From theory to practice – the human factor


The Simonsen family from Århus, Denmark, are living in the middle of an experiment. For a year, they are testing Home for Life, to explore how homes of the future could be.

Their home is an active house that not only saves on energy and electricity but also has a comfortable indoor climate, looks attractive and has the best possible interaction with its surroundings.

The Simonsen family's life is being closely followed by anthropologists and engineers. Home for Life will give new knowledge of how high-quality building products, technology and the needs of families can harmonise in everyday life. Data on energy production, energy consumption, temperature, and CO2 levels in Home for Life have now been collected for the first six months. During this time, the house was continuously adjusted to perform according to the family's needs and well-being. The highest priority has been to ensure the framework for family life, with the calculated data on energy con-sumption and other figures coming further down the list.

Home for Life features new products, new technologies and several prototypes that were used here for the first time and in a unique constellation. This is an important aspect of the experiment and reflects the aim to gain knowledge by testing theories, as well as to gain and share experience through inno-vation. No conclusions are made at this point, but some important lessons have been learned during the monitoring phase. Components and technologies need time and effort to fine-tune configuration and optimisation, as well as adaptation to the family´s needs.
In the first months of operation, a high level of automation in buildings is particularly demanding in terms of adjustment and tracing possible sources of error.Room heating has presented challenges, partly due to the unique overall concept and partly to the use of the house. One example is the pre-set night temperature, which was raised from the standard 20° C to 23° when the new little sister arrived, as essential activities also take place in the house at night and require the same set temperature as during daytime.
The change from natural ventilation to mechanical ventilation (winter situation) was experienced as a lack of fresh air. The Simonsens observed an abundance of daylight, which led to a lower use of electricity for lighting.
"In the beginning I didn't think moving back to our old home would be a problem at all. Now I think it will be more difficult than we imagine. We look forward to being back with our good neighbours but I will miss the light, to say nothing of the view. I can feel that here and now. And we have already de-cided to have several roof windows installed to give us a view of the sky – and more light," says Sverre Simonsen, the father of the test-family.

Important lessons learned
The monitoring will continue for the next two seasons and focus on the difference in performance be-tween natural and mechanical ventilation, on further programming and configuration of the control systems, on the behaviour, preferences and experiences of the family as well as on how the benchmarks for the energy and climate performance that were initially calculated during the design phase compare to the actual performance during operation.
"Home for Life confirms our belief that it is possible to build a CO2-neutral house in which energy consumption is low and where the residents experience good quality of life thanks to a good indoor climate, beautiful architecture and masses of daylight. But we haven't reached our goals in the space of six months. More experiments are needed – and more work," says Lone Feifer, Strategic Project manager, VELUX A/S.

The four most important lessons learned from Home for Life so far are:
• Residents want control. Home for Life must adapt to the needs of the test family, not the other way round. But the residents have altered the automatic control settings by, for example, rais-ing the room temperature and lowering blinds to prevent passers-by from looking in, which also prevented the sun from looking in. The human factor has been shown to be decisive in Home for Life.
• It takes time to configure technology. The various systems do not cooperate with each other automatically. They must be set to an initial value and adjusted to create the best possible in-door climate and make best use of solar energy.
• Heating energy consumption was much higher than expected. This is partly due to the run-ning-in of the house's technical systems and partly to the human factor, with the residents overriding automatic control and opening windows and excluding the sun by lowering blinds.
• Daylight, indoor climate and a good view are a clear bonus. Home for Life lets masses of day-light in. This is free energy for the house that allows savings to be made on heating and has meant that the family now uses no electric light at all in daylight hours.
The residents are very optimistic as a result of the encouraging experience with light and indoor climate.
"Right from the start we noticed that the air in the house was good. The rooms are comfortable all the time because the warm air is exhausted and the indoor climate adjusted," says Sverre Simonsen. The Simonsen family will leave Home for Life in the summer of 2010. The experience gained from the experiment will be put to use in the development and operation of the next building in the Model Home 2020 series.
Home for Life is one of six houses being built by the VELUX Group as part of the Model Home 2020 project. They are buildings that meet the energy legislation that is expected to come into force throughout the EU in 2020. The driving force is the active house vision, a building in which low energy consumption is combined with a good indoor climate and interaction with its surroundings.


Experiment 1 – Home for Life
Measurements, observations and interviews are carried out by The School of Engineering in Århus, the Alexandra Institute, VELFAC and WindowMaster. The project is financed by Danish Enterprise and Construction Authority.Home for Life was developed by the VELUX Group and VELFAC in cooperation with aart arkitekter and Esbensen Consulting Engineers. It is the result of an interdisciplinary project to incorporate the issues of energy, comfort and visual appeal into a holistic entity in which these parameters supplement each other and give the best possible quality of life in the home and its surroundings. Home for Life is the first of six buildings in Europe to be constructed as part of the Model Home 2020 experiment.
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About Model Home 2020
Model Home 2020 is an experiment launched by the VELUX Group as part of our strategy to take an active part in developing sustainable buildings for the future. It is our vision of how future buildings can be both climate-neutral and comfortable and attractive places to live in through daylight and fresh air. The project is in full accordance with the next generation of design principles frequently referred to as "active house". The objective is to achieve a balance between energy efficiency and optimal indoor climate with a building that dynamically adjusts to its surroundings and yet is climate-neutral.
'Model Home 2020 comprises six demonstration projects. They are six of eight projects financed by VKR Holding A/S, the owner of VELFAC A/S, VELUX A/S, Sonnenkraft, WindowMaster and several other companies in the building sector.'The two demo projects in Denmark are built as a partnership between the VELUX Group and VELFAC.
In the VELUX Group, we believe that one experiment is better than a thousand expert views. Each building must reflect and respond to the different climatic, cultural and architectural conditions of the countries in which they are built. The houses will be open to the public for 6-12 months after comple-tion and then sold. Each house will be monitored during occupancy to learn how the experiments turn out in real-life conditions. The two buildings in Denmark, Home for Life and Green Lighthouse (in Aar-hus and Copenhagen), are finished, those in the UK, Austria, and Germany will follow in 2010 and the house in France in 2011.


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, installation 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 .