Lakes College educational information

This page provides information about the various materials, components and systems used in the educational project we’ve built for the college. We’ve also added some useful links to find further information about each item. If you find any broken links, errors or would like to make some suggestions to the content, please get in touch!


natural insulation

There are many more types of insulation available for buildings than people realise. Each has different characteristics and care should be taken as to where it’s used. We’re a huge advocate of using natural materials to build homes, and so we’ve include 3 different types that could be used in this particular wall, roof and floor construction…


sheep’s wool insulation

The walls roof and floor panels of this building are filled with Thermafleece Cosywool insulation. It has the same thermal performance as mineral wool (commonly used in buildings) but sheep’s wool has the added advantage of being able to handle moisture content up to 30% without changing its thermal value. More information can be found on the Thermafleece website.

wood fibre

Whilst this is a flexible insulation, ideally used in walls panels, lofts and intermediate floors, we’ve used a more rigid wood fibre board on this building.


Thermo Hemp Combi Jute is a natural flexible insulation material made from a mixture of upcycled natural jute fibres and carbon negative hemp.

Manufactured using discarded cocoa and coffee bean bags, processed using 100% renewable energy, and hemp which is renowned for its ecological credentials, Thermo Hemp Combi Jute uses the best properties of each material to create a unique high-performance insulation product.

Ideal for both new builds and renovations (retrofit), Thermo Hemp Combi Jute natural flexible insulation is totally safe to handle and requires no special equipment or extra precautions to use.

We purchase this insulation from Ecological Building Systems, where you can find further information about the product:


recycled insulation

insulation for a building is the perfect use for many different materials that have been recycled. We’ve selected just a few of the options available…


PET (recycled plastic bottles)

This recycled plastic insulation (Thermal Conductivity – 0.040 W/mK) contains no harmful chemicals or binders and is completely safe to handle. Converting plastic bottles into insulation helps divert many tonnes of waste plastic from landfill or incineration helping protect our environment.

This product is called Supasoft – click here for more information.

cellulose (recycled paper)

Warmcel insulation is made from recycled newspaper. The newspapers are collected from offices, schools, overruns from printing companies and kerbside collections. Naturally occurring mineral salts are then added during the milling process for fire resistance and fungal/insect protection.

Modular building systems benefit from using Warmcel insulation due to the complete fill of panels.Warmcel is also ideal for insulating timber frame wall panels, floors, sloping ceilings in roof construction and lofts.


sisal (recycled coffee sacks) & recycled wool

Using 100% recycled materials, this is SISALWOOL, a high-performance low carbon natural fibre insulation which comes in batts. It is vapour permeable and has great acoustic performance and excellent rigidity. It can be handled safely with no risk of harmful chemicals off-gassing and is suitable for new and retrofit work and for applications including between rafters, joists, partitions, stud walls and loft insulation. Further details can be found here:


building systems

solar photo voltaic (PV) panels

Our homes need energy. Whilst we can purchase this from the National Grid, it can be far more cost effective to generate your own electricity. Solar panels, also known as photovoltaics (PV), capture the sun’s energy and convert it into electricity to use in your home. Installing solar panels lets you use free, renewable, low carbon electricity. You can sell surplus electricity to the grid or store it for later use.

It’s also worth noting that the current investment in the UK’s power grid (ie. nowhere near enough!) and hitting peak energy load (or demand) of the grid very soon, plus the urgent electrification (decarbonisation) of our homes means micro-generation is going to be critical to meet the shortfall.

The Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) offers some great information about PV solar.


home battery (energy storage) & inverter

For this project, we’ve used a camping/travel type battery, just because it’s much more portable and very simple to connect up – it also has an integrated inverter (that converts the DC (direct current) generated by the solar panels to AC (alternating current). On a more conventional home, the battery tend to be much larger and would deliver much more power output.

Batteries are set to play a pivotal role in the green transition by effectively storing solar energy, enabling its use for lighting homes during daylight hours and supplying power during darker periods, particularly in regions such as the UK.

The Energy Saving Trust offer further advice:


electric vehicle (EV) charger

If you’re going to charge an electric car (or plug-in hybrid) at home, it’s important to understand the power output and whether it’s ‘smart’ – a smart charger will set to charge your car when there is less demand on the grid or when more renewable electricity is available.

This particular model has three different modes and is designed and manufactured in Britain, by MyEnergi – it seamlessly integrates with your whole home energy eco system, working with your solar panels, home battery, heat pump and energy tariff, for true energy independence. Details can be found here:


solar power diverter

This small but very clever box helps to make the most of the self-generated power rather than exporting it back to the grid. A solar diverter ensures that you are maximising the consumption of all your own self-generated solar / wind energy by diverting it to be used within your own property, such as to power heating systems, heat water or maximise the efficiency of a heat pump.

This model is the British designed Eddi:


hot water cylinder

A standard heat pump doesn’t provide hot water on demand like a gas combi boiler, so there needs to be a way of storing hot water for when you need it, like a hot water cylinder. The size of cylinder depends on the amount of hot water the household typically uses. They can usually fit inside any cupboard that measures at least 80x80cm.


air source heat pump

An air source heat pump (sometimes referred to as an air-to-water heat pump) transfers heat from the outside air to water. This in turn heats rooms in your home via radiators or underfloor heating. It can also heat water stored in a hot water cylinder for your hot taps, showers, and baths.

They are often called “energy multipliers” – a heat pump‘s coefficient of performance (COP) shows how much useful energy is produced from one unit of energy (to power the pump). A COP of 4 means that 4 kW of heating output is generated from 1 kW of electricity. In turn, this means that 3 kW was delivered free of charge by the sun, environment or ground.

Here’s some useful guidance from the Energy Saving Trust:

This example was kindly donated by Diakin.


low surface temperature (LST) radiators

With an air source heat pump delivering a lower but more constant heat, low surface radiators perfectly compliment this heating system.


smart thermostat 

Smart thermostats tend to be app based and are designed to heat the home whilst reducing the energy consumption by up to 28%* (confirmed by Fraunhofer IBP in 2022) without compromising on comfort. tado° is manufacturer-independent. This means that almost all heating systems from different manufacturers, can be combined with this Smart Thermostat.

We’ve also included the Smart Radiator Thermostat on the LST radiator in this tiny home. What we really like about this product, besides it saving energy, is that the homeowner can easily install it themselves, with help from an online installation guide.


wet underfloor heating

Underfloor heating is not only a more sustainable heating solution for the home (up to 40% more efficient than traditional heating methods), it heats the space just where you need it, providing more uniform, gradual heat distribution across the floor area compared to radiant heating. Plus it’s totally hidden and frees up wall space.

The wall-mounted manifold controls and distributes the pipework to different zones in the property.

This particular example is Nu-heat’s LoPro 10 – at only 15mm height build up, it’s one of the lowest profile overlay systems on the market, perfect for timber floor cassettes or retrofit projects.


electric underfloor heating

An alternative to a wet underfloor heating system is an electric one.

Although Schlüter market this particular product (DITRA-HEAT) as “comfort heating” (designed to go under tiled floors as it’s part of the ‘decoupling’ and fully waterproof layer), we’ve checked the heat output per square metre and if the home is well insulated and airtight (like this one!), then it can easily be used as the primary heat source.


smart electric panel

Another form of electrical heating are panel heaters. The real advantage of these is that they heat up the space really quickly. They are also 100% efficient, so for every watt of electricity going into the heater, a watt of heat comes out. The only downside is the cost of electricity, but if the home is generating i(and storing) its own, then that’s not an issue.

This particular heater is also smart and can be controlled through an app.


smart lighting

Smart lighting is when the lights are controllable remotely using a wireless connection and a smartphone app. It’s possible to create schedules or routines to turn them on and off at a set time or based on specific actions. The lights can sync the lights with sunrise and sunset, dim or change their colour.

A variety of different ‘scenes’ can also be created. For example, if you’re watching a film, entertaining or preparing for bedtime, it’s possible to group the settings for the lights, so they will switch to specific levels and colours. 

We like the Philips Hue system (installed here) as it is affordable and easy to set-up by the homeowner. This article provides further details.



A smart home allows homeowners to control appliances, thermostats, lights, and other devices remotely using a smartphone or tablet through an internet connection. Smart homes can be set up through wireless or hardwired systems. Smart homes are therefore very much dependent on having a wi-fi connection.

With the addition of smart phones, watches and other personal mobile devices, it’s possible for the smart home to respond to occupants location and to create automations based on geopositions. IFTT (“If This Then That”) takes things a step further, connecting services together into Applets, automations that allow you to do things your apps and devices can’t do on their own.


Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery (MVHR)

This provides fresh filtered air into a building whilst retaining most of the energy that has already been used in heating the building. MVHR uses very little energy, compared to conventional Air Conditioning Systems. It goes hand in hand with the fabric first approach, based on passive design criteria, which is becoming increasingly more common as people’s awareness and understanding of its advantages rise.

This guide from Paul runs through all the benefits of the system:

This system is the ComfoAir Q from Zehnder.


rainwater harvesting

Rainwater harvesting (RWH) is a process of collecting and storing rainwater that falls on a catchment surface (typically a roof, although almost any external surface could be suitable) for use, independent from, or supplemental to the mains water supply. This reduces demand on the mains supply, offers some resilience from local supply problems and reduces the amount of energy used for water treatment and transportation. Collection and diversion of surface run-off can also mitigate flood risk and control drainage as part of a sustainable drainage system (SuDS).

Collected water can be used for non-potable purposes such as flushing toilets and urinals, supplying washing machines, irrigation systems, vehicle washing, sprinkler systems and so on. It is claimed that up to 50% of domestic and 85% of non-domestic mains water supply can be replaced in this way (ref Kingspan Water).

Source: Designing Buildings (the construction wiki).

This cutaway model is the Platin flat tank courtesy of Graf.


rainwater harvesting backup

The Rain Backup in a Box is a plug-and-play mains water backup for rainwater harvesting systems. When the rainwater runs out this simple controller will top up your tank to a minimum level with mains water – safely and economically.

Further details can be found on:


Thanks to the following companies that have supported this project:

Ecological Building Systems

Schluter Systems


Rainwater Harvesting

Forbo Flooring Systems