The ecovillage of ten detached houses in Kempele, Finland, is the first of its kind in Europe. What makes the project unique is the fact that the residential area is based entirely on renewable energy and is not connected to the national power network.
The new ecovillage demonstrates that saving energy and using renewable energy are cost-effective alternatives that do not compromise the comfort of a house.
Electrical and heat energy for the ecovillage are produced entirely at the village from wood chips and wind power. The aim of the pilot project is to save energy and to create energy self-sufficiency based on renewable- energy sources and a communal spirit.
“The houses in the area have been built to a low-energy standard. The heating is underfloor heating based on water circulation and all the technical solutions use electricity- saving solutions,” stresses Juha Sipilä, MD of Fortel Components, the company that built the ecovillage.
The energy for the area is produced from wood chips through gasification. Gas is burned in the wood gas generator and the houses are heated through the waste heat created in the production of electricity.
“A local heating network has been built in the area,” explains Sipilä.
Every house has a 700-ℓ water tank that provides water quickly. It is easy to produce low-temperature water from waste heat generated during the production of electricity, so separate heat production is not necessary at all.
“By using energy-saving solutions and renewable energy, we aim to significantly reduce the energy bill. “The builders in the area are also keen on energy-saving solutions themselves,” states Sipilä.
In addition to common regulations and recommendations, ventilation preheating, which uses geothermal heat and is used for cooling in summer, has been installed in some of the houses. Cooling using electricity is not allowed in the area.
Clean energy and construction that supports are some of the fastest-growing sectors in the world. Finland has a strong foundation on which to build new expertise and businesses around this global trend, says Sipilä.
In November 2010, the Kempele ecovillage won the prestigious prize of the Finnish Association of Civil Engineers for innovative development work.
A zero-energy house built by students at Finland’s Aalto University has been awarded the Finnish Wood Award for 2010.
The 42-m2 Luuku house (luuku means ‘hatch’ in Finnish) is designed to have a low environmental impact over its entire life cycle. More than 75% of the construction materials are made from renewable sources.
The house, which is powered by solar energy, is inspired by traditional Finnish architecture and centres almost completely on the use of timber. Wood is used for the structure, insulation and cladding as well as the interior floor and wall and ceiling finishes, moisture and heat buffering qualities and applications in very wet areas, such as bathrooms.
The architecture of the house also won the first prize in the Solar Decathlon Europe 2010 competition in Madrid, Spain, last summer.