From the outside, it looks like any other terraced house in this leafy Dutch street. And stepping inside, the tile-clad hallway seems like many old European houses I’ve visited – spacious and somewhat sombre.
The large touchscreen control panel perched on the living room mantelpiece is the first hint that this is no ordinary home.
I don’t know it yet, but the building is already monitoring me. It tracks which rooms I use and when. It keeps a record of the times I enter and leave the house. By learning my habits, it avoids heating empty rooms and ensures the heat is on when I need it.
This is my first day in the EcoGenie, a 1930s house in The Hague, the Netherlands, where Shell researches how low-carbon technologies such as solar panels and heat pumps work together.
The idea, says Peter Breithaupt, the lead project scientist, is to find practical ways for people to reduce their bills and carbon footprints, and help Shell understand how renewable technologies could change the way people use energy in the future.
“We wanted to learn how homeowners can make the biggest cuts in their carbon dioxide emissions at the lowest cost,” says Breithaupt, who frequently stays in the five-bedroom house. “This project is all about learning by doing.”