In a unique extension of the indepth, remote energy monitoring of the low cost, passivhaus Larch and Lime Houses in Ebbw Vale, the keys to the houses were handed over to the two lucky families who have won a competition to live in the houses rent free for 12 months whilst participating in the live monitoring process.

Huw Lewis, Minister for Housing Regeneration and Heritage welcomed the two families to their new eco-homes in Ebbw Vale on 29th March 2012. Nick Newman, Associate Director of bere:architects was also there to introduce the families to the environmental and monitoring features of their new homes. Both families are looking forward to learning all about energy awareness and eco-living and helping with the next stage of this important Technology Strategy Board funded Building Performance Evaluation study. This next stage of monitoring will gather feedback from the families about what it is like to live in two of the first low cost, certified Passivhaus social houses in the UK, and the information gathered will feed into the two year studies with the ultimate aim of informing Welsh Government decisions about future social house design in Wales.

The Larch and Lime House are situated on the site of the former Steelworks ‘The Works’, which is currently undergoing an extensive regeneration programme; including the building of a new school, leisure centre, hospital and the eco-homes. Built as prototype social housing the eco-homes have been recognised for groundbreaking innovation winning multiple national sustainability awards. With the support of BRE and the Welsh Government, partners bere:architects, United Welsh and Blaenau Gwent Council worked collaboratively as part of the National Eisteddfod festival celebrations 2010 to build a house to showcase Passivhaus,. 

Nyree and Anthony Jones and their two daughters Shannon-Lee and Demi from Cwm were selected to live in the Larch House, the UK’s first zero carbon passivhaus. They said; “We are so excited to have won this competition and be given the chance to live in this eco-home. We cannot wait to have a garden where the girls can safely ride their bikes and have the space to grow as a family. We will share all that we learn about energy awareness and eco-living.”

The couple moving in to The Lime House are Chloe Thomas and her partner of six years Stuart-Carl Barnes. The young couple have been living with their parents until now saving for their own place. The news came just at the right time for them as they are expecting their first child in May.

Justin Bere said, “After a year in which the houses have been open for many hundreds of people to visit them and experience what it feels like to be inside a passivhaus, we are delighted that United Welsh are now moving on to the next phase which is to give two families the opportunity to live in the houses and test them out. This will be an important part of the Technology Strategy Board funded Building Performance Evaluation study. This started with monitoring the buildings without any internal heat gains from occupants and appliances and now it will be very interesting to see the impact that internal heat gains and occupant behaviour have on the performance of the buildings. This is important and exciting research work and we are delighted that United Welsh, Cardiff University, and Cambridge Architectural Research are all such enthusiastic partners in this work.”

Housing, Regeneration and Heritage Minister Huw Lewis said: “Many Welsh households are feeling the pinch of the economic climate and some are facing real fuel poverty, so making ends meet is as important as ever. This is a fantastic opportunity for two lucky families to experience how living in a low carbon property, developed with Welsh Government support and built using local expertise and sustainable local products, helps protect the environment while cutting down on household fuel bills. I wish the residents the best of happiness in their new properties and I look forward to hearing about their experiences of living in two of the most environmentally friendly homes in the UK.”