Ural scientists made a townhouse to live in and work from a cow shed

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Ural scientists made a townhouse to live in and work from a cow shed
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How economically rational is an energy efficient house in Russia?

A unique house designed by the scientists of the Ural Federal University combines practically all known technologies connected with the use of renewable energy sources. The building, which began operating in 2005, is both a house for university professors and an experimental base for the scientists.


…One of the two-storey houses in the settlement of Rastuschiy, 20 km from Yekaterinburg, immediately arrests a visitor’s attention. The project is unique in that there are wind turbines in the yard, a lot of solar elements and other untypical features.

As “Construction.RU” was told by Vladimir Velkin, associate professor at the nuclear power stations and renewable energy sources department of the Ural Energy University, before 2001 the building had been an abandoned cattle farm. It had been deserted for 18 years beforehand and, as the scientist remarked, was impacted on by winds, rain and snow as well as by self-interested local gardeners.

The farm was bought out at a bargain price.

Ural scientists made a townhouse to live in and work from a cow shed 

It is as easy as pie…

Three years before that the “Non-traditional and renewable energy sources” discipline was introduced at the University. Theoretical investigations started and theses were written, but practical experience was unfortunately lacking.

— We decided to make a testing range for the development and checking of different solutions for the application of renewable energy sources in far from ideal conditions for the use of wind, solar, hydro- and geothermal energy, Vladimir Velkin explained to our correspondent.

He remarked that there are only 5 sunny days in December on the Urals, and the winter temperature may be as low as –40o C or beyond.

Professors reconstructed the farm from their own money. The building was at a standard of 72х18 m. Everything except feed hoppers were retained: the walls, window areas, beams and support pillars.

The task was to warm the building to the max. The frame was covered with a 20cm thick layer of polysterene concrete. The first floor was built using pile technology with 20cm thick thermal insulating mats warming it.

Thus, a residential condominium consisting of 8 townhouses each with a 250-300 square meters’ area was built. The housing was then commissioned. Following this, the building complex was checked with a thermal scope in 2005, 2009 and 2012. And an optimal combination of improved materials and thermal insulation was found.

Ural scientists made a townhouse to live in and work from a cow shed 


Besides solar batteries or, as specialists say, photoelectric transducers, there are 4 wind-powered generators. There are also solar collectors where a heat carrying agent circulates and warms water. The house is also served by a small hydro power station and a biogas plant.

One of the residents drilled a 60 m deep driven well. The temperature at its deepest point is higher than on the surface. The heat is received subliming the power fluid.

As such, the house inhabitants presently use almost all known renewable energy sources. Besides this, there is an autonomous sewerage system in the house.

During summer, the house is fully self-sufficient, but everything depends on the battery, which is one of the most expensive elements of the system. It is used at night or, for example, when it is necessary to switch on a washing machine.

Minimal «subsistence expenses» energy (water heating, lighting, low-powered items, etc.) is supplied by a battery with a capacity of 110 Amper-hours. In winter the utilities expenses are about 10% lower than in usual conditions.

According to Vladimir Velkin, if such a house was located in the Rostov or Krasnodar regions, or in other sunny regions, expenses could be lower by a quarter.


Without wonder

The scientists do not conceal that only an interested person with specialist knowledge can keep such a house, however.

— For a common consumer it is rather expensive to maintain such a house, Vladimir Velkin remarked. Although a 4 KW wind generator costs about 150,000 roubles (about $2,500).

The scientist is sure that buying such equipment is profitable only on condition that the house itself costs at least 5m roubles (about $80,000). On the whole, energy sustainable technologies are more cost efficient in the EC countries than in Russia due to the difference in the gas price.

On the other hand, 5 years ago LEDs were an expensive specialty, and now they cost almost the same as halogen lamps, and solar elements have decreased almost 1.5-fold in the past 10 years.

If the production of energy conservation equipment grows around the world, and the price goes down as the market fills, the cost efficiency of such equipment in Russia will grow.

Alexander REBEKO