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«Eco-living comes to Moscow»

by Yulia Ponomareva at 02/02/2015 20:42

Asya, Kornei and their three young daughters Alisa, Polina and Marta live an unusual existence. Their home – a futuristic wooden and glass construction outside Moscow – is a giant science experiment and they human guinea pigs.

For six months they are testing out a prototype for a nearly 100-percent energy efficient house, a phenomenon of engineering in a country where environmental awareness is a little-known concept.

Equipped with a geothermal heat pump, a solar panel and 24 solar thermal collectors, the two-storey “Active House,” as its Danish designers have dubbed it, was built using only materials available in Russia. The experiment seeks to prove that the construction of such houses is possible in the country.

“What impressed us about this place was that it’s extremely spacious and there’s a lot of light here,” Asya says.

The house has three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen, a storeroom, a hall, and a large living room with big glass doors leading outdoors on each side.

In addition to the solar equipment and pump, the house is also equipped with an intuitive control system, which automatically regulates temperatures, CO2 levels, ventilation and light.

“If it’s too bright in the room, the system shuts the blinds when someone enters it,” Asya says. “But you can always adjust the temperature and light yourself with the remote control.”

Modern design predominates inside with such features as a glass floor

Grigory Latyshev, the project’s chief engineer, explains that the geothermal pump consumes eight times less power than ordinary boilers or gas pumps while generating the same amount of heat.

“It works like a freezer turned inside out, accumulating the heat from the earth in winter and exuding excessive heat in summer,” Latyshev says. “All it needs is electricity and given that most houses are heated by gas, this solution is especially relevant for areas where there is no gas supply.”

Although the energy efficiency of the Active House is fairly dependent on how much sunlight there is, Latyshev says the power produced by the solar and geothermal equipment is usually enough to meet the family’s demand for hot water and heating. But the house, being still a work in progress, is by no means perfect. Since they moved here in December, the family has already identified some design faults.

“At first I didn’t think too much about the safety of the place, but then I noticed that the kids were trying to climb on the shelf stands and hollow spaces in the walls and could fall,” Asya says.

Poor water problem in the area is also a problem: “The water is very rusty here, and we sometimes have to take the kids to our parents’ to wash them there,” Asya says. Another issue is the house’s distance from central Moscow. It takes Kornei around an hour to drive to work in the Sokol district every morning, and Asya around two hours. At weekends the family travels into town to see friends or entertains at home.

“It can’t be mass-produced – it’s a futurist model that allows us to develop advanced solutions,” Makarov says (the manager of the project). His company recently announced a new architectural contest, Active House 2020, to develop an energy efficient and eco-friendly house of 150 to 180 square meters for under 50,000 rubles ($1,700) a square meter.

· GRAMMAR FOCUS

Indefinite/Simple


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