Sustainability in design is becoming ever more prominent in both the minds of our clients and the regulation makers at all levels. However, these regulations are very complex and often require a far more comprehensive response than a token solar panel on the roof. It is often suggested by new clients that solar panels on the roof will make their scheme much more attractive to the planners, unfortunately these days have long gone and Building Regulations are making the inclusion of renewable technologies almost mandatory to meet the ever tightening energy consumption levels.
We look at all aspects of sustainability from the outset of a project. We consider the orientation of a building to maximise passive heating and cooling measures. We can also advise you about where materials are sourced from; whether from a local source or transported greater distances with associated financial and environmental costs. Some materials are themselves recycled or bi-products of another industry such as pulverised fuel ash from power stations used in ‘green’ concrete.
We can discuss with you the pros and cons of installing energy saving features such as whole house heat recovery ventilation, photovoltaic panels, solar thermal systems, air-, water- or ground-source heat pumps but we will also ensure that you have considered the more basic measures;
- increased insulation,
- air-tightness levels,
- careful detailing to reduce thermal bridging,
- judicious use of triple glazing,
- passive solar design to minimise overheating omitting the need for comfort cooling,
- the inclusion of waste water heat recovery or rainwater harvesting,
- lighting controls to reduce electricity bills,
- thermal mass storage.
The design and construction of a new building following the Passivhaus principals can be seen here.
In June 2020 works started on a Passivhaus Certified new home for private clients in Berkshire with the project expected to be completed towards the end of the year.
A number of our new homes are built using timberframe systems, most of them specifically using MBC Timberframe’s Passivslab foundation system and Passivhaus twin wall system. Combining both, the MBC Timberframe built houses offer excellent insulation levels and guaranteed air-tightness levels to meet Passivhaus standards.
Timberframe building offer further benefits in lightweight construction, reducing the reliance on steel and concrete thereby further reducing emboddied CO2 emissions, reduced foundation depths and much quicker construction than traditional methods.
SIPs Systems, or Structurally Insulated Panels, have also been used on projects and this contemporary replacement home in the Green Belt utilises the energy efficiency offered by the comparatively narrow wall thickness to great effect.
Winner of an International Property Award, this Contemporary New Dwelling in Farnham used innovative construction methods using 200mm of PIR insulation sandwiched between 10mm cement boards to form an alternative approach to the usual OSB facing to SIPs system. This created a monocoque-type structural skin to the external envelope allowing for large spans, cantilevered balconies and roofs.
ICF, or Insulated Concrete Formwork, consists of large blocks on polystyrene type rigid insulation which slot and locks together leaving a hollow core. This core is then pumped full of concrete to form the structural stability of the building and the insulation remains in place internally and externally, effectively wrapping the structure to limit thermal bridging. The heavier construction allows the inclusion of concrete floors etc and gives, to some, a more solid feeling to their building. There is, of course, an embodied energy trade-off for this as concrete is generally considered much more unsustainable due to the CO2 created during its manufacturing process.
We have worked on a small number of ICF projects, including this scheme in Farnham, using both the BekoWall ICF System and the Econekt ICF Sytsem.
Thermal Modelling and Overheating:
An important aspect when undertaking any energy efficient or sustainable design is the earlier investment in specialist advice on thermal modelling and overheating. We work regularly with Mesh Energy in Farnham who, as part of your design team, can offer excellent advice on renewable technology, can monitor the design process and check that early design decisions are not going to have negative impacts on the schemes sustainability credentials.