There has never been more pressure on local authorities to provide more housing for our growing population, while at the same time preserving the natural beauty of our countryside. The tide of public opinion is now also turning on sustainability, and government and public alike are demanding that sustainably-built, low-impact eco-homes now need to be prioritised.
Despite genuine enthusiasm about sustainable building within local authorities, as well as amongst developers, there is often a huge knowledge gap about how low-impact eco-homes can actually be developed. In my work as a low-energy consultant, I often come across people who desperately want to be able to build ‘greenly’ but don’t have the first idea about where to start.
So, I have made a list of some of the key ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’ for local authorities looking to lead the way in sustainable development.
Every year, over 21 billion tons of carbon dioxide is produced through human activities and the burning of fossil fuels for heating our buildings is a major contribution. It is estimated that around 32% of total UK greenhouse gases are produced in this way. There is no doubt that the way we build and manage our homes has an impact on energy consumption – therefore contributing to global warming – and it has never been more important to address those issues.
Indeed many authorities across the UK have declared a 'Climate Emergency'. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has been established, but as individuals we can also help the construction industry reduce the impact with immediate action. Energy conservation is a logical approach and making improvements in airtightness to reduce convective heat loss is a key component.
Our world is mostly built out of unsustainable materials. Bricks, concrete, steel, glass, and wood. All of these substances are practical and relatively cheap to produce which is why they are so popular (although the cost is rising), but there is growing concern over the long-term impact their production is having on the planet. It is estimated that the production of these building materials accounts for five per cent of all manmade carbon emissions — and nearly two-thirds of all the materials end up on a landfill site and are not recycled.
So perhaps it is time to look beyond the traditional materials that currently sustain the housing market. Here are five emerging sustainable materials that could be the bricks-and-mortar of tomorrow’s world: ‘Programmable cement’ Cement is perhaps the most ubiquitous building material of the lot, but there are problems with cement.
Bristol’s commitment to achieving its carbon neutral pledge by 2030 is being realised with the aid of a sustainable housing development, featuring innovative low-carbon heating. Bristol City Council’s 133 homes at Ashton Rise are being built using the high efficiency Sig iHouse solution, and heated by individual Kensa ground source heat pumps connected to a shared ground loop array of boreholes. The installation would see each home making lifetime carbon savings of 30 tonnes compared to individual gas boilers, whilst also removing all local NOx emissions, ensuring local air quality is not impacted by the choice of heating system.
With completion expected in Spring 2021, works have commenced on site by developer Wilmott Dixon, with the aid of UK ground source heat pump specialists, Kensa Contracting, undertaking the heat pump system installation.
The development is the first of its kind for Bristol City Council which features 40% of homes for social rent, and will see the council building houses for sale on the private market for the first time.
Our recycling process has been developed entirely in-house using our own engineering expertise and by adopting best practices from other industries, such as food manufacturing and rail engineering.
Eurocell has developed Dual Material Extrusion Technology (DMET) to enable the accurate processing of post-consumer (end-of-life) recycled material. DMET is used in all the manufacture of our main window profile systems, equating to approximately 27,000 tonnes of new products annually. With DMET, all of the post-consumer recycled material is concentrated in the core of the profiles, so the external faces maintain the finish quality and UV stability performance demanded by the relevant quality standards and customer expectations.
‘Share The Build’ is designed to increase the speed of delivery as well as requiring less on- site skill.
VRC Homes use galvanised steel flat pack modules with insulated wall panels. The modules cement fibre floor are over-laid with an insulated floating floor. The trusses are fitted, then sheeted with a weatherproof membrane and the exterior openings covered in plastic film.
VRC Homes provide and install the skeletal structure on pre-prepared foundations, so allowing the client to continue the build from first fix stage within a few days of arrival.
When Britain began its post war building boom, coal was king and energy was relatively cheap, so little thought was given to heat loss and few buildings were constructed with any meaningful level of insulation.
Seventy years on and the world is very different. With sky-high heating costs and a greater focus on the need to reduce energy consumption, builders, landlords and homeowners all take the insulation of their properties much more seriously.
But before we look at insulation it’s important to understand what’s involved. Insulation in a building is introduced to provide resistance to heat flow. The more heat flow resistance the insulation provides, the lower the likely heating [and cooling] costs. Good levels of insulation not only reduce heating and cooling costs, but also improve comfort.