5 Hot Topics From EcoBuild 2015

5 Hot topics from Ecobuild 2015 that can benefit Guernsey properties

I took the opportunity to hop over to London in March 2015 to visit Ecobuild an annual must-visit-event to keep up to date with modern building methods and materials.

These are the 5 Hot Topics which can benefit Guernsey Properties:

1. “Free Heating”

They say you get nothing for free these days but the concept of ‘free heating’ comes pretty close. It works on the basis of Passive designs. A Passive house has high levels of insulation and is designed to be extremely airtight. The concept being that you create your own warmth by cooking, washing or general occupation. The heat we generate is extracted into a Heat Recovery Unit. The warm air is cleaned and pumped back into bedrooms and living spaces.

Creating your own heat is pretty close to being free energy but this design still uses the Heat Recovery unit which needs electricity to move and clean the air. The electrical consumption is a running / operational cost. So although you are generating your own warmth there is a cost to clean and move the air throughout the accommodation.

The concept of free heating works on the same basis, although the extraction system uses ‘Passive’ ventilation, a system developed by a company called Ventive. In this system the warm air is simply drawn through a system, cleaned and dropped into the rooms without any electrical consumption.

It remains to be seen whether this system will work efficiently, I am not aware of any installations, but the concept is interesting and will not only avoid running costs but is virtually maintenance free.

Definitely a system to keep an eye on!

2. “15/40 – miles to the gallon”

Sticking with Passive House designs, it has long been known that a Passive House is designed to achieve 15 Kw/h per annum, but what does that mean?

If we had a conversation about the performance of our cars, I would say my Honda can get 28 miles to the gallon. You might reply saying your Ford can give 30 miles to the gallon and we would understand which car is more economical.

What if I said my car gives 500 miles to the gallon? You would think I was bonkers but then be interested to learn why my car was so much more efficient.

Well this is the same for Passive House properties although the numbering is reversed. The Kw/h is the electrical consumption, less is more economical. A Passive House property is designed to a maximum of 15 Kw/h per year, whilst a traditional family home is estimated to be in the region of 40 Kw/h per year.

The 15 Kw/h target becomes more transparent. Also, the gap between Passive House standards and a traditional home is alarming. We can get many more miles to the gallon in our current buildings.

3. Design to Perform not just to comply

This relates to modern building regulations which are in place to ensure that all building projects meet a minimum requirement.

Years ago building regulations used to be thought of as the highest standard that you could achieve. The regulations improved year after year and the construction industry was forced to keep up.

These days, the building regulations are thought of as the minimum requirement. They are no longer the benchmark for the highest standards and we are continuing to build structures well above the minimum requirements stipulated by building regulations.

Why outperform building regulations? We certainly don’t need to, it is simply a choice. Do we want a building to meet the minimum standard now, or perform to future standards? That is the question we should be asking. Of course the higher standard will come with a higher construction cost but overall performance and value should also be considered when determining the level of design.

For the moment, I think it is just important to know that we can outperform the building regulations and then decide whether it is right to do so for the project in question.

4. SIPS Improvements

Structurally Insulated Panel System (SIPS) came to Guernsey around 10 years ago and many new buildings have been formed using this modern method of construction. Since the first project in Guernsey and the improving standards, SIPS has been criticised for thermal bridging. There is so much solid timber in the main walls that a large percentage of wall was left without any insulation at all, leaving the structure to underperform in terms of thermal efficiency.

At Ecobuild 2015, it was striking to see some many different companies offering SIPS, Germany, Poland and even Romania were show casing their latest system. What was most noticeable among all the suppliers was the much improved detailing around window and door openings, corner details and panel junctions which have been re-designed to maintain structural integrity and provide a continuous layer of thermal insulation.

This design change is a vast improvement. The SIPS will now perform much better than the original designs and if you are considering SIPS for your project, you should ensure the improved detailing is included.

5. Multi foil insulation is back!

Around 10 years ago, multi-foils were introduced to the Guernsey market. This is a form of insulation material that you would install to a pitched roof or timber wall. The multi-foil insulation is a high performing form of insulation which is built up with almost 20 thin layers of foil and insulating material. It was a high performing product. Light weight, easy to install, minimal waste, the benefits of this product were interesting until building regulations rejected its use in buildings as it failed a so-called ‘heat box’ test.

That was the end of multi-foils in the building industry but fast forward 10 years and the system has a full EU approval and the Guernsey Building Regulator say it is permitted for use. On the basis of this product performing well, being light weight and being easier to install than the alternative, it already has so many benefits that it can’t be ignored. It won’t be suitable in all installations but where this product can be installed it should be the number one choice; all other options are too time consuming, costly to install and generate too much waste material.

There were plenty of interesting topics, materials and thoughts for the future at Ecobuild. Incineration toilets, clear glass solar panels for windows and Building Information Modelling (BIM) being just a few amongst many. It is always nice to see that the trademark dog at the Dulux stand is at the centre of everyone’s attention.


Produced By;

Gary Naftel BSc(Hons) MCIArb MRICS
Chartered Surveyor

The information in this Coffee Break article is intended for guidance only. The authors cannot accept any liability for any loss or damage which may result from the use of this article.