For Graham Grant, CEO of Bentley-owned software company Seequent, geothermal energy, beyond its application for heating, provides the perfect setting upon which industry, from vegetable farming to steel making, can thrive.

Grant, a presenter and panellist at the Bentley Year in Infrastructure and Going Digital Awards hosted in Singapore, spoke both on the critical minerals crisis, as well as the massive untapped role geothermal energy can play in industry, likening the Earth and its heat to “the world’s largest power station.”

Directing audience members to look down at their shoes, Grant illustrated how what was actually being looked at was this theoretical and literal power station: “The centre of the Earth is the same heat as the sun. It’s 6,500km (down), which means that the Earth is a huge, big battery. It’s a massive power station to be exploited.”

This innate heat, energy generated from underground, is geothermal energy, which Grant explained is “interesting in that it’s a base load source of power and any reliable grid in the world needs baseload power.

“Not only is it baseload, it’s also surge power – you can take a geothermal power station, turn it up, turn it down and use it to baseload capacity manage a power network.”

Low heat exhaust pipes

Geothermal energy is high temperature and generates electricity, but Grant added that another facet of geothermal comes from the potential of resulting low temperature heat from geothermal power plants.

Likening it to the example of a car’s exhaust pipe, Grant said: “If you think about the exhaust pipe on your car what comes out the back of the plant is low temperature heat  which can be used for heating, as opposed to electricity production.”

To demonstrate, he cited the use case of Paris, France, which has seen approximately 2 million people heat their households from water sourced from below the ground.

“For the last 30 years, they’ve been tapping aquifers 2,000 meters down and pulling 60°C water to the surface and heating the city.

“Just on the other side of Singapore Island, at Sembawang, they’ve been drilling 1,000 meters down and NTU (Nanyang Technological University) has been running a research project to pull hot water from underneath Singapore and use it for cooling.”

However, added grant, the value case for geothermal goes beyond the surface value of household heating – it provides the foundation upon which industry can built.

“Geothermal is more than electricity and it’s more than heat, because around that heat you can build an industrial ecosystem.

“If we take New Zealand as an example – where the base load power is used for Microsoft’s new data centre, which is 100% renewable energy, it’s used for steel-making – that exhaust heat is used for a whole bunch of things.

“It’s used for milk drying, which is New Zealand’s largest export industry. It’s used for vegetable production, for heating hot houses. We’re a pretty cold country in the Winter, but we can produce these amazing, high-quality vegetables all year round.

“In fact, Contact Energy, who is a Founders Award winner this year at the Bentley Going Digital show, supports timber drying, the development of biofuels, but they are also developing the first industrial park that’s been commissioned by First Nations people in New Zealand to encourage the development of businesses that will use low-cost secondary heat that comes off the back of the geothermal power plant.

“So that creates a whole industrial and community ecosystem around that heat.”

Understanding the underground

According to Grant, to best optimise the use of geothermal energy for industry, understanding its nature will be of key importance.

“To do all of this, you need extremely powerful technology to understand the underground and you need to unlock this concept of digital insight that helps drive this level of sophistication.”

Grant related this to the work of Seequent, which creates and integrates earth modelling and geo-data management software.

“Understanding the underground was a concept related not only to geothermal but across energy sources.”

Supply side interlock

Specifically, Grant referenced the idea of a “supply and demand” interlock that both industry and politics have been battling.

“New forms of energy are heavily metal-consumptive and our challenge is where we are going to find the resources we need for the energy transition.”

Citing the mineral consumption by clean tech such as lithium-ion batteries, which are forecast to increase five times over in the next nine years, and offshore wind turbines, Grant stated that, as we continue to use this tech, demand for its metal has been continuing to exponentially increase.

Citing data from the International Energy Agency, he compared the mineral demand stemming from offshore renewable energy and gas-fired power generation.

Although renewables are clearly the way to go, he states, when generating the same amount of power, the latter uses nearly 13 times less the amount of minerals.

“We’re generating this supply and demand interlock and a timing problem where, for example, the factory that makes those batteries can now be constructed in under a year but the mine to supply them will now take between 15 and 20 years to build.

“Governments are waking up to supply side problem, to the demand side shift that we’re creating, and now the issue of critical minerals supply is on the national agenda of almost every government in the world.”

Source: Power Engineering International

  • The Prime Minister’s AI Safety Summit at Bletchley Park in early November is an opportunity for the UK to take the lead on AI regulation and signal its openness to industries and sectors developing the next generation of AI
  • While sci-fi narratives about the destructive potential of AI are popular, they are overblown
  • Ahead of the summit, a new report from the Centre for Policy Studies calls for the government to take a ‘grown-up and proportionate attitude’ towards AI regulation to maximise opportunity and minimise risk
  • ‘Regulating Artificial Intelligence: The Risks and Opportunities’ recommends the introduction of a safety charter and prediction markets as consumer-friendly solutions to improving AI safety and alleviating public concern

Far from being the ominous tool of destruction of science-fiction films, AI already exists in many parts of our everyday life – from weather forecasts to our social media feeds. It is welcome that the Prime Minister is seeking to position the UK as a key player in the future of AI – but a new report argues that his AI Safety Summit at Bletchley Park must focus on a small number of targeted interventions to support safe use, not strangle future development before it happens.

‘Regulating Artificial Intelligence: The Risks and Opportunities’, written by CPS Head of Tech and Innovation Matthew Feeney, sets out the current state of AI, highlighting current uses of the technology and dispelling some horror stories about its future.

The report also outlines a ‘Blueprint for Bletchley’, warning that over-regulating new and emerging uses for AI could stifle innovation and damage the Prime Minister’s ambition to make the UK an AI hub.

Instead the report recommends three key interventions:

  • Making AI a cross-government issue – The report endorses the Government’s view that AI should be embedded within regulators across Whitehall, to provide more tailored and sector-sensitive solutions to this emerging technology, rather than establishing a central ‘AI super-regulator’
  • Introducing safety charters – It argues that the best way to manage the risks of AI is for regulators to define the harms they are seeking to prevent and the likelihood of such harms occurring, as well as establishing a set of safety standards
  • Establishing prediction markets – Given the welter of outlandish claims about AI, establishing a set of prediction markets, supported by government, would help consumers, researchers and investors to better understand the risks and opportunities of new AI tools

The report acknowledges the potential harms that AI can cause, and the need for safety regulation, but argues these should be balanced against the huge potential benefits. It argues the UK should lead international partners, taking an approach which ‘tackles the use of technology rather than the technology itself’, for example when dealing with issues such as deepfakes.

The report also recognises the disruptive power of AI for jobs, but argues that we need to invest in helping people through the transition rather than blocking the deployment of technologies that will simply end up being introduced elsewhere.



The UK’s shift to net zero is obstructed by a long queue of renewable energy projects that have to wait years to connect to the grid, an energy firm has said.

A report from Centrica found that the UK’s existing queue for Transmission Entry Capacity (TEC) – the queue for connecting new projects to the grid – is massively oversubscribed, and the problem has become more severe in the last few years.

Some of the new energy projects are being blocked on the grounds that the developers do not even have land rights yet and haven’t applied for planning consents. The estimated size of these projects is around 62GW, or roughly one-fifth of all power generation in the queue.

Centrica CEO Chris O’Shea argues that these ‘phantom’ projects should have their construction agreements terminated if developers miss key milestones.

“In recent years, energy security has rightly moved up the agenda as countries look to secure supplies and drive the transition to net zero,” O’Shea said.

“That’s why it defies belief that the queue for new, green energy connections is blocked by phantom power projects. Not only do these ‘developers’ not have the money to develop, but many also don’t even have planning permission or land rights – they’re gambling that holding a space in the queue will make them rich.”

The report found that there are currently 371GW of projects in the queue, enough to significantly improve the UK’s energy security. But only around 114GW worth of projects have listed their connection date as before 2029 despite the plan to decarbonise the entire grid by 2035.

Around 62GW of the projects planned are only in the scoping phase, and developers may not even have secured land rights or applied for planning consent, the report said.

The queue was found to be so oversubscribed that it is having a damaging effect on outside investments that could drive the UK’s energy transition.

Ofgem is currently exploring rule changes to address queue issues that would allow the National Grid Electricity System Operator to remove projects from the queue if they miss key milestones. But it is yet to decide whether the rule change should be applied retroactively or just to new projects that are entering the queue.

The report estimates that applying the rule change to projects already in the queue could add an additional 12GW of green power to the system in the short-term, as space is created for those projects that are ready to progress.

This would be particularly beneficial while oil prices are high and energy supplies remain strained.

“The system was created for a different time, when a small number of large projects were connected each year. Our current approach is not fit for purpose and needs urgent reform,” O’Shea added.

“Thankfully Ofgem has now recognised the need for action, but every day we wait for action is costing consumers money. Urgently introducing an industry rule change and applying it to the current queue, so that existing phantom projects lose their place when they miss milestones, would show that Ofgem were helping to reduce costs for consumers, to drive the energy transition and to improve the UK’s energy security.”

Source: E&T

Image: ABB Robotics  

Porsche Consulting and ABB Robotics team up in construction sector

Porsche Consulting has signed an agreement with ABB Robotics aimed at using innovative technology to improve the manufacturing process of modular housing.

In many countries around the world, the construction sector is struggling to meet the demand for new homes. This is not just due to regulations around meeting environmental performance, but also due to shortages of labour, challenges around supply chain and the sourcing of materials, and growing costs making projects less feasible.

In Germany for instance, the country is forecast to have housing supply shortages in 35 of its cities by 2030, while in the United Kingdom, most major cities already face an acute housing shortage according to government data.

Against this backdrop, builders are investing heavily in new ways of building homes, including modular construction methods and factory-based production (as opposed to building on sites).


This is where the partnership between Porsche Consulting and ABB Robotics comes in. Focused at the intersection of the two domains, the two companies believe their joint capabilities can improve the efficiency of housing manufacturing, while making the process safe and more sustainable.

“We think there is a clear opportunity to transform the way homes are built by automating the process of manufacturing modular components,” said Marc Segura, President of ABB Robotics. “Greater, more intelligent automation is the answer to widespread labor shortages, and this collaboration will boost productivity, allow greater customization, and enable more sustainable and efficient construction practices.”


Eberhard Weiblen, Chairman of Porsche Consulting, added: “In combining ABB’s leading robotic solutions and Porsche Consulting’s knowledge in planning and running state-of-the-art factories, we want to help transform the construction industry.”

“Highly automated factories for buildings can deliver higher quality and more affordable housing. Factories also provide a safer and more hospitable working environment, as construction workers account for around 30% of workplace injuries and are four times more likely to be involved in a fatal accident in comparison to other sectors.”

“Building in a factory setting also will yield green improvements through the reduction in material wastage,” Weiblen continued.

Originating in the automotive industry under the mantle of iconic luxury car brand Porsche, Porsche Consulting is a leading management and digital consulting firm that today works across sectors. The firm has offices in Germany, Italy, France, China, Brazil, and the United States.

Source: Consultancy eu

Domus Ventilation, manufacturer of market-leading ventilation systems that save energy and improve indoor air quality, has expanded its HRXE range of Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery (MVHR) units with the launch of HRXE-ZEUS. HRXE-ZEUS has been introduced to meet ventilation requirements for large residential properties, which require a more powerful system to deliver the airflow required to meet Building Regulations Part F.


HRXE-ZEUS high performance MVHR system combines supply and extract ventilation in one system. Using an advanced heat exchanger, up to 95% of the heat typically lost in waste, stale air is efficiently recovered and used to temper the fresh air drawn into the building. The filtered, pre-warmed air is distributed to areas of the home such as living rooms and bedrooms, effectively meeting part of the heating load in energy efficient dwellings. The system features two independent fans which have full-speed control for background and boost ventilation rates.


HRXE-ZEUS comes with 100% thermal bypass which automatically activates when the air temperature reaches a pre-set level, allowing in cooler, fresh, filtered air without warming it through the heat exchanger – ideal for increasingly air tight properties that are prone to overheating in summer. The smart design of HRXE-ZEUS means there is no reduction in airflow when operating in bypass mode.


There are four HRXE-ZEUS models to choose from, available to meet different specifications and different on-site requirements, including opposite handed units and units with integral humidistat. Optimal ventilation performance is achieved when choosing models with the latter, as the sensors accurately measure air humidity and the HRXE-ZEUS’s extract speed automatically changes from background to boost as the level of humidity increases.


HRXE-ZEUS accessories include an Anti-Vibration tray which isolates the unit from the wall to reduce any low levels of vibration induced noise, condensation drain kit and, of course, replacement filters. The filters are easily replaced via the front access panel, for quick and easy maintenance.


HRXE-ZEUS joins Domus Ventilation’s existing range of MVHR systems, including HRXE-HERA which is suited to use in smaller properties of up to two/three bedrooms, and HRXE-AURA designed for homes of up to four/five bedrooms. All units are listed on the SAP Product Characteristics Database (PCDB) and come with a warranty of five years, with the first year covering parts and labour.


The HRXE range has been designed to work most efficiently when used with Domus duct systems, providing a total solution to whole house ventilation solutions for residential properties. Domus duct systems offer improved system performance through the exacting tolerances and engineered fit of the system, whereby pressure drops are minimised and air leakage virtually eliminated. Domus duct systems feature a range of unique products, including the award-winning Greenline Bend which reduces duct bend resistance by up to 60%.



Domus Ventilation has a well-deserved reputation for quality, supported by excellent technical support, from a market leading manufacturer and designer. It is well placed to offer immediate, practical solutions to Building Regulations Parts F & L.


For further information on the Domus Ventilation HRXE-Zues and MVHR appliances, CLICK HERE to email Domus Ventilation


OR HERE to visit the Domus Website



Rainscreen cladding solutions feature on many different types of property, from apartment blocks and hotels to schools and railway stations, while the build-up behind the visible panels is relied upon to ensure their performance benefits extend to far more than being a first line of defence against the weather.


With this need for multi-functionality, industry specialist SFS has developed its offering on rainscreen cladding support systems to enable architects,  design engineers and cladding contractors to achieve an installation which delivers the required thermal, structural, fire and other performance targets in a safe and economic manner.

The manufacturer’s NVELOPE range supports concealed and visible fastened systems to meet most project’s aims while SFS Thermal Solutions ensures that the crucial challenge of closing the ‘Performance Gap’ can be adequately addressed. This requires not only understanding how the system can be correctly and efficiently installed on site; it also demands precise thermal modelling of the subframe to minimise point loss thermal bridging compromising the overall energy performance of the system.

David Fraser the Business Unit Manager for SFS, explained:

“As a key aspect on many building façades across our built environment, rainscreen cladding is a key contributor to a property’s overall energy performance, including for the huge number of older buildings which must be improved if we are to meet our net zero targets. Specifiers and installers need expert guidance if project energy design standards are to be achieved in practice. Our Thermal Solutions service and dedicated project managers can assist from the concept stages through to final delivery. Although the fitting of helping hand brackets represents a point loss thermal bridge within the continuity of the insulation, having accurate thermal modelling of different components and details, including for higher performing stainless-steel brackets and the essential thermal breaks to separate them from the main structure, helps to minimise the potential for problems relating to SAP or possibly during the working life of the building.”


While the SFS bracketry is designed for speed and ease of installation, as well as to accommodate normal variations in the construction tolerances of the masonry or metal framed structure, the systems within the NVELOPE Thermal Solutions range also offer a choice of performance points and the NVS+Thermal system is certified under the Passivhaus component standard.

The NVELOPE VB and HB ranges are produced in aluminium. (NV + Thermal & HB + Thermal are also compatible with SFS Thermal Pad) Then the NVELOPE NVS and NVS+ ranges offer the far lower thermal transmittance characteristics of 316 Stainless Steel, with a non-compressible thermal pad included to achieve the optimum U-values.

For further information, call 0330 0555888

OR CLICK HERE to visit the SFS website





TRILUX Interior and Exterior Solution for Zamoyski Palace

TRILUX, a renowned leader in lighting solutions, is proud to announce its collaboration with the Zamoyski Palace in Warsaw, illuminating this rare architectural gem with cutting-edge lighting technology. The Zamoyski Palace, a neo-Renaissance masterpiece constructed between 1875 and 1877, is a testament to history, having survived the Second World War. Today, it serves as the prestigious headquarters for the Association of Polish Architects SARP.

When the Association sought a lighting partner for the extensive renovation of the palace’s underground areas and a newly created exhibition space, TRILUX emerged as the perfect ally. The historical significance of the building demanded exceptional lighting standards that seamlessly integrated with its grand architecture. Meeting this challenge head-on, TRILUX utilised LENTY track-mounted spotlights and linear luminaires with Lenticular lenses to achieve the perfect balance of energy efficiency, high-quality illumination, and architectural harmony.

The lighting solution provided by TRILUX offers low glare and an impressive colour rendering index (CRI>90), creating a pleasant ambience that accentuates the exhibits without straining visitors’ eyes. Tomasz Płuska, TRILUX Architecture Developer Manager, expressed his delight with the project’s success, stating, “The LENTY TRACK spotlights direct the light onto the exhibits, accentuating their character while bringing out the finest details in the shadows.”

The collaboration between TRILUX and SARP also transformed the basement area into an attractive exhibition space. Thanks to the technical lighting developments and thoughtful renovation, the space can now be flexibly used as a gallery for project exhibitions and SARP member meetings. The positive feedback from clients emphasises the unique atmosphere created by selecting the right LED luminaires and the superior quality of light. Agnieszka Kalinowska Soltysik, President of SARP and board member of APA Wojciechowski Architects, praised the exclusive design of the luminaires, which have now become attractive interior design elements.

Beyond the successful renovation project, TRILUX’s collaboration with SARP extended to a dazzling event. In May 2023, the Zamoyski Palace was the venue for the prestigious SARP 2023 Awards. TRILUX illuminated the palace garden for the event, showcasing its outdoor lighting range. Smart CONSTELA LED steles welcomed esteemed guests, featuring the integrated Gobo spotlight and demonstrating new possibilities of use. These were complemented by FACIELLA and SONNOS luminaires, collectively creating a magical atmosphere in the garden. Much like the award winners, the event received resounding applause, underscoring the significance of the Polish architectural scene.

TRILUX is honoured to have played a pivotal role in illuminating the Zamoyski Palace, preserving its historical charm while adding modern and sophisticated lighting solutions. The successful collaboration with SARP highlights TRILUX’s commitment to excellence in lighting design and its dedication to enhancing architectural spaces worldwide.

CLICK HERE to learn more about the TRILUX product range





The supply chain is the lifeblood for offsite and MMC construction. So how can manufacturer partnerships help drive the industry forwards? Clive Reeves, Business Development Manager – Offsite, MMC at Knauf UK & Ireland explores how manufacturers like Knauf are working to develop solutions for the industry.

300,000 new houses a year was our government’s target for levelling up the country. The results so far are a little off the mark, but the ambition remains the same. We need more houses and that target isn’t shifting despite a predicted immediate slowdown in construction output of 7%*1.  MMC and offsite manufacturing offer the potential to deliver more houses at speed and scale. Something of a remedy to the current output trajectory. However, even this specialised industry is experiencing slower than anticipated growth. The Offsite Construction Market Report – UK 2021-2025 highlights how the market for offsite housing has only grown by an estimated 6%*2.

It doesn’t paint a particularly positive picture when combined with news of modular house builders like Ilke Homes and L&G Homes going into administration. Their collapses brought about by a struggle to fill order books to match factory output and ensure a sustainable business. Further delays in planning also contributed to this struggle while also delaying the building of much needed housing.

Despite the challenges faced by all, we at Knauf firmly believe offsite and MMC methodologies offer real advantages and benefits to the industry. The solutions just come with some immediate barriers we collectively must overcome.
So where are those pain points?  Put the problems first.

Our approach at Knauf is to start by identifying where the problems or challenges are and provide solutions. Every project carries a level of challenge and offsite or MMC manufacturing is no different.  Interestingly, when we engage with offsite and MMC builders and contractors, the challenges faced are similar to those experienced in the wider industry. It’s easy to think of this different methodology as having mysterious or complex issues which require nothing short of bespoke solutions. However, when engaging with the market we tend to note three common challenges: efficiency, sustainability, and knowledge.  Improving efficiencies across the board.

Sitting at the heart of offsite manufacturing is efficiency. By moving construction into a controlled location such as a factory, supply chains can be optimised, disruptions kept to a minimum, and build times reduced. But achieving this level of optimisation is hard.  Offsite factories operate on the basis of speed and a ‘just-in-time’ principle. Large production sites need a smooth operation of products into the production line to produce modular houses out the other end. Knauf works with volumetric housebuilders to create key supply lines which ensure a steady flow of product into the production facility. Productivity and efficiency are key to a quality product being delivered to site on time.  Where Knauf can add value is in the reduction of time spent in the building process. Modular builders can’t afford to have large commercial or residential ‘modules’ sat waiting for product to dry or sections to be installed. Here, product choice can have a huge impact on the overall efficiency of that production line.

Structural components such as the Knauf ThroughWall system provide a unique, BBA Approved solution. The all-in-one system is comprised of steel framing components (SFS), internal insulation, plasterboard, external sheathing and insulation.  The ThroughWall system delivers a panelised solution using rolled steel frame to provide certified performance levels. In addition, the system allows for a range of external finishes such as rainscreen cladding or brickwork to be added in the factory or on site.  Systematic approaches are gaining traction in traditional and offsite construction. This shift is driven by the need to provide proof of compliance or performance, particularly in areas of fire safety. Systems such as ThroughWall provide this level of reassurance for contractors and housebuilders. The Knauf System Performance Warranty is an extra level of protection afforded when a systematic approach is taken.

Another area where product choice can improve lead times and efficiency is in drying times for plaster. Even with all the temperature controls available, plaster takes time to dry before it can be painted. However, one of the biggest advantages Knauf can offer is its spray plaster alternative, Knauf Ready-Mixed Airless Finish.

Knauf Airless Finishes can be applied significantly faster than traditional plaster methods. Its full potential is best realised at scale, where there are multiple rooms or units which can be plastered in a short space of time. This means more rooms can be finished at a greater pace than with traditional plastering. Combined with its reduced drying times, contractors are able to move on to the next stage far sooner.

Additionally, Airless can achieve a faster finish with less manpower needed. Whereas a large contractor might employ several sub-contractor plastering firms to complete the work, Airless Finishes can be used by smaller, more agile teams to achieve the same effect.  GIFA Flooring, a high-density screed panel provided in a tongue-and-groove interlocking flooring system, is another solution which offers similar speed and efficiency benefits. The easy-to-install, structurally stable board make it an ideal alternative to traditional wet floor screed, effectively eliminating drying times.

In addition to its benefits versus traditional chipboard, Knauf GIFA flooring’s low thermal resistance and high conductivity make it an excellent choice when paired with underfloor heating systems.  Sustainability on top of the agenda.
When engaging with offsite house builders, there is always the objective of reducing waste and consumption in the production line. There’s no set approach to achieving this, instead requiring Knauf to work with customers to identify where excess can be cut back. Whether that’s through reducing offcuts from plasterboard or minimising water usage on site, Knauf work to provide solutions which aid these objectives.  The water usage factor is one area where product choice can again make real savings. Both Knauf Airless and GIFA systems utilise significantly less water than their traditional alternatives which offer modular and offsite housebuilders an immediate saving.  In aiding housebuilders reach net zero, Knauf are making changes to their own supply chain to improve sustainability. From using more sustainable fuels in delivery fleets, to increase recycled plastic content in packaging, Knauf have set ambitious but decisive net zero goals.  Knowledge is everything.

Building volume properties at pace is a challenge to say the least. It requires a workforce which provides pin-point precision and speed to production. It also needs designs and specification skills to ensure the brief is right at the very start as once production begins, minor errors at scale can be costly.  In addressing skill issues, Knauf offers training in its MMC products to enable constructors to quickly and effectively upskill their employees. For example, Knauf offers training for the Airless product, allowing labourers to easily get to grips with the system. Whereas GIFA Flooring and Corridor 400 are both easy to assemble systems which eliminate the need for specialist knowledge.

In aiding MMC and offsite designers, Knauf has recently launched a new and improved version of Planner Suite. This online tool is a three-in-one solution for simple product and system searches, immediate supporting data and Drywall Specification Documentation. It can be used as a digital hub for data and to enable easier designs through importing Knauf products into Revit and ArchiCAD. In effect, Planner Suite gives designers the tools to not only get it right first time but manage their specification from start to finish.


Proof in partnerships.

Offsite and modular building is an innovative and growing market. Whether it replaces traditional housebuilding or not, we at Knauf believe it’s the future of construction. It shows real promise in solving our immediate housing needs and fast tracking health and education projects.  Knauf product systems and solutions are already being used by large scale modular housebuilders. Through collaboration and partnership with volume builders like Modulous, who offer a digital solution for modular construction, we’re committed to supporting the industry innovate and develop more sustainable buildings.


CLICK HERE for more information on MMC and Offsite




Ensuring airtightness is rapidly becoming a key objective for both traditional and modern methods of construction (MMC). This is driven by a number of factors including the protection of a building’s structure, thermal comfort for the occupants – and perhaps most importantly of all – energy efficiency.

It is fast approaching 2025, and compliance with the Future Homes Standard (FHS) will become mandatory. The goal of FHS is to ensure that new homes built from 2025 onwards will produce 75-80% less carbon emissions than homes constructed under the current Building Regulations.1 The Government has already updated Part F2 and Part L3 of the current Building Regulations, which came into effect in June 2022. Part F refers to new standards of ventilation and Part L highlights the airtightness requirements, minimum energy performance targets for buildings and improved minimum insulation standards required for new builds, renovations, and extensions.  With all these changes coming to play, the drive towards more sustainable building cannot be ignored. One way to improve energy efficiency, is to ensure buildings are airtight.


Demands for airtightness in buildings

Airtightness is particularly important in the design of energy-efficient homes for reasons such as reducing heat loss, protecting the building the fabric from moisture in the air and reducing air leakages (uncontrolled ventilation).   To help meet demands, MEDITE SMARTPLY offers two environmentally conscious airtight products that are suited for traditional and modern methods of construction (MMC). Firstly, SMARTPLY PROPASSIV, a structural OSB/3 panel with integrated air barrier and vapour control properties. The other, SMARTPLY SURE STEP, an airtight, tongue and groove OSB/3 panel with a high-performance and durable coating.

SMARTPLY PROPASSIV can be used for the walls and ceilings. The panel is airtight and is designed for use as internal structural sheathing on the warm side of the insulation in timber frame construction systems.SMARTPLY PROPASSIV is certified as an airtight component by the Passive House Institute and therefore contributes to comply with the air permeability requirements set out by the Passive House Institute.

For flooring and roofing, there is SMARTPLY SURE STEP. Using SURE STEP as an airtight layer for flooring or decking can contribute to sustainable building practices as well as reduce the energy consumption for heating. Its unique coating also brings improved durability during the construction phase and slip resistance to the panel in all site conditions. SMARTPLY SURE STEP is certified airtight by the Passive House Institute.  Both products can be used together to form an airtight, opaque envelope in buildings, which forms a fundamental part of the design of airtight structures.

The importance of ventilation in airtight buildings

It is estimated that people spend around 80-90% of their time indoors,4 and so without proper ventilation, airtight structures can have poor indoor air quality.  Controlled ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR) is installed to stop this and is a requirement in Passive House buildings. This involves extracting hot air from wet rooms and supplying fresh air to living and bedrooms. The fresh air is filtered and is heated by the extracted air through a heat exchanger. In very cold climate, the fresh air can be heated through ground or air heat pumps.

SMARTPLY PROPASSIV has a distinctive green coating which offers consistent vapour resistance over the entire surface eliminating the need for additional Air and Vapour Control Layout (AVCL) membranes. The vapour control layer helps to prevent the transfer of vapour through materials by humidity or temperature differences through a process known as ‘vapour diffusion.’ Essentially, stopping air and moisture from escaping outside. This is especially important when it comes to timber frame constructions, as vapour transferring trough the fabric could condensate and cause long term damages to the timber frame structure.  As an example of how engineered wood panels can dramatically reduce embodied carbon outcomes, ‘live’ assessments were carried out using SMARTPLY PROPASSIV. The panels’ airtight performance was found to reduce heat loss by up to 90% in a typical building and up to 60% in a property constructed to current building standards.5

A sustainable material

When timber is managed responsibly, it can emerge as an exceptionally sustainable construction material. SMARTPLY OSB exemplifies this sustainability ethos, as it is manufactured from FSC® certified timber sourced from fast growing pine and spruce trees. Moreover, SMARTPLY OSB utilises logs from forest thinnings or top of the trees ensuring that all wood harvested is used.   Airtightness plays a pivotal role in energy-efficient homes. MEDITE SMARTPLY offers innovative airtight products like SMARTPLY PROPASSIV and SMARTPLY SURE STEP, which not only enhance airtightness but also contribute to sustainable building practices. In an era where sustainability, energy efficiency, and compliance with stringent standards are paramount, airtightness in MMC is not just a consideration but a fundamental requirement. MEDITE SMARTPLY’s innovative solutions not only meet these demands but also contribute to a more sustainable and environmentally conscious construction industry.




CLICK HERE to learn more about SMARTPLY products and its benefits to MMC





Replacing drainage stacks in larger multiple occupancy buildings can be a challenging task. Not only could pipe fittings and connection sizes be outdated, but older buildings can also have any number of hidden surprises in store once work starts. Plus, dealing with all this must be balanced with the need to minimise disruption caused to residents. Dean Pearse, Project Manager at Polypipe Building Services explains how they use offsite manufacturing methods to help overcome these issues.

Traditional methods

In multiple occupancy buildings the traditional approach of assembling loose drainage stack components on site can mean a significant level of disruption, as this typically means a period where residents are unable to use their sinks, toilets and other facilities.   Added to this is that the older a building is, the more likely that what’s found on site differs to the original plans – if these plans are even still around. Bathrooms may have been moved or reconfigured, additional appliances may have needed extra drainage. This adds up to a range of challenges unique to each project, and the potential for time-consuming surprises if a traditional approach is taken and they are dealt with as they are encountered.

This was the case at two 11-storey tower blocks owned by Fortem and Birmingham City Council where our Advantage service carried out a complete stack replacement. Moreover, there were elderly and vulnerable residents in situ which meant installation safety, speed and efficiency was essential. It was therefore important that we tried to avoid the cutting and welding associated with on-site assembly so that disruption was kept to a minimum.

A better solution

It was recognised that prefabricating the drainage system would offer the most effective way to both minimise disruption and to work around the known changes to the layout of the tower blocks since they were built. This was completed by our Advantage team, who provided a full design and comprehensive prefabricated system that meant much less work on site cutting and welding pipework.

Initially this urgent drainage replacement had seemed straightforward to the installer given both blocks appeared very similar in layout on the original plans. However, as their team moved in to begin work on one of the blocks it became apparent that in this block there was an additional stack serving the ground floor apartments which was not on the original plans. Digging through the floors of apartments on this level to discover where this stack ran wasn’t an option, so a bespoke solution was needed which could connect the existing iron stack to the new one.

In this instance, having the system designed by us offered a further benefit in that our team was able to step in and produce bespoke pipes and fittings to accommodate the unexpected layout found on site. These were then fabricated within a very short time frame to ensure the programme of works on site wasn’t delayed.

Ease of installation

HDPE is durable and flexible enough to accommodate different diameters in pipework and height which is essential when older pipework may no longer match standard loose parts which would then need more work to address using more time on site.

HDPE is also lightweight making it easier to install and offers advantages in how it can be prefabricated as 3D printed jigs and mirror-welding offsite means connection angles can be bespoke engineered to tight tolerances to accommodate a range of fittings. In this case it ensured a safer and better-quality installation while still meeting the tight timeframe for the project.

With temporary mechanical connections at the top and bottom Terrain FUZE drainage stacks can also be made live quickly allowing residents to use their facilities, then all the branches can be capped and connected later. With this project the inlet position needed bespoke connections into the stack which can elbow differently, and the customer relied on the Advantage team to put them in the right place. The solution in this case was for them to be fabricated into two sections so they could be twisted into exactly the right position. Working with HDPE also means the pipework can be futureproofed with extra fittings for future installations as spigots with welded-on end caps can be left ready for additional appliances in the future.  Working with a manufacturer who can offer a bespoke design and prefabrication service means that live stack replacement in RMI projects like this can be completed quicker and any unexpected surprises within the drainage system are addressed within the design stage rather than in real-time at greater cost in time, materials, and disruption to residents. Offsite methods of construction also reduce the amount of skilled labour needed by contractors on site, and by reducing this burden we can help reduce supply chain issues, including labour timescales, that can impact on their project delivery.

For more information about the prefabrication options and Advantage

Service from Polypipe Building Services

call 01622 795200