Studying the house that BASF built
For Nina Hormazábal Poblete and Deborah Adkins, two PhD students at the University of Nottingham, home will be work for the next year. They will be living in and studying the low energy house chemical company BASF has built at the University.
During the research project they will be evaluating the latest energy efficient designs, construction techniques and technologies that have been used to build and equip the house.
Nina, 43, married with two grown up children back home in Chile, is an Assistant Professor at the University Technica Federico Santa Maria in Valparaiso. She is an Architectural Studies graduate from the University of Washington, who mastered in Architecture at the University of California – Berkeley.
She will be in Nottingham for three years doing a PhD on Post Occupancy Evaluation, specifically for low energy homes.
Deborah, 27, studied Mechanical Engineering at the University of Leicester. She is in the third year of her PhD studying sustainable energy technologies.
They are from different generations, different cultures and different disciplines, but they live and work well together. In September they will be joined by Nina's husband, Professor Dr. Espinosa, a physicist, who will spend a year's sabbatical in Nottingham.
"I tell people it's like Eco Big Brother where I live" says Deborah." There are no cameras, but we are monitored all the time." Data from the building’s sophisticated monitoring equipment will help them to evaluate energy consumption and a range of climatic conditions in the house from the temperature and relative humidity to the lighting, solar radiation and ventilation. They will also be electronically tagged while in the house to create a record of their living patterns.
An important aspect of Nina’s Post Occupancy Evaluation is the general comfort of the house and how it affects the occupants. “For me this is an incredible opportunity to live in a low energy home,” she said. “I am going to be working on this all my life.“ Deborah is looking forward to “living with sustainable energy technologies and understanding them.”
A large part of their time is spent talking to visitors about their home, because it is not only a research project, but also a show house. There are open days twice a month and most days there are visitors to be shown round the house. These include national and local politicians, builders and architects, housing institutions, individuals who are building or refurbishing their own homes, students and schoolchildren.
When they are not showing visitors round they work in other parts of the University, mostly at the Sustainable Research Building, so the house can be monitored as much as possible as a normal home.
Deborah records all the visits to the house on her wireless enabled mobile phone. She also uses it to control the lighting, ventilation and heating in the house from inside or remotely via the internet.
There is also a touch screen panel in the kitchen which enables the occupants to control all aspects of their environment.
Their initial reactions to the house are mainly positive. “We find it very light and airy,” says Deborah. “The natural ventilation is fantastic for such a relatively small house. The high ceilings really help.”
“The sunspace is a really nice design feature,” adds Nina. “It makes the house feel bigger. You have a great contact with the outside world and it is helping to control the temperature. It is the main passive and low energy feature of the house.”
At the end of her studies in Nottingham Nina hopes to put her experience to good use back in Chile, where they are far behind on eco housing. “Here in Nottingham we are in a northern latitude and we can achieve this incredible indoor climate. Putting the lessons learned in Nottingham to work in Chile will be a great challenge.”
Nina and Deborah both enjoy talking to visitors, but there are drawbacks to living in a show house. Keeping the house tidy can be a problem, especially with limited storage space, and in addition to the many expected visitors, it is not unusual for people just to turn up and peer through the south facing glass wall.
The BASF house is the first creative energy home to be completed on University Park in Nottingham. It is one of six planned for the site at the School of Built Environment to showcase innovative state-of-the-art energy efficient homes of the future. Two more houses are under construction, the other three will start onsite soon.
BASF, a major supplier of raw materials to the construction industry project led the build. Working with their customers and partners in the UK their aim was to create an affordable, energy efficient, house. A low carbon emission target was set for the house, energy efficient products were used to create a thermally efficient home and renewable fuel is used for heating.
The cost of the build has been balanced against the requirement to make the house affordable to the first time buyer and with available land in short supply the BASF house design has the flexibility to be used for semi-detached or terraced houses.
Note to editors: Further information on The BASF House, including photographs for download, are available on the website at
from the University of Nottingham at:
BASF is the world’s leading chemical company: The Chemical Company. Its portfolio ranges from oil and gas to chemicals, plastics, performance products, agricultural products and fine chemicals. As a reliable partner BASF helps its customers in virtually all industries to be more successful. With its high-value products and intelligent solutions, BASF plays an important role in finding answers to global challenges such as climate protection, energy efficiency, nutrition and mobility. BASF has more than 95,000 employees and posted sales of almost €58 billion in 2007. Further information on BASF is available on the Internet at www.basf.com.