Energy House 2.0 Spotlight – Putting future affordability to the test


One of the key challenges for the housebuilding industry is making green technologies affordable for the average homebuyer, and high-tech solutions will only work if they can be applied easily, at scale. Jamie Bursnell of Bellway explains how the firm’s Future Home test project is looking to find ‘the Goldilocks zone’ – the ‘just right’ balance between energy and cost efficiency in order to make the path to net zero one which everyone can follow.

At Bellway, we recognise that climate change is one of the defining challenges in the modern world. 

With this in mind, we are committed to successfully reducing our carbon emissions through our ‘Better with Bellway’ strategy. As part of this commitment to sustainable practices, we have created an experimental eco house, The Future Home, within the unique Energy House 2.0 research project at the University of Salford.

The pioneering £16m project, which is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund, is researching and testing, in tightly controlled conditions, new ways of powering, heating and insulating homes, making them more energy efficient and helping to meet new standards which require a significant reduction in carbon emissions for new-build homes from 2025.

For Bellway, affordability and user-friendliness are key issues to consider when discussing how our construction methods and techniques might change as we move towards net zero. These new homes have to be properties that families can both afford to buy and also run without in-depth technological know-how. 

With many green innovations, we don’t yet know how they will function for real families in real homes, or what their running costs will be. This is particularly important when energy costs have risen so significantly, as homeowners are being hit hard in the pockets. And this is where we hope The Future Home will provide invaluable insights.

The research taking place at Energy House 2.0 will explore how we can keep our homes cool in summer and warm in winter while minimising the impact on both the environment and the cost of living. We hope the results will help us to deliver more energy-efficient homes and to advise people on how to make best use of new technology to control energy usage and running costs.

A low-carbon home is not necessarily a home with lower running costs, and we are testing to find what I refer to as the ‘Goldilocks zone’. This is the point where energy efficiency and cost efficiency meet in a place which is the best balance for the consumer and for the planet.


Bellway has invested significant resources and expertise in its Energy House 2.0 project, working with key partners and suppliers in delivering the project.

Carbon reduction is one of the main priorities of our ‘Better with Bellway’ sustainability strategy. The Energy House 2.0 research dovetails perfectly with this ethos and we are delighted to
be working alongside other key players in the housebuilding industry to help lead the way towards carbon-reduction and creating energy-efficient homes of the future.

We first got involved in the project as part of our wider Carbon Reduction activity when we approached The University of Salford to help monitor one of our key carbon projects in the North East. As part of these discussions, we were invited to participate in the Energy House 2.0 project, which of course we were delighted to accept. 

We started construction work on The Future Home – a two-storey three-bedroom detached house – in July 2022 and finished building the property in December 2022. The research facility was launched in January 2023, with the first round of testing getting under way in February 2023.

The key benefits of this project include the unique opportunity to work with the research team at the University of Salford, and respected industry partners including Barratt Developments and Saint-Gobain, at a world-leading test facility. 


Time is of the essence when it comes to addressing the problem of climate change and the specially built chamber at Energy House 2.0 will enable the team to carry out testing on different components of the house in varying weather conditions, which would take years to replicate in the natural world.

Our Future Home is testing innovations in building materials, the effects of double and triple glazing, storing solar energy, recovering heat from wastewater, and how to make most efficient use of air source heat pumps. Mechanical ventilation is being trialled to control airflow and regulate temperatures. 

Each of these elements are being monitored in both regular and extreme climates. The chamber can replicate any climate and temperature ranging from -20°C and +40°C, as well as recreating gale force winds, rain, snow, ice and solar radiation. 

Usually, it would take months or years to collect the data needed to evaluate the performance of a new design or technology, but because researchers can precisely control the environment to within half a degree, they can gather that data in a few weeks. That means that accurate results can be achieved quickly and accelerates the innovation process.


What is also particularly beneficial for us at Bellway is that we are gaining results relating to new technologies in a house that we have built, so we are receiving data about products we are familiar with and are not relying on information from a third party.

There is no question that this is pioneering research and we have to praise our construction team at Bellway Manchester for rising to the challenge to build a fully working three-bedroom house inside the huge, enclosed chamber. Throughout the process, the team proved themselves to be both flexible and innovative as they fully embraced the project.

We were keen to harness internal expertise and our technical team brought a wealth of knowledge and experience to this project. Other than working as usual with external suppliers and subcontractors, we have attempted to use this experience to not only showcase the diverse talents of our employees but to provide them with the opportunity to test themselves and to develop and grow their own skills base, ready for the roll-out of new technologies beyond the Energy House 2.0 chamber.

In a similar way, we wanted to stay close to home when it came to the suppliers used for the project. Where feasible, we selected suppliers from existing relationships, then turned to companies who were identified as sustainable leaders.

We also focused, where possible, on fostering relationships with local suppliers and subcontractors in the Salford area, to reduce transport miles. 

There are no full-time occupants in The Future Home because of the nature of some of the tests and the fact that security would be required to accommodate long-term residents. However, members of Bellway’s technical team have stayed overnight and there should be opportunities for additional one-off stays in the future to provide further insights into life within the home.


Many of the technologies we are testing are due to be in common use in new homes by 2026. This project provides us with the chance to test their effectiveness and to create solutions to any challenges we encounter.

As part of this strategy, we have installed the country’s first roof-mounted air source heat pump in The Future Home. This type of pump is expected to replace natural gas boilers in most homes, and such pumps are already installed in many new homes, where they are usually fitted to, or adjacent to, an exterior wall. However, this location can dominate the external appearance and take up valuable outdoor space.

In response to this, we engineered The Future Home to support the 200 kg air source heat pump installed within the roof space, as a much more aesthetically pleasing solution. A second unit will be fitted to an external wall to enable comparisons to be drawn.

We have worked closely with home heating manufacturer Worcester Bosch to prepare for this ground-breaking trial, with the company providing its Bosch 3400i Hydrotop Solution unit for the test project. Donaldsons Timber Systems stepped in to redesign the home’s timber frame to accommodate the unit.


The Future Home also features a mechanical ventilation heat recovery system, supplied by Titon which recycles and filters air from within the building. 

UK Cylinders provided a heat pump and buffer combined cylinder to provide an efficient source of hot water.

The house has been constructed with double-glazed windows, which after being tested in different temperatures and weather conditions, will be replaced by triple-glazing – which will, in turn, be subjected to the same tests. These windows have been fabricated by New View Windows, with Eurocell providing the plastic system and Saint Gobain providing the glass.

A photovoltaic inverter with a battery system in the loft space, provided by Wonderwall, will store solar power for use when the household’s need is greatest.

The loft and the walls of The Future Home have been fitted with enhanced insulation measuring 500 mm, which has been supplied by Knauf Insulation. By testing the home in extreme temperatures, we will learn what impact the insulation has on retaining heat inside the home and how it might help prevent excess heat from entering the property. 

Resideo has installed its Honeywell Home evohome smart thermostat in the test property, which has nine rooms in total, 12 radiators and three underfloor heating zones. The innovative system was selected for its smart zoning technology, which uses radiator controllers to wirelessly measure and control temperatures for up to 12 individual zones within the house.

The underfloor heating has been supplied by WMS and the infrared wall-mounted heating panels by Ambion Heating. The innovative heating system has a constant dynamic pulsing, rather than the traditional on/off approach used by other systems. This process dramatically reduces energy usage and maintains a room’s temperature to within 0.1°C of its target, 24 hours a day.

The data we gain from Energy House 2.0 will enable us to find out how everyone can operate their homes more efficiently and comfortably, and how new technologies can assist our efforts in reducing carbon emissions by building more efficient homes.


Since testing began on the project, there have of course been some challenges. The Bellway Future Home contains multiple electrical space heating options which will enable us to make comparisons of the energy use across the solutions in a controlled environment. Not only was it a challenge to incorporate multiple heating systems into the build, but there was, and remains, also the added complexity of fully understanding how to change from one solution to another. For instance, knowing the best way to reconfigure from underfloor heating to radiators. The Future Home also includes multiple energy saving and ventilation systems where similar challenges apply.

In the first round of testing, a whole series of measurements are being taken. Among these are the identification of how much heat is lost throughout the house by the use of thermal cameras, and the monitoring of airflow leakage from the building via blower door and a pulse test for comparison. This initial testing allows us to contrast theoretical design numbers and those measured as built – with initial testing based around identifying any potential performance gap between as designed and as built.

The products used in the construction of, and the daily running of, The Future Home are being tested as thoroughly and holistically as possible. We are measuring not only performance under a number of different conditions but are also keeping track of running costs across the varying scenarios and evaluating the user-friendliness of the technology, and the upfront cost of the products.  

Initial results from the first round of testing are due to be released in the near future. The results of this project have the potential to change how we build homes – and how we live in them.

Jamie Bursnell is Bellway Group’s technical and innovations manager