The House-Turned-’Testing Facility’
March 9, 2012
The metaphorical link between the home and the laboratory has grown quite thin, eroded by perpetual use, perhaps even abuse. “Experimental” architects, such as Peter Eisenman circa 1975, designed private homes that through their formal complexity and spatial syntax recast domesticity as erratic, destabilizing zones of inquiry and confrontation, much to the dismay of his clients. Yet, what of a house actually constructed within the hermetic confines of a laboratory? A team of architects have done exactly that, building a three-story terrace house inside a sealed climactic chamber at Salford University in Manchester which will provide researchers there with a large-scale testing ground for energy-efficient technologies.
As Green Futures writes, the structure, nicknamed the Energy House, is a faithful replica of a pre-1920s “two-up, two-down” complete with original brickwork and finishes comprised of reclaimed materials. It is is fully furnished and, with functioning plumbing and electricity, could accommodate a couple or small family. Verisimilitude of the details and niceties of English domestic life was essential to the project; the terrace home model represents nearly 21% of the UK’s house, with more than 2 million houses standing at present and each with average rates of energy emissions and consumption levels that can be exactly reproduced in the research center.
Inside the chamber, entire seasonal cycles can be recreated to produce temperatures ranging from -2ºC to +30ºC. Torrential downpours fall from the ceiling corners, while light winds waft throughout the room. Each of the house’s rooms is wired with sensors which monitors atmospheric changes in temperature, humidity and pressure, while cameras and other apparatuses measure rises in heat loss and water and gas consumption. The researchers behind the £1 million project ($1,567,500) hope to generate the “hard data” necessary to develop the technology that will drive the UK towards achieving its carbon emission reduction goals.