. Its purpose is for six demonstration projects – two in Denmark and one in the UK, France, Germany and Austria – to show how energy-efficient home-building can be combined with minimal carbon emissions and a healthy, comfortable living environment.
Following a costly advertising and selection procedure, in March this year Yasmin and Ludwig Dorfstetter, together with their sons Johann (2) and Alfred (4), moved into Sunlighthouse to put the house through its paces under real-life conditions. The first measuring results for the months of March and April are now available.
The living project, which is scheduled to run for 12 months, is being scientifically supported by a team of experts from Danube University Krems and the Austrian Institute for Healthy and Ecological Building (IBO). In a comprehensive monitoring programme, the total energy consumption is being measured and compared with the energy production.
The influence of user behaviour on real-life everyday consumption is also being evaluated. In the process, the scientists are paying particular attention to architectural functionality, daylight quality and the relationship with the outside environment. The indoor climate, thermal comfort, energy efficiency and building automation, as well as the functionality of the house technology, are also under the microscope. The latter, in particular, presented the test residents with a new challenge.
"At first, it was a bit strange dealing with the house technology. But it doesn't take long to figure out how the house and all the technology work. It's a bit like the first few days using a new mobile phone," said Ludwig Dorfstetter.
Initial findings
Sunlighthouse scores well in the recently-completed initial assessment: the individual measuring results are very promising and generally in line with the values from the building simulation and the advance calculations. There were marginal deviations in the daylight measurements, but these are all within the normal deviation range.
On the other hand, it is remarkable that, so far, the solar installation has been able to meet the entire hot-water heating requirement and even produce surplus heat.
A similar picture emerges with regard to energy consumption. By using high-efficiency appliances and dispensing with energy guzzlers like tumble driers and extractor hoods, the energy consumption was set very low in the planning stage. Thanks to the careful behaviour of the family, it was actually possible to meet the forecasts. Additional consumption was mainly due to the technical appliances used in the monitoring, e.g. the flat screen and touch-screen. In other words, this was "energy for the science" and consumption that would not apply in normal household operations.
Thanks to the seasonal moderate temperatures, the photovoltaic panels generated more energy than the house consumed. However, experts caution against drawing premature conclusions as a successful outcome for total energy consumption and energy production can only really be determined at the end of the one-year monitoring period.
All the same, one thing can be established in the start phase of the project; that the innovative building concept is not only an exemplary energy saver, but also a genuine energy provider – and in more than one respect.
The residents are reporting a change in sleep requirements. "Whether it's due to the natural wooden surfaces, the better air provided by the controlled ventilation or the daylight concept, we don't know. But we are all getting by on less sleep." However, this unexpected gain in energy is not always appreciated by every resident of the house – especially when the children are charging around the house early in the morning at the weekend, fully refreshed after a good night's sleep. Shortly after moving in, the parents found that not only they but also the children were generally much more happy and cheerful. Though not scientifically measurable in values or indicators, this is one of the most significant changes. The bright, light-flooded rooms and natural surfaces are obviously creating a living atmosphere that is having a positive effect on the mood and general well-being of the residents.
About the VELUX Group
The VELUX Group creates better living environments with daylight and fresh air through the roof. The VELUX product programme contains a wide range of roof windows and skylights, along with solutions for flat roofs. The Group also supplies many types of decoration and sun screening, roller shutters, in-stallation products, products for remote control and thermal solar panels for installation in roofs.
The VELUX Group, which has manufacturing companies in 11 countries and sales companies in just under 40 countries, represents one of the strongest brands in the global building materials sector and its products are sold in most parts of the world. The VELUX Group has about 10,000 employees and is owned by VKR Holding A/S, a limited company wholly owned by foundations and family. For more details, visit