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Top innovations from Insite09

Low-carbon buildings and sustainability fuelled fresh thinking at the BRE Insite exhibition

BRE’s Insite exhibition has built up a reputation as the showcase for modern-day sustainability and this year’s line-up certainly proved no exception.

The four-day event at BRE’s Innovation Park in Watford offered an insight into the future of low-carbon buildings through specialist stalls, seminars and - the bit that everyone always talks about - 10 full-scale buildings incorporating a range of groundbreaking products and technologies, including three new builds for Insite09.

1. Hemcrete by Limetechnology

What is it?

Hemcrete by Limetechnology is an established hemp-based walling material for carbon negative, thermally efficient walls.

Originally developed as a spray, it is newly available in block form and provides the main building material for BRE’s sustainable house.

How does it work?

Hemcrete is made from renewable UK grown hemp based materials. Hemp, in common with all similar plants, captures CO2 and releases oxygen during its rapid growth. The immediate and positive effect of this process is the sequestration of the principal greenhouse gas.

This captured carbon is then locked into the fabric of constructed buildings. When the air-lime based binder sets,
further carbon dioxide absorption occurs. Limetechnology says the material becomes better than carbon neutral.
The product is highly insulating, resulting in thin walls with a very low U value.

However, it is vapour permeable and when used with Baumit lime based renders and plasters creates a breathable walling system.

Where are the savings?

Independent studies have shown that for a 300mm wall, Hemcrete locks up around 40 kg of carbon dioxide for every sq m of wall. A typical brick-and-block cavity wall creates in its manufacture around 100 kg of CO2 per sq m of wall.

The net benefit of using Hemcrete over traditional wall construction is 140kg per sq m of wall, or 20 tonnes of CO2 for a typical house. This can reduce the embodied carbon dioxide emitted in the construction of the house by as much as 40 per cent.

2. Sustainable foundation system by Roger Bullivant

What is it?

Roger Bullivant’s SystemFirst foundation system is a lightweight, modular foundation and ground floor system that purports to support any low-rise building in all ground conditions. The SystemFirst foundation requires no trench excavation.

Components are manufactured off-site and installed on site with a claimed 75 per cent time saving on traditional house foundation construction methods (based on a minimum of 300-500 sq m).

How does it work?

As the steel system used in this foundation is significantly lighter, it is not difficult to manoeuvre and is cheap to transport. Its make-up is more environmentally friendly, requiring 90 per cent less concrete than traditional house foundations.

Currently, SystemFirst can only accommodate up to three storeys subject to BBA approval. Hybrid designs, however, will accommodate more.

What are the savings?

Traditional trench fill foundations for an average dwelling (having a footprint of 80 sq m) release 73 tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere.

According to research by Roger Bullivant, the SystemFirst foundation system releases 13 tonnes - a reduction of 82 per cent. Water use is also dramatically reduced. While traditional trench fill foundations for an 80 sq m house will use 36,026 litres of water, SystemFirst uses 4,287 litres - a reduction of 88 per cent.

SystemFirst boasts high thermal insulation compliance to proposed 2016 regulations and Code for Sustainable Homes Level 6 and receives an A+ rating in the BRE Green Guide.

3. Energain by DuPont

What is it?

Energain thermal panels are aluminium laminated and contain a copolymer and paraffin wax compound. They are installed on the interior walls and ceilings of a building, behind the plasterboard lining, together with a mechanical ventilation system.

The panels are very similar in size to ordinary plasterboard panels but weigh half as much.

Energain is suitable for a wide range of commercial, public and residential buildings and can be cut into any size. Bordered at the edges with aluminium tape, it requires no specialist skills to install.

How does it work?

The wax in these thermal mass panels melts at 22 deg C and solidifies at 18 deg C. As the compound melts, heat is absorbed from the room, significantly slowing down temperature increases. As it resolidifies, heat is released back into the room, warming the space.

What are the savings?

Dupont claims that Energain can reduce temperature peaks by as much as 7 deg C.

According to DuPont, tests indicate potential cost savings of 35 per cent on air conditioning and up to 15 per cent savings on heating bills. As a consequence, CO2 emissions are cut significantly.

Some may criticise the product for being on the expensive side, but director of the sustainable development group at ACOM Ant Wilson says: “The product is at the forefront, so it’s going to have a premium.

“But the beauty of it is that it’s lightweight so it’s easy to handle and you’re not wasting energy by transporting and pouring in vast quantities of concrete.”

4. Cassius by Sandtoft

What is it?

Sandtoft’s Cassius clay roof tile provides a cost-effective alternative to natural slate. Pressed from natural alluvial Humber clay, it has similar aesthetics and weathering properties to natural slate.

According to Sandtoft, it offers a natural roof at the same price and quality as cutting-edge, concrete thin slate alternatives.

The product is available in a range of finishes, with antique slate selected for BRE’s Renewable House at Insite09.

How does it work?

The tile features a large format size and interlocking design that reduces both material expenses and installation costs. Each sq m requires 10.5 tiles.

Sandtoft says an open gauge eliminates the need to cut tiles on site, making the Cassius quick and easy to install, further reducing labour costs. An easy-fix pushclip system is available for fast and mechanical fixing.

Where are the savings?

The Cassius can cut the cost of an installed roof by up to 50 per cent when compared with traditional double lap slate.

The tiles are made using 100 per cent green electricity, generated from environmentally friendly sources such as wind farms and hydroelectric plants.

All raw clay is extracted from local reserves located within 1 km of the production process.

The product is Rated A+ under the Building Research Establishment’s Green Guide to specification.

5. Vantage by Kingspan

What is it?

Vantage is a new range of thermally and structurally pre-configured house designs aimed at the affordable home sector.

The collection has been created to enable housing associations to cost effectively meet the building requirements of the Code for Sustainable Homes.

A key feature of the modular collection is the flexibility that Kingspan has designed into each of the platforms.

Project architects can tailor the external appearance of the buildings to match the local environment and meet planning requirements.

Designs range from one-bedroom flats to four-bedroom houses.

How does it work?

The Vantage range is constructed from Kingspan’s TEK Building System panels. These consist of a high-performance rigid urethane insulation core with zero Ozone Depletion Potential (ODP), sandwiched between two layers of Oriented Strand Board type 3 (OSB/3).

During manufacture, the insulation core of Kingspan TEK Building System SIPs panels is autohesively bonded to the OSB/3 facings. This process provides a more reliable adhesion than the traditional secondary bonding process.

The complete system is delivered to site ready for erection by Kingspan TEK construction teams.

Where are the savings?

The Vantage collection has been engineered to meet Levels 3-4 of the Code for Sustainable Homes, with whole-house energy efficiency of up to 44 per cent.

Kingspan believes the product provides an affordable solution for the government to meet all its criteria for new homes from now through to 2016 when it will be mandatory to build to sustainable Homes Code level 6.

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