A new fully off-grid solar-hydrogen powered individual home – a European first – has been granted planning approval in the open countryside.

Paragraph 79 (formerly Paragraph 55) allows ambitious self builders to build an individual home in areas that might otherwise be restricted (such as open countryside). However, the design must be of ‘exceptional quality’ in order to meet the stringent policy.

The Autarkic House in Devon is a Paragraph 79e consent project that is being developed by Autarkic Living, Rural Solutions (Planning Practice) in collaboration with architects StudioExe.

As the name suggests, the house is entirely self-sufficient. The project does not require connections to natural sources of power, gas, water or waste. 

According to Rural Solutions, the single dwelling project, which is fully solar-hydrogen powered, is “a European first in mechanical engineering for a single house”. 

What is Paragraph 79?

Paragraph 79 is a section of 2018 National Planning Policy Framework, which exists to support the building of country homes on land which previously might have obtained permission. 

While homes can be built on land such as green belt and outstanding natural beauty, paragraph 79 dictates that the house must be of exceptional design quality. Passivhaus is a voluntary comfort and energy efficiency building standard developed in Germany which is now commonly used all over Europe.

Autarkic “could be a gamechanger”

The Autarkic House “could be a gamechanger” according to client Kyrenia Moffat.

The house possesses a number of exciting features, such as:

  • It generates all its own power through the solar array
  • It is fully autonomous
  • It can store electrical energy indefinitely through the hydrogen store.

As well as being the UK and Europe’s first fully off-grid solar-hydrogen house, it is also the world’s first, certified hydrogen fuel cell Passivhaus.

The Autarkic House required six-and-a-half years of research and development before finally receiving planning permission, and will serve as a test case for taking the design to the wider market.  

Client Nick Moffat said: “Getting planning permission was the golden ticket for 6.5 years of work in tweaking and modifying the design,” adding that the next step is to make the system more scalable and build more homes within Devon. 

James Ellis, associate director at Rural Solutions and planner on the Autarkic House, believes the new solar-hydrogen powered marks a seminal moment in the way that houses are designed in the future. 

“We are so excited to have been part of this significant achievement and delighted for the applicants. The process has been challenging and achieving consent through innovation is always a big accomplishment,” he said. 

“The technologies applied on this project are something that align with the growing popularity and focus on the importance of responsible and sustainable building design and the project has the potential to be a forerunner for the way in which houses could be powered in the future.”

The development of the Autarkic House is expected to be completed in mid-2020.

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