A potential breakthrough for production of superior battery technology


Micro supercapacitors could revolutionise the way we use batteries by increasing their lifespan and enabling extremely fast charging. Manufacturers of everything from smartphones to electric cars are therefore investing heavily into research and development of these electronic components. Now, researchers at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, have developed a method that represents a breakthrough for how such supercapacitors can be produced.

“When discussing new technologies, it is easy to forget how important the manufacturing method is, so that they can actually be commercially produced and be impactful in society. Here, we have developed methods that can really work in production,” explains Agin Vyas, doctoral student at the Department of Microtechnology and Nanoscience at Chalmers University of Technology and lead author of the article.

Supercapacitors consist of two electrical conductors separated by an insulating layer. They can store electrical energy and have many positive properties compared to a normal battery, such as much more rapid charging, more efficient energy distribution, and a much greater lifespan without loss of performance, with regards to the charge and discharge cycle. When a supercapacitor is combined with a battery in an electrically powered product, the battery life can be extended many times –up to 4 times for commercial electric vehicles. And whether for personal electronic devices or industrial technologies, the benefits for the end consumer could be huge.

“It would of course be very convenient to be able to quickly charge, for example, an electric car or not have to change or charge batteries as often as we currently do in our smartphones. But it would also represent a great environmental benefit and be much more sustainable, if batteries had a longer lifespan and did not need to be recycled in complicated processes,” says Agin Vyas.

Manufacturing a big challenge

But in practice, today’s supercapacitors are too large for many applications where they could be useful. They need to be about the same size as the battery they are connected to, which is an obstacle to integrating them in mobile phones or electric cars. Therefore, a large part of today’s research and development of supercapacitors is about making them smaller – significantly so.

Agin Vyas and his colleagues have been working with developing ‘micro’ supercapacitors. These are so small that they can fit on the system circuits which control various functions in mobile phones, computers, electric motors and almost all electronics we use today. This solution is also called ‘system-on-a-chip’.

One of the most important challenges is that the minimal units need to be manufactured in such a way that they become compatible with other components in a system circuit and can easily be tailored for different areas of use. The new paper demonstrates a manufacturing process in which micro-supercapacitors are integrated with the most common way of manufacturing system circuits (known as CMOS).

“We used a method known as spin coating, a cornerstone technique in many manufacturing processes. This allows us to choose different electrode materials. We also use alkylamine chains in reduced graphene oxide, to show how that leads to a higher charging and storage capacity,” explains Agin Vyas.

“Our method is scalable and would involve reduced costs for the manufacturing process. It represents a great step forward in production technology and an important step towards the practical application of micro-supercapacitors in both everyday electronics and industrial applications.”

A method has also been developed for producing micro-supercapacitors of up to ten different materials in one unified manufacturing process, which means that properties can be easily tailored to suit several different end applications.

Caption: Micro supercapacitors can increase the lifespan of batteries and reduce their charging time in products like smartphones and electric cars. The image shows a 2 inch wide silicon wafer with integrated micro supercapacitors, manufactured using the CMOS-compatible process developed by Chalmers’ researchers. The wafer can be upscaled to a diameter of 8 inches to fit even more supercapacitor units.
Illustration: Yen Strandqvist

CLICK HERE TO Read the full study


The research has been funded by: EU Horizon 2020 (GreEnergy), Vinnova, SAAB.

For more information, please contact:

Agin Vyas, Department of Microtechnology and Nanoscience


Finland’s Minister for Economic Affairs Mika Lintila told the country’s parliament that he would not be granting a building permit for the Hanhikivi nuclear plant as things stand.

“It’s quite clear that as a consequence of this conflict this project will at least be significantly delayed,” Lintilä told the STT newswire on Thursday.

Fennovoima, the company behind the planned nuclear power plant which will have a Russian reactor and is one third owned by a Finnish subsidiary of Russia’s Rosatom, said it “acknowledges that the ongoing conflict situation may have impacts on the Hanhikivi 1 project”.

It said the “Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the counter measures by EU and western countries as a consequence, pose a major risk for the Hanhikivi 1 project.

“We are very sad about the developments and the situation in Ukraine. There are a lot of people close to our employees in the area and our thoughts are with them.”

According to Finland’s STT news agency, Fennovoima is now waiting to hear what sanctions the EU will impose on Russia before speculating on the project’s future.

Last month licensing work for the Hanhikivi 1 nuclear power plant was said to have reached the “homestretch” with Fennovoima expecting to submit its final licensing materials to the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority by the end of February, with the goal of gaining a construction licence this year.

Fennovoima signed the plant supply contract for Hanhikivi with Rusatom Overseas – Rosatom’s nuclear power plant exports subsidiary – in December 2013. Rosatom offered to build a plant using a 1200 MWe AES-2006 VVER under a fixed-price contract. The Hanhikivi project is owned by Fennovoima, in which a 34% stake is held by RAOS Voima Oy, the Finnish subsidiary set up in 2014 by Rosatom for the purpose of buying a share in the company.

Fennovoima submitted its 250-page construction licence application to Finland’s Ministry of Employment and the Economy for the Hanhikivi plant in June 2015. The government’s decision to issue a construction licence would require a positive assessment of the application by STUK.

Sweden’s Vattenfall halts deliveries from Russia

The state-owned energy giant Vattenfall announced on Thursday that it was “deeply concerned by the serious security situation in Europe and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine” and “we have therefore decided that no planned deliveries from Russia to our nuclear power plants will take place until further notice”.

It said it would not place any new orders from Russia for its nuclear power plants until further notice.

What about the situation in Ukraine?

The State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine’s update at 09:00 local time (07:00 GMT) on Friday 25 February reported that there were “no violations of NPP safe operation limits and conditions. Radioactive situation meets established norms … NPP security divisions and physical protection services are on high alert”.

It also gave an update on the Chernobyl exclusion zone – near the Belarus border in the north of the country – which Russian defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said was under Russian control, according to the TASS news agency. TASS quoted Konashenkov as saying NPP personnel continued to service the facilities and saying that “the radiation level in the area of the nuclear power plant did not exceed the natural background”.

The Ukraine nuclear regulator said that data from the automated radiation monitoring system of the Chernobyl exclusion zone indicated “control levels of gamma radiation dose rate in the exclusion zone were exceeded”. The reason for this, it said, appeared to be connected to the disturbance of the top layer of soil from the movement of heavy military machinery through the exclusion zone, increasing air pollution.

The condition of Chernobyl nuclear facilities  and other facilities was unchanged, it said.

The International Atomic Energy Agency

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said it was following the situation in Ukraine “with grave concern” and was appealing for “maximum restraint to avoid any action that may put the country’s nuclear facilities at risk”.

Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said the IAEA was closely monitoring developments in Ukraine with a special focus on the safety and security of its nuclear power plants and other nuclear-related facilities.

He stressed that the IAEA General Conference adopted a decision in 2009 that “any armed attack on and threat against nuclear facilities devoted to peaceful purposes constitutes a violation of the principles of the United Nations Charter, international law and the Statute of the Agency”.

In a statement released on Friday 25 February the IAEA said it assesses that the readings in the Chernobyl area “reported by the regulator – of up to 9,46 microSieverts per hour – were low and remained within the operational range measured in the Exclusion Zone since it was established, and therefore do not pose any danger to the public”.

Source: WNN

According to the Conservative Party manifesto the UK needs to build 300,000 new homes a year to deal with the ongoing housing crisis, an increase of over 50% compared to 2010 levels. 

Despite the desperate need for new homes, ramping up construction on this scale raises some obvious environmental concerns. Aside from land-use change, material waste and increased carbon emissions, increasingly there are concerns about the impact that the construction industry has on the quality of our air.   

According to the UK’s National Atmospheric Emissions Inventory, the construction industry has contributed to around 25% of the total nitrogen oxide (NOx) and particulate matter (PM2.5) pollution since 1970. 


The construction industry contributes to air pollution in several ways but one major source is the transportation of goods and services. Using traditional methods of construction it takes around two years to build a standard family home with an average of 22 different subcontractors needed. 

This, plus the delivery of goods and materials means that there can be upwards of 30 different vehicles visiting a construction site on any one day. When you multiply this by 300,000, it means a lot of moving vehicles, all producing air pollutants.  

One solution for reducing the number of vehicles travelling backwards and forwards from a site is constructing the properties off-site using Modern Methods of Construction.

MMC is a process which focuses on off-site construction techniques, such as mass production and factory assembly. MMC can be more sustainable as homes are precision-engineered to create less waste and are built using sustainable materials. This approach also provides benefits by speeding up delivery, reducing labour costs and improving quality. This means MMC can ‘kill two birds with one stone’ by helping us to ramp up our construction output  without contributing to environmental pollution. 

Andrew Shepherd, Managing Director of TopHat Solutions, a leader in the Modern Methods of Construction space explains: ‘Our manufacturing takes place in Derbyshire, and everything is built and created in one location as homes are mechanically moved around the factory. 

‘The houses then arrive at the site 95% complete, meaning the time spent at the construction site is a fraction of what normally happens. The contracting industry is extremely transient meaning people may live in one area but drive multiple hours a day to work in another. We have found that the people working in our factory are much more likely to live nearby and get public transport to work. This means we are contributing to much less transport emissions in the first stage of delivery.’  

Modular houses and Modern Methods of Construction have gained significant interest in the last few years with investment from the likes of Legal & General and Goldmans Sachs boosting confidence in the industry. 

The UK government has also begun to implement policy to shift towards modular housing, with schemes such as the Home Building and Construction Corridor  encouraging market growth and allowing the supply of these structures to be produced.  

However, currently only 15,000 modular homes are built per year, a fraction of the 300,000 needed.  


In areas where off-site construction is not possible, there are still ways that the industry can reduce its contribution to air pollution. According to one estimate, 14% of particulate matter (PM2.5) produced from the construction industry comes from the machinery used.  

James Bellinger, Senior Air Quality Consultant at global design and planning firm ARUP explains that this is because a lot of the tools and machines used at construction sites are powered by diesel generators.  

In a recent literature review, researchers at ARUP highlighted several key areas where developers can reduce air pollution. These include:  

  • Having a low or zero emission equipment requirement 
  • Planning for the on-site provision of grid electricity 
  • Planning sites so they can be built to allow for zero emissions
  • Considering emissions and equipment choices during the design of a project 

Despite clear ways to improve the air pollution output, James explains that the construction industry still has a big issue with communication.  

‘A key area for improvement is actually in the planning stages that are between where a site is designed and before a contractor is appointed to do the work.  

‘Historically, those two stages don’t work that well together and that results in opportunities being missed in the design process. For example, electrical connection could be added to avoid the need for diesel generators but because this communication doesn’t happen we are left with a situation where the contractor is appointed to do the work in a set amount of time and realistically they’re not going to turn up and ask for changes to reduce air pollution because for them, time is money.’ 

It is clear that to meet our housing needs we not only need to ramp up the scale of construction but we also need to shake up how we do things. However, as said by Andrew Shepherd, ‘There is a lot of muscle memory in the industry. 

‘There are lots of senior decision makers that have over 30 years worth of experience in doing things in a certain way, so asking them to do something completely differently is very difficult. To achieve our goals, we all need to invest and support future solutions.’  

The latest development of Kingspan’s unique, self-blended insulation technology, ‘QuadCore 2.0’, demonstrates that innovation and product performance enhancement do not need to come at the sacrifice of our planet. QuadCore 2.0 is made with a formulation containing a raw material that uses 40% recycled PET. This innovative formulation has satisfied the requirements for a two-hour fire resistance in third-party fire tests for both insulation and integrity — making it the first closed cell insulated panel system to ever achieve this rating.

QuadCore 2.0 is a key step towards one of Kingspan’s Planet Passionate goals to ensure Kingspan recycles 1 billion PET bottles by 2030 and for QuadCore Technology to utilise recycled PET by 2025. The EN1364-1 fire resistance test was conducted by WarringtonFire using our next generation QuadCore 2.0 with 220mm thick, 1100mm wide coldstore, through fix insulated panels, satisfying the requirements of EI 120 and obtained without the need for stitching screws to secure the panel joints. During testing the furnace reached a temperature in excess of 1000’C.


Mike Stenson, Head of Innovation commented on the breakthrough:

“Since its launch in 2016, our QuadCore Technology has been at the forefront of closed cell insulation innovation, with an unrivalled combination of thermal efficiency, fire performance, environmental credentials and warranty offering. Within our innovation and chemical development teams we are continuously striving to take each of these performance factors to the next level, creating an insulation technology truly designed with future building performance in mind. The inclusion of recycled PET as a raw material in our formulation is a key objective for us globally, as we work towards a more circular approach, with our new breakthrough significantly enhancing performance. The expertise in blended chemical systems available to us following the acquisition of Synthesia in 2017 has helped to make this step change in both sustainability and fire performance possible- as this EI 120 test result shows.”


The QuadCore 2.0 insulated panel range is currently going through a further rigorous testing and certification programme, including reaction to fire and various insurer backed standards. Once completed, the first products containing the new core are expected to be ready for market in 2022.


What is EI 120?

Fire resistance is a measure of how long construction assemblies can withstand and contain a fire.  The measurement is expressed in Integrity (E) which is the ability to withstand fire exposure on one side whilst stopping the passage of flames and hot gases through to the unexposed side for a period of time, and Insulation (I), the building element will also be able to stop the passage of heat through to the unexposed side up to a maximum non-fire side surface temperature value for a period of time. EI 120 means that the product provides certified integrity (E) and insulation (I) performance for 120 minutes.


For more information, please contact:


UK: +44 (0) 1352 716100

IRE: +353 (0) 42 9698 500

Web: www.kingspanpanels.co.uk  

A new British invention, following the co-location of Coltraco Ultrasonics’ Physicists and Scientists at Durham University, a globally outstanding centre of teaching and research excellence, the handheld Portascanner® AIRTIGHT 520 is a completely unique technology able to compute air flow and air permeability, quantifying leak sites to complement an airtightness test. Designed during COVID-19 with support from UK Government COVID-19 Emergency Technology Funding and available for exporting globally now, the Portascanner® AIRTIGHT 520 builds on Coltraco’s long history in watertight integrity monitoring for the Royal Navy to deliver the Safeship™ at sea, applying our advanced understanding of fluid dynamics at sea to air flow dynamics to deliver the Safesite™ on land.

The unique ability to detect, locate and quantify air leaks, non-disruptively and without the need for any room pressurisation, in a complementary manner to existing Door Fan and Pulse Airtightness Testing, will enable users of the Portascanner® AIRTIGHT 520 to make sharper decisions, verify technical specifications, and reveal possible defects if design standards have not been met rapidly and reliably.

The Importance of Building Ventilation: Changing Standards in the Built Environment
Professor Catherine Noakes OBE, who sits on the UK Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) states that “if we do invest as a nation [in ventilation], there’s a potential big win,” with the “long-term payback [of] improved health and productivity, and lower energy use.”
COVID-19 is essentially an indoor air crisis. Whilst vaccinations are a crucially important tactical response, they must be complemented by longer term strategies. To ensure Human Air Hygiene, and safeguard that basic human right, a continuous and assured access to pure, fresh air, every public building must have a Ventilation Strategy.
In its most basic form, the challenge of building ventilation centres around increasing the number of air changes per hour. However, the integrity of air filtration, and or air purification, can only reasonably be assured if all unwanted air infiltration through gaps, is sealed. Air flow measurement devices, such as the Portascanner® AIRTIGHT 520, that allow for frequent and regular detection, location and quantification of unwanted air leaks must therefore be integrated alongside existing airtightness testing equipment, to ensure the success of building ventilation strategies.
In addition to Human Air Hygiene, Fire Suppression, Thermal Comfort, Acoustic Insulation, and Insect and Pest Control are all integral aspects of the Built Environment which require a certain level of airtightness to be maintained, either to deliver the minimum number of air changes per hour, restrict the supply of oxygen to extinguish a fire, or lower energy consumption and waste.
Indeed, in a post-COP26 global environment, addressing the effects of climate change and making buildings more energy efficient and environmentally responsible is driving the construction industry towards “Build Tight Ventilate Right.” Buildings are a significant producer of carbon emissions, accountable for 35% of total energy consumption.
Testing for air leaks and simultaneously testing for watertightness with the Portascanner® AIRTIGHT 520, as water ingress seriously damages buildings and destroys electrical equipment, will improve build qualities, and reduce the costs of operating and maintaining the Built Environment.

The Portascanner® AIRTIGHT 520: Unique Technology to complement Existing Airtightness Testing
During Coltraco Ultrasonics’ long history in watertight integrity monitoring for the Royal Navy they learned that it was one thing to be able to identify large and microscopic leak sites, but that it was quite another to precisely locate and quantify the leak site through the structure concerned to determine the water flow rate. These are the crucial pieces of information required to assess the damage control risk overall in a ship’s watertight compartment, watertight door or watertight Multiple Cable Transit Area between bulkheads.
The Portascanner® AIRTIGHT 520 takes Coltraco Ultrasonics’ understanding of fluid dynamics at sea and applies it to air flow dynamics on land. They take the best ultrasonic technology in Coltraco’s hardware to identify leak sites with a microscopic level of accuracy and apply computer science to measure and quantify the leak-site by the Portascanner® AIRTIGHT 520’s algorithm, which also generates a value for the air flow rate through that leak and the building’s overall air permeability.
The ability to record and analyse these 4 factors makes the Portascanner® AIRTIGHT 520, a British lightweight, hand-held, and portable analytical instrument, a unique technology globally. The Portascanner® AIRTIGHT 520 has been invented to complement existing airtightness testing, typically achieved using a Door Fan Test or a Pulse Test, that is essential for measuring the integrity of the Built Environment.

Integrate Dynamically with Essential Existing Technologies to be Better-Faster-Cheaper: Testing the Portascanner® AIRTIGHT 520 at The Airtightness Testing and Measurement Association’s (ATTMA’s) Building Performance Hub
In January 2022, Coltraco Ultrasonics’ Daniel Dobrowolski (Senior Physicist) and Bernard Hornung (Head of Built Environment) joined Paul Jennings (Airtightness Specialist) and Dr Bill Bordass OBE (Building Scientist) to test the Portascanner® AIRTIGHT 520 in a full-sized house. Testing followed a Pulse Test and a Door Fan Blower Test, both of which the Portascanner® AIRTIGHT 520 is designed to complement.

The Portascanner® AIRTIGHT 520 performed outstandingly, being able to identify and quantify leaks that had been found with traditional basic methods of leak detection such as thermal cameras, smoke pencils and anemometers, but most importantly finding leaks that could not be found with any alternative method. A significant number of leaks were identified in window and door seals.

The Portascanner® AIRTIGHT 520 allows the ultrasonic quantification of leak sites in a depressurised environment, which has never been achieved before. Door Fan Testing or Pulse Testing can then be conducted at an appropriate moment, once detected leakage points have been identified and repaired. Uniquely, during these tests, the Portascanner® AIRTIGHT 520 allows the location and measurement of air leaks, facilitating remedial action that is precise, immediate, and often low-cost.

Furthermore, Buildings can be surveyed with a Portascanner® AIRTIGHT 520 before an air tightness test so that they have a better chance of passing and, if a building fails an airtightness test, the diagnosis as to why it has failed could include locating and quantifying air leaks with the Portascanner®.

These capabilities of the Portascanner® AIRTIGHT 520 are even more important when one situates the device within the increased world-wide emphasis on airtightness in the built environment as a result of the dual pressures of COVID-19 and climate change. In the UK, higher standards on airtightness in the Built Environment are being encouraged by institutions such as the Passivhaus Trust, which forms a part of the global Passivhaus movement, and is the UK affiliate of the International Passive House Association.

Passivhaus builds are approximately ten times more airtight than the standard required of new-build domestic dwellings in the UK, meaning special attention must be paid to identify potential leakage areas in the building fabric and offsite-manufactured components during the final stages of construction. There are about 65,000 buildings worldwide which have achieved Passivhaus standards of comfort, health, and low energy consumption, with many more in the planning process.

Being able to use ultrasound to detect, locate, and quantify air leaks, eliminates the need for pressurisation, negative or positive. Therefore, the Portascanner® AIRTIGHT 520 can test building components when they are manufactured, such as windows and doors, which is where most leaks manifest themselves, with the aim to eliminate leaks before installation. During the execution of a build programme, or in the case of offsite construction, during the assembly of building components, building control aimed at assuring a better build quality should include the frequent and periodic use of the Portascanner® AIRTIGHT 520.

Coltraco Ultrasonics’ technologies provide their users with the unprecedented visibility necessary to make sharp decisions and understand opaque issues. Integrating the Portascanner® AIRTIGHT 520 with essential existing Door Fan and Pulse airtightness testing will improve build quality, and reduce the costs of operating and maintaining the Built Environment, by improving Human Air Hygiene, Fire Suppression, Acoustic Insultation, Thermal Comfort, and decreasing water ingress and absenteeism.


A well-attended and progressive church at the heart of a Welsh town is nearing the end of the first phase of an ambitious refurbishment project intended to help it meet the needs of local families, across all age groups, with improved facilities and as part of the work, a new underfloor heating system featuring the use of two different OMNIE systems will provide a warming welcome for all.

Established nearly 150 years ago, Cilgal Baptist Church stands close to the centre of Porthcawl, a popular coastal destination, built in the traditional style from stone and slate, with a separate hall. Recognising however, that the spaces did not have the ideal layout or amenities, Gilgal’s administration began planning a three year programme of alterations to transform the main building – the Sanctuary – and then rebuild the adjoining hall. The changes within the Sanctuary include the creation of a function area with kitchen and new toilets, plus various adaptations for those with mobility issues. A modern main entrance will give access to an enlarged reception area, while a new steel mezzanine structure creates additional space for various activities. The work is being carried out by Cardiff based LCB Construction along with its group company, Tim O’Brien M&E installing the OMNIE Staple and TorFloor systems, along with a new 50kW gas boiler to improve the efficiency of the church’s heating and hot water delivery. Improved lighting and sound systems have also been included to make the interiors a better place for both worship and recreation.


Operations Manager for LCB Construction, Simon Baldwin, said: “The work involves removing cast iron pipework and radiators, which are being replaced with the Staples and TorFloor underfloor heating systems, while also fitting a new 50 kW gas boiler. Our group has employed OMNIE underfloor heating systems on a number of projects in the past including private schemes and in the case of a building like this, with considerable spaces to heat, they offered an ideal means of maintaining the design temperatures while avoiding taking up lots of wall area with traditional emitters.” A spokesperson for the Gilgal Baptist Church added: “The changes are intended to ensure our buildings are fit for purpose: to keep us abreast with modern worship trends, to serve our community better and to provide the type of flexible facilities that families will enjoy and benefit from a plan to make our church a place of glory to God.”


OMNIE’S Staples system, which has been used across a large proportion of the church and the adjoining function space as well as the office, is installed by clipping the continuous pipe runs to rigid insulation at 150mm spacings, itself secured across the concrete subfloor. The entire area is then screeded to make full contact with the pipework and achieve excellent levels of heat transmission to the occupied space, while OMNIE provides clients with a full table of heat outputs in Watts which will be delivered, depending on the choice of floor covering, including tiles, vinyl, timber and carpet with underlay. The specification switches to OMNIE’s versatile TorFloor system for areas like the kitchen, toilets and other parts of the church. Across all of the 10 zones which are fed from four multi-port manifolds measuring up to 920mm wide, the circuits are designed for a flow temperature of 55 C to give a return temperature of 48 C in order to maximise the performance of the condensing boiler.

The pipe spacing within the TorFloor panels is again 150mm, while the routed channels are covered by a temper aluminium foil diffuser layer to optimise output. Importantly, the TorFloor panels combine the ability to span upper storey joists or battens fitted across a ground level slab, to provide high efficiency underfloor heating and a structural deck in a single product. Thus saving both time and money on installation, while avoiding the need for separate particleboard or other flooring panels. This makes TorFloor an ideal solution for use in either new-build or refurbishment/retrofit situations, while the high output characteristics also means it suitable for connection to OMNIE’s air source or ground source heat pumps. There is also an acoustic version of TorFloor which has been developed to cut sound transmission between different floor levels, which is ideal for multi-storey residential conversions.


The superior airtightness performance qualities of the Wraptite® air barrier system from the A. Proctor Group will enhance a new state-of-the-art development at St Dunstan’s College – a co-educational independent school in Catford, London.

Contractor Willmott Dixon will deliver the new Junior School, STEM building and Sixth Form Hub at St Dunstan’s.

Designed by Bond Bryan Architects, the new development will be sited adjacent to the existing historic Headmaster’s House and connected by a glass atrium. Phase one includes a new junior school with specialist facilities for art, music and performance, and phase two includes the construction of the STEM Centre and Sixth Form Hub.

A vital element of the design and construction is to maximise the energy efficiency of the new buildings: Wraptite airtightness membrane, the only self-adhering vapour permeable air barrier certified by the BBA, will form a crucial part of the solution.

The inclusion of Wraptite within the facade will ensure “as-designed” performance, narrowing the gap between as-designed and actual energy performance and reducing the likelihood of potential failures to meet required airtightness levels.

Wraptite is a self-adhesive breather membrane applied externally, quickly and efficiently as part of the rainscreen system. The self-adhesive Wraptite membrane fully bonds directly to the substrate, requiring no mechanical attachment and little seals or tapes to suppress air leakage around junctions or penetrations.

Wraptite combines the critical properties of vapour permeability and airtightness in one self-adhering membrane, providing high levels of protection to the building fabric beneath the cladding. As a result, the Wraptite system allows the substrate beneath to dry quickly and moisture vapour to escape and reduces the likelihood of mould, mildew, condensation, timber distortion and metal corrosion.

Wraptite is compliant with Part B regulation changes and also has BBA approval for unrestricted use in buildings over 18m in England and 11m in Scotland.


The thermal properties, structural performance and lifespan of Keystone’s standard lintels played a crucial role in the design of two bespoke modern homes in a prime coastal position in Dorset.

The neighbouring properties in the sought-after Lilliput area of Poole Harbour offer views over Parkstone Golf Club and have been designed to an exceptionally high standard. With double and triple-height ceiling voids, rooflights, high ceilings and over-sized doors, the five-bed homes have been designed by Trinity Architecture in collaboration with developer Towncourt Homes to offer residents a strong feeling of space and light. With the correct specification of lintels, a critical element of a project such as this, the design team turned to Keystone Lintels to meet their structural and thermal requirements.

Keystone provided comprehensive technical support and a fast turnaround to ensure the correct lintels were made available onsite via merchant Sydenhams. Manufactured from high quality grade pre-galvanised mild steel, Keystone’s single leaf BOX/K 100, BOX/K 75 and SK-90 lintels were specified in accommodating lengths and masonry loads to achieve the architectural vision.



The elevations of both properties are arranged to visually break up massing by the stepping up in scale from the left to the right when viewing the front elevations. The off-white render, TBS Portland Blue facing brickwork, timber horizontal boarding and aluminium power coated windows, roof and fascia helped to adjust the building mass and ensured the homes provided a positive contribution to the street scene.

Available in a variation of wall thicknesses and used for internal or external openings, Keystone’s steel lintels are specially designed with a steel plate on the underside of the lintel providing superior structural stability to avoid twisting of the lintel during installation. Keystone’s patented design enhances the structural performance of the lintel without compromising the thermal performance. The innovative thermal break plate features intermittent tabs that connect the outer leaf to the inner leaf resulting in a 90% reduction in thermal bridging. This simple yet brilliant innovation significantly reduces thermal bridging while adding vast improvements to the structural integrity of the lintel.

In an area of the Dorset coast synonymous with luxury homes, the twin homes in Liliput have made the mark architecturally with cost effective lintel solutions that meet the most complex structural requirements.




The University of Warwick’s Interdisciplinary Biomedical Research Building (IBRB) is breaking new ground in building design. The £33m facility has been constructed with a cutting-edge offsite approach featuring Kingspan Kooltherm Pipe Insulation and Kooltherm Insulated Pipe Support Inserts.

The research building, designed by Hawkins/Brown and Fairhursts Design Group, will provide world-class facilities for over 300 biomedical researchers helping to deepen our understanding of the origins and mechanistic basis of diseases of the brain and body. Working closely with the project team, which included Willmott Dixon and Hoare Lea, NG Bailey has manufactured and assembled much of the mechanical, electrical and plumbing installations at its specialist offsite facility in Bradford. This specification included the installation of over 20,000 lm of Kingspan Kooltherm Pipe Insulation and Kooltherm Insulated Pipe Support Inserts, with onsite fitout carried out by specialist contractor Insulation & Cladding Services Ltd (ICS).

The University of Warwick set a target to complete at least 50% of the building work using offsite methods. NG Bailey helped to achieve this with a bespoke, five-storey ‘megariser’, which contains all of the buildings’ primary wet and dry services. The riser was delivered to site in eight sections, greatly reducing the number of deliveries and disruption to neighbours and allowing the installation to be completed in two days compared with the 15 weeks it would have taken with traditional methods. The sections were constructed horizontally at the NG Bailey facility and were lifted and installed using a crane – cutting time spent working at height.

As with all offsite work, careful pre-design was essential to ensure the ‘megariser’ and services were aligned correctly once in-situ. The project team collaborated closely with the use of BIM technologies and this process was supported through the specification of Kingspan Kooltherm Pipe Insulation and Kooltherm Insulated Pipe Support Inserts. These products are supported with bespoke BIM objects which can be freely downloaded from www.bimstore.co.uk This allowed service engineers and designers to accurately plan and position pipework and supports. With their leading thermal performance, the products also contributed to the project’s sustainability targets.


Stefan Watson, Offsite Integration Manager, Midlands, at NG Bailey explained: “By using offsite manufacture to produce the MEP elements, we removed circa 11,000 working hours from the project and reduced deliveries by around 190 HGV vehicles. The Client set the challenge of at least 50% of the construction being delivered through offsite techniques – and this was achieved.

“This greatly reduced the carbon footprint of the project and the completed building is expected to achieve a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating. Building services play a significant part in reaching this target and we carefully developed a specification which will keep the building’s energy use to a minimum.”

Kingspan Kooltherm Pipe Insulation is one of the most thermally efficient pipe insulation materials in common use. This allowed the project team to effectively insulate the full range of pipe diameters on the project with a minimal thickness of insulation, supporting a faster, installation both in the factory and as part of the onsite work completed by ICS.
The project team also carefully addressed the risk of heat loss through pipe supports by installing Kingspan Kooltherm Insulated Pipe Support Inserts. The premium performance inserts effectively limit thermal bridging through the supports and form an effective vapour barrier. For larger diameter pipework, the inserts are supplied with a metal spreader plate which prevents insulation compression, ensuring the efficiency of the pipework is maintained over time.

The specification of the Kingspan Technical Insulation products also supported work to achieve credits within BREEAM assessment. An Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) certificate for Kingspan Kooltherm Pipe Insulation can be accessed at www.greenbooklive.com. The product is also certified as Eurofins Air Comfort Gold, recognising it as having low emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and both products are manufactured under an environmental management system which is certified to ISO 14001:2015.
With Kingspan Industrial Insulation’s free Pipeline Technical Advisory Service, which can be contacted on 0808 168 7363, clear advice and guidance can be accessed at every stage in a project.


2022 will be a ‘golden year’ for off-site manufacturing as construction becomes more efficient
Written by Des Duddy, Managing Director at Protrade 

Back in 2011, a quite astonishing feat happened. 

In China, a prefabrication business, which proclaimed itself as the world’s fastest builder, erected the 30-story T30 Tower Hotel in a little over two weeks. That same company went on to build a 57-storey building in just 19 days in 2015, doing so by completing three floors of the structure every day.

Even more recently, it may be easier for you to recall the Huoshenshan hospital that was built in Wuhan in 10 days in 2020, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

All three of the above examples were extraordinary feats of construction over the last decade, with the latter drawing fascination from across the world as millions visited sites like YouTube to watch time-lapse videos of how it was achieved.

As remarkable as they were, they are the latest in a clear line of indicators of the route our industry is inevitably heading in.

MMC (Modern Methods of Construction) and off-site manufacturing are nothing new. However, its adoption as the primary method of working across the industry has been accelerated by the need for construction to be far more efficient after a rough couple of years.

Prior to 2022, the off-site construction of buildings, building elements and structures accounts for around 2% of the total construction market. Thanks to a perfect storm, though, we’re going to see MMC and off-site manufacturing boom and those examples of construction feats I alluded to will become the norm in the years to come.

In this article, we’re going to explore why MMC and off-site manufacturing will become invaluable to the construction sector as it enters a crucial point in its journey to return to pre-pandemic levels by 2023.

The three main benefits of MMC and off-site manufacturing beyond efficiency

There are several articles out there that document the basic benefits of MMC and off-site manufacturing and so I’m not going to go over old ground.

Focusing purely on the economics, though, there is enormous investment going into it in the UK, and for good reason too.

There are three obvious benefits to the country and the economy:

  • the first is the commercial gain
  • its ability to give companies a competitive edge
  • improve the sector’s capability to meet demand after a pandemic that saw multiple projects mothballed and kicked into the long grass during 2020 and 2021.

Off-site manufacturing techniques have progressed significantly over the last few years, moving it on significantly from a time when it held a tarred reputation and was used mainly as temporary accommodation; your portacabins and the like.

Instead, what we now have are buildings and structures that are produced to incredibly high and repeatable standards, as we saw with the hospital that was built in Wuhan in just 10 days.

A word on supply shortages, raw material price inflation, and demand… it’s only going to get worse

It’s no secret that the supply shortages and lead times construction has faced over the last 18 months caused issues with projects across the country, with housing associations and local authorities grappling with limited supplies as well as soaring prices that reached a 40-year high for the industry.

For context, we received notification during October that silicone, which is contained in a lot of sealants, was due to go up 39% in price. We’d already experienced price rises of nearly 60% earlier in the year. As a business, we don’t buy steel in its raw state, but we do buy fixings manufactured from it, and they have risen by at least 25%. Channel and bracketry used in steel building systems, has gone up over 60% since January 2021. If you also look at raw materials, like polymers and monomers that go into making PVA and acrylics, they’ve shot up by more than 40%, too.

The prices we’re seeing in the market are not going to change. The shortage that is being faced isn’t going to disappear. If anything, that demand and the inflation of price is only going to increase, especially with the USA’s historic infrastructure bill, worth an eye-watering $1.2 trillion, that was passed in November by the US Senate.

This, alone, is creating a new wave of competition and demand for labour and raw materials – one that will even outweigh the problems that were faced last year.

But, the reality is Britain needs to build and construction will continue to be a vital sector for the UK economy. It’ll simply cost more. In order to combat these ongoing problems, the onus is on construction professionals to shift to a more viable option.

That obvious alternative is off-site manufacturing.

Off-site manufacturing’s influence was growing in the new build market – now it will become essential

Back in 2018, the Government laid out its plans to combat the growing housing crisis in the UK. However, since the pandemic hit, off-site manufacturing’s role has been accelerated to a point where it, in my opinion, needs to be considered essential.

A report by Savills, one of the biggest retail estate agents in the UK, showed that the proportion of new homes built using MMC was currently between 6-10%. In the new builds market, that is going to increase significantly, especially with the Homes England programme, which is aiming to make a quarter of affordable homes from MMC.

We know Lloyds Bank has the ambition to become the biggest landlord in the country and as part of their intention to buy 50,000 homes over the next decade, the likelihood is they’re going to need to build some of those properties.

As well as dealing with those ongoing supply shortages and price hikes, using traditional building methods to fulfil their needs is not commercially viable. Missing out on rental income is a huge incentive for businesses and institutions to get the homes built rapidly, and there’s no faster construction method than off-site manufacturing, which strips away the myriad of factors, like weather, site access, permissible working hours, and noise pollution, that can impact a project.

If you could purchase a plot of land and know that the house would be finished and ready to move in within four weeks, the financial savings would be significant… not to mention the huge reduction in stress levels!

Concerns over build quality are no longer relevant, with many off-site homes now offering a mortgageable 60-year warranty. Even hospitals, schools and commercial properties are looking towards modern methods of construction.

Why? Because the possibilities are endless.

A case study: How fast-food brands like McDonald’s and KFC showed the importance of MMC and off-site manufacturing

Even prior to the three examples referenced at the beginning of this article, there has been what some have called a quiet revolution taking place for some time with MMC and off-site manufacturing, one that the retail and fast food sectors have been ahead of the game on.

This approach was actually made popular by brands like McDonald’s and KFC, both of which calculated the huge sums of lost revenue caused by not having a fully finished restaurant as each day passed during the construction process.

Talking as no expert on the finances of those two businesses, let’s say, hypothetically, it’s £30,000 worth of takings per day they’re losing out on as they’re waiting for a site to be built traditionally. That equates to £210,000 per week just for one location – a huge sum to be missing out on, even for the giant brands and companies of this world.

McDonald’s, in particular, uses prefabrication technology for its units and its that method that allows that business to complete new outlets on pre-existing groundworks in just 13 hours.

Once planning permission has been granted, the time to store opening is dramatically cut, all while it is creating savings in equipment, labour, fees and other expenses associated with a large scale build. The benefits are two-fold and this rise in interest in MMC and off-site manufacturing is generating jobs and bringing new skills and diversity to the workforce.

Fast turnarounds. Quality buildings. Minimal costings and materials. Restricted loss of earnings. That keyword again: efficiency. It is to see why this method is being adopted more and more.

Where do MMC and off-site manufacturing sit in as part of your strategy?

The facts are clear.

What we know is that off-site manufacturing is much more efficient and provides more accountability and the ability to control costs. The price of raw materials is going to continue to rise and the construction industry needs to find savings in other areas.

Again, efficiency is the keyword. Using the T30 Tower hotel, the 57-storey tower, and the Huoshenshan hospital as examples, they are three projects that, ordinarily, would have taken a year or two – possibly longer – to build traditionally and would have required huge funding from the bank.

All of that has been avoided and brought huge savings.

It will be these types of savings that will help to offset rising materials and labour costs and we’re going to be seeing far more examples of projects like these in the near future as the construction sector continues to climb back to its feet.