The house that powers itself – Nissan – MSN Innovation UK

11 Sep 2014 | Author: | Comments Off on The house that powers itself – Nissan – MSN Innovation UK

The house that powers itself


The Mirai Nihon house was designed in the wake of the Japanese eartquake

What would life be like without a reliable source of power? It’s a question that many Japanese people were forced to confront in March 2011, when the Tōhoku Earthquake and resulting tsunami caused widespread power outages in coastal regions of the country. An unstoppable wall of seawater rushed inland, devastating many communities and badly damaging the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

A nerve-wracking few days followed, as teams of scientists and the emergency services struggled to contain the meltdown.

The disaster triggered a period of soul-searching across the country, and indeed the wider world – particularly in terms of how energy should be generated and consumed, and what role we each play in this process. Most of us take it for granted that when we flick a switch, the lights will come on, or that our electrical devices will beep and whirr into life. But as the Japanese tsunami showed, the energy infrastructure we depend upon is more fragile that we might like to think.

Energy supply and demand will be an even more pressing issue in future. We simply can’t keep burning fossil fuels to provide energy for a growing world population, yet few countries are willing or able to obtain all their energy from renewable sources. Blackouts are predicted to increase as overstretched grids reach their limit; the risk of these occurring in England and Wales over the winter is at its highest since 2008.

Meanwhile, the rising cost of heating our homes is pushing more and more people into fuel poverty.

There are no easy solutions to these problems. However, increasing numbers of people see living off-grid as a step in the right direction. Generally, this means their home is not connected to the national grid, public water supply, sewer, gas or similar utilities. It’s a bold move, involving countless lifestyle changes.

But the rewards can be great: more control over your energy usage, large financial savings and less damage to the environment.

In recent years the number of tools designed to help with the switch to an off-grid lifestyle has grown. From rain water harvesting systems, to composting toilets and affordable solar panel kits, aspiring off-griders can now find most of the things they need to build or convert their home and lifestyle – including FlameStower, a new device that can charge a mobile phone by harnessing the heat from a fire. But for the ultimate in off-the-grid living, look no further than the Mirai Nihon (Future Japan) house.


In the wake of the Fukushima disaster, a group of 20 companies came together to design the house, which is fit for a future where more of us are living off-the-grid.

Among these companies was Nissan, responsible for the pioneering fully electric vehicle LEAF, which brought its knowledge of green and zero emission technology to help develop a sustainable design.

The house features a solar array to harvest energy from the sun, and can also draw power from the Nissan LEAF through an innovative LEAF to Home power conversion process. The car’s battery can produce up to 24kw per hour, and power the house for two whole days. Nissan, it seems, is willing to look beyond the motor industry in order to create the kind of innovations that will lead to a more sustainable planet.

The house itself is a simple, modernist box made from engineered wood and plywood, which can fit on the back of a truck for easy transportation to the site where it will be situated. A home energy management system allows the owner of the house to monitor and control their energy consumption, thereby ensuing they optimise their energy efficiency. Even the water system is off-grid: Mirai Nihon’s seawater purification system is able to filter out heavy metals and radioactive materials from seawater.

The creators believe the house could work in pretty much any city or village around the world. What’s more, it can be easily updated with new off-grid technologies and inventions to ensure it’s always as energy efficient as possible. In fact, if you’ve got the money you can even buy one today – providing you’re happy to pay for the shipping costs from Japan.

Living off-grid can teach us valuable lessons about how we use energy, how we take it for granted, and how, in future, we can learn to do more with less of it. The tentative residents of Mirai Nihon, a young Japanese artist and her partner, also found the experience made them feel much more aware of the natural world and their place within it. It’s a sentiment expressed by many people who choose to live off-the-grid. Who knows, perhaps you’ll be one of them one day…

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