AlmaVerde Slashes Energy Bills 94%

AlmaVerde Slashes Energy Bills 94%

A low energy air cooling system called ‘The Coolhouse System’ has been conceived and developed by a British team at a Portuguese resort as an alternative to air conditioning. Independent tests¹ show that the Coolhouse system reduced CO² emissions and energy consumption by 94%. As world energy prices soar and the EU struggles to meet its CO² emission targets, a cheaper and more environmentally acceptable alternative to air conditioning within properties will be attractive to many.

The Coolhouse system is the brainchild of British environmentalist architect Jes Mainwaring for property developer Elixir, who has already successfully incorporated the low energy system into more than 80 villas at its AlmaVerde Village & Spa Resort in the Algarve, Portugal. The system was developed largely to stabilise the internal temperatures of the properties in an environment where there are 300 days of sunshine per year, humidity levels of up to 95% and temperature variations up to 21°C from day to night.

The system employs a combination of new and traditional building practices. It uses normal drainage pipes buried two metres underground to deliver cooled fresh air into the house via a sub-floor plenum or void. Fresh air is delivered to the ground floor daytime living areas, through vents situated above the skirting, by means of a simple air-handling unit or fan.

A key component of the system is the use of sun-dried adobe or clay bricks, manufactured on-site, together with adobe mortar and render, to form the inner walls and the inner skin of the outer walls. The solid adobe provides high thermal mass to the inner part of the structure whilst the outer walls are well insulated by the use of a fibre-reinforced external insulation envelope that extends into the roof.  Solar controlled low-E glass is used on the timber-frame windows. Monitoring has demonstrated that the villas remain at comfortably stabilised temperature and humidity levels throughout the summer, at very low energy cost.

Gordon Miller, editor of eco-homes website, said: "The Coolhouse system is a serious innovation that uses ground cooling as a low energy alternative to power-hungry air-conditioning. It not only reduces energy consumption and CO2 emissions by 94%, according to independently verified tests, but also saves the homeowner the same amount in their energy bills. Moreover, when you're in a 'Coolhouse' the ambient temperature feels pleasant and the atmosphere feels healthier than one experiences in an air-conditioned room."

Managing Director of Elixir John Tranmer says:  “Buildings are responsible for half of the world's total energy consumption, and for half of the resulting carbon dioxide emissions. We were determined that our development should adopt better practices.”

British couple, Gill and Tom Blades, who live in a ‘Coolhouse’ Home at AlmaVerde, have been enthusiastic about the day-to-day benefits of the system. Tom says: “The house stays nice and cool in the hot summer months, when temperatures can reach over 38°C, and warm and dry in the winter. We always have a nice even temperature, no matter what the weather is like outside. Electricity is more expensive in Portugal than the UK so I am pleased our energy bills are much less than they would be if we had air conditioning.”

Independent tests done by Faber Maunsell showed a 12°C reduction in internal temperatures in a villa where temperatures outside were 37°C, giving a consistent 25°C inside. It also showed that Coolhouse reduced relative humidity levels by up to 30%(RH), eliminating the unhealthy black mould, damp clothes and bed linen caused through condensation. As the air is fresh cooled air from outside, rather than re-circulated air, it provides a healthier and more comfortable environment. Health benefits reported include the elimination of respiratory tract and dry eye problems associated with air conditioning.

Portugal’s Chief Energy Advisor, Prof. Eduardo de Oliveira Fernandes, visited AlmaVerde to see how the Coolhouse project had been implemented and complimented the developers on how they had managed to industrialise the technology and make it commercially viable for resort homes. Many construction professionals have also visited the development to see how the system has been implemented.

AlmaVerde Village & Spa is a pioneering new resort located in the unspoilt and less developed part of the Western Algarve, 10 kms from Lagos. The village serves both as a residential community and a vacation destination. The planned 4,000 sq.m. spa will offer an unparalleled range of facilities and programmes for relaxation and rejuvenation.

The village comprises plots for 130 villas, 28 townhouses and several groups of apartments.  Most buildings are single storey with the occasional two storey building adding variety and interest. The development is low-density, with only 10% of the land designated for construction. Villa plots range in size from 420 to over 7,000 sq.m. There are currently three and four bedroom villas for sale on a freehold basis in a choice of six villa designs, all with private swimming pools. Prices range from €519,725 (£411,761) for a three bedroom villa on a 480 sq.m plot to €792,588 (£627,941) for a 3-4 bedroom villa on a 1,000 sq.m plot. Prices are inclusive of 10-year family spa membership.



Editors Notes:

¹ verified by independent consultants Faber Maunsell of London.

AlmaVerde has now received 12 major awards, including its international recognition and endorsement by industry experts at the Homes Overseas Awards, where it was awarded Developer of the Year (Highly Commended), Best Sustainable Development (Silver) in 2007, Best House – Portugal (Silver), Best Landscape Design (Gold) and Best Innovation (Silver). It has also won the prestigious European Royal Award for Sustainability and received a ‘Commended’ kitemark from in recognition to its commitment to sustainability.


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