Kensa Utilities, a Ground Source Heat Pump infrastructure asset company, is delighted to announce that they have achieved a remarkable feat by securing two prominent awards for their groundbreaking Heat the Streets project, which was part funded by the ERDF, in a week.

At the H&V News Awards, Kensa Utilities proudly accepted the coveted Heat Pump Project of the Year accolade alongside Coastline Housing. The Heat the Streets project, a testament to Kensa’s vision, offers a blueprint for decarbonising millions of homes across the UK, including flats and terraces. It recognises how the large-scale street-by-street rollout of Ground Source Heat Pumps can be achieved through its innovative Networked Heat Pump solution, the 21st-century equivalent to the gas network.

Judges said:

“Kensa have developed a technical and commercial model that makes budgeting a cheap and simple solution for occupiers and owners alike that can solve many of the conundrums in our cities, towns, and villages. The innovative, can-do, problem-solving approach impressed all the judges, making them a clear winner. The lessons learnt from this project will act as a benchmark for future schemes across UK.”

In another momentous win, Kensa Utilities secured the Best Home Energy Project title at the prestigious Fully Charged Awards in Amsterdam. Securing these accolades highlights the success of implementing a widespread deployment of Ground Source Heat Pumps through the groundbreaking Networked Heat Pump solution.

Wouter Thijssen, Managing Director of Kensa Utilities, comments: 

“These awards are a testament to the hard work, dedication, and passion of the entire Kensa Utilities team. We are honoured to be recognised by industry leaders and peers for our commitment to sustainable heating solutions.”

By embracing renewable energy sources and implementing cutting-edge solutions, Kensa Utilities has set a new standard for environmentally conscious and economically viable heating projects. The ‘Heat the Streets’ initiative effectively decarbonised residential heating in new and existing homes throughout Cornwall. This was accomplished by linking Kensa’s highly efficient ground source heat pumps to Shared Ground Borehole Arrays, a pioneering approach involving drilling into the roads—a first in the UK.

As the demand for sustainable energy solutions rises, Kensa remains at the forefront of innovation, consistently delivering projects that meet and exceed industry standards.

To hear more about this ground-breaking project


and sign up for a free webinar from Kensa

Earlier this year, the Heat the Streets project won the

Lighthouse Heat Pump Award at the European Heat Pump Association’s 2023 Heat Pump Awards,

as well as Green Heat Project of the Year at the BusinessGreen Awards


A UK startup is about to commercialise what it claims is the world’s first autonomous robot able to locate and fix potholes.

Robotiz3d has combined artificial intelligence (AI) with advanced robotics to automate road maintenance based on patented research developed at the University of Liverpool.

The autonomous vehicle uses advanced detection and repair technologies incorporated into the AI robotics system to assess and predict the severity of cracks and seal them before they worsen.

It can analyse the geometry of potholes and collect measurement data as it operates. It is expected that once in the market, it will help local authorities to predict road conditions accurately.

The latest Asphalt Industry Alliance Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance report found that the backlog of road repairs and budget shortfall is the highest on record.

In the last financial year, local authorities spent £93.7m on reactive maintenance, such as patching and filling potholes.

Robotiz3d said official testing is underway and is making substantial progress towards commercialising its technology.

Source: Construction Management

Balfour Beatty, the international infrastructure group, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Hoban Group – a leading construction company based in South Korea aiming to create a differentiated offering through advanced designs, specialised products and customer-centered services.

The Memorandum of Understanding will see Balfour Beatty work directly with Taihan Cable and Solution Co. Ltd, a specialist cabling subsidiary of Hoban Group, on potential large-scale onshore Power Transmission and Distribution projects across the UK.

As the largest Power Transmission contractor in the UK with over a century of experience and employing c.3,000 people in the Power Transmission and Distribution sector alone, Balfour Beatty will combine its expert capability in providing secure energy with Taihan Cable and Solution Co. Ltd.’s 70 years’ experience in developing innovative cabling products.

The partnership will operate with a focus on delivering sustainable, low-carbon solutions, prioritizing Modern Methods of Construction and Building Information Modelling to drive efficiencies and productivity throughout future projects.

Chris Johnson, Chief Technology Officer at Balfour Beatty, who attended the signing event alongside Mr Kim Sun Kyu, Chairman of Hoban Group, said:

“At Balfour Beatty, our unique end-to-end capabilities means we are perfectly positioned to capitalise on the emerging UK energy market opportunities and deliver the critical national infrastructure required for the UK to achieve Net Zero by 2050.

“This latest partnership with Hoban Group is built on true collaboration and will further strengthen our ability to deliver high quality sustainable solutions for large-scale onshore Power Transmission and Distribution projects.”


Mr. Kim Sun Kyu, Chairman of Hoban Group, said

“The partnership will strengthen the strategic relationship two parties have been developing and we will deliver collaborative business models such as exchange of technical knowledge and resources.  This collaboration will assist UK Government’s Net Zero target.”

The partnership bolsters Balfour Beatty’s commitment to addressing the growing demand for clean, secure energy across the UK –  building on the company’s Memorandum of Understanding with Aker Solutions and Holtec Britain, which it signed last year.


Source: Balfour Beatty

Exploring modern methods of construction and mitigating disputes

Construction has undergone a remarkable transformation in recent years with the adoption of Modern Methods of Construction (MMC). These innovative approaches have revolutionised the construction process and introduced strategies to mitigate construction disputes. From modular construction to 3D printing, MMC techniques offer numerous benefits such as increased efficiency, sustainability, and affordability, while addressing common sources of conflicts. In this article, we delve into the exciting world of modern construction methods and explore how they can help minimise construction disputes while highlighting potential challenges.

Design and planning

Inadequate design and planning are common primary causes of construction disputes. Traditional methods often lead to misunderstandings, miscommunication, and errors during construction. However, modern methods such as Building Information Modelling (BIM) have significantly improved design and planning practices. BIM enables stakeholders to create a comprehensive virtual representation of the project, facilitating effective collaboration and reducing designrelated disputes. By identifying clashes and optimising design solutions before construction begins, BIM can minimise conflicts between parties and enhance project coordination.

While BIM has transformed information creation and dissemination, it does have drawbacks. Its effective implementation is expensive and complex, discouraging so far, its widespread adoption, especially on smaller projects and in less affluent regions. Differing levels of BIM adoption within a project team can also be an issue, as it relies on common standards and specific software and file formats. Compatibility issues and data loss may occur without adherence to these standards. Furthermore, BIM heavily relies on accurate and complete input data to generate reliable models. Flawed or incomplete data can lead to inaccuracies and rework during construction.

Local statutory requirements should also be considered when using MMC methods like modular construction. In the UK, the “Manual to the Building Regulations” published by HM Government, points out that existing approved technical guidance documents may not be applicable to MMC. Designers may need to go further to ensure compliance with Building Regulations for such structures, rather than relying solely on established guidance. Demonstrating the overall robustness of a structure can become more challenging and burdensome for designers compared to traditional methods, potentially leading to conflicting conclusions on compliance with regulations.

Enhanced quality control

Construction disputes often arise due to issues related to quality control and workmanship. Modern methods of construction, such as modular construction and prefabrication, offer controlled factory environments for manufacturing building components. These controlled conditions ensure higher quality control, leading to fewer defects and errors. By minimising the risk of poor workmanship, MMC techniques reduce the likelihood of disputes related to construction defects, delays, or noncompliance with specifications.

However, prefabrication introduces new challenges. Damage during transportation and handling is a common problem, especially with partially finished modular units containing delicate components. Offsite construction requires precise measurements and alignment of components. Any deviation from the required dimensions can result in assembly difficulties, poor fit, and compromised structural integrity. Maintaining tight manufacturing tolerances and constructing in situ elements with equal accuracy are important considerations.

Streamlined project timelines

Delays in project completion are a common source of disputes in the construction industry. Modern methods of construction, such as modular construction and prefabrication, offer significant advantages in terms of project timelines. Off-site manufacturing allows for simultaneous construction activities, reducing construction time and minimising the impact of adverse weather conditions. By accelerating project schedules, MMC techniques mitigate the risk of delays and associated disputes, promoting smoother project execution and client satisfaction. This can increase the criticality of early stage works – if, for example, off-site manufacture of modular units requires certain substructures to be in place prior to their arrival, any delays in their completion could lead to unforeseen storage and transportation costs which might not arise with traditional methods.

A further consideration is the impact that late changes may have upon production processes. Alteration of manufacturing lines can have significant implications on cost and programme, which may have been possible to resolve promptly with in situ construction. Ensuring the design is finalised well before production commences is critical.

Clearer contractual arrangements

Construction disputes often stem from ambiguous or poorly drafted contracts. However, modern construction methods have encouraged a shift towards more detailed and standardised contractual arrangements.

With MMC techniques, contracts can include specific provisions related to modular construction, 3D printing, or prefabrication, addressing potential challenges and clarifying responsibilities. Both NEC4 and FIDIC contract suites have introduced and addressed BIM protocols, as the adoption of BIM increases worldwide. Clearer contractual arrangements minimise disputes by establishing a mutual understanding of project expectations, deliverables, and risk allocation.

However, these new techniques come with new challenges that must be resolved. Methods like modular construction often require substantial costs for the contractor at an early stage of the project, which needs careful consideration. Dealing with changes can be challenging due to the lack of flexibility often associated with MMC, and managing the supply chain becomes crucial when timely delivery of components and materials is critical. Untangling liability for defects can also be complex, given the intricate contractual frameworks underlying these elements.

MMC techniques require close coordination between designers, manufacturers, and construction teams, encouraging proactive problem-solving and reducing the likelihood of disputes arising from miscommunication or lack of coordination.

Collaboration and communication

Effective collaboration and communication are vital in preventing and resolving construction disputes. MMC promotes enhanced collaboration through the use of digital technologies and platforms. BIM, for instance, fosters communication among different project teams, facilitating early identification and resolution of conflicts. Furthermore, MMC techniques require close coordination between designers, manufacturers, and construction teams, encouraging proactive problem solving and reducing the likelihood of disputes arising from miscommunication or lack of coordination.


Modern methods of construction have ushered in a new era for the construction industry, not only in terms of efficiency, sustainability, and affordable construction techniques, but also providing opportunities to mitigate construction disputes. If integrated and properly coordinated, through improved design and planning, enhanced quality control, streamlined project timelines, clearer contractual arrangements, productive collaboration, and effective alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, MMC techniques have the potential to significantly reduce the risk of conflicts arising during construction projects.

As the industry continues to embrace these innovative methods, efficiencies in construction techniques will continue to be realised – provided all stakeholders are willing to work collaboratively and embrace change.


Source: Lexology

Ayesa, a global engineering services and technology provider, announces it has secured a new contract to supervise the design and construction of a new high-speed railway line in Poland.

The works are part of the Centralny Port Komunikacyjny (CPK) project – a planned transport network set to transform Poland.

The CPK megaproject is one of Europe’s most significant transport infrastructure initiatives. It includes the construction of a brand-new airport close to the country’s capital, Warsaw, and a nationwide high-speed rail and controlled-access highway network.

The new system is scheduled to launch in 2027 and is expected to accommodate 45 million passengers, with a long-term capacity to carry over 100 million commuters.

Ayesa will be responsible for the design and supervision of a 17-kilometer section of the high-speed rail line from Łódź to Wrocław, connecting both to the new airport.

Designed to reach top speeds of 250km/h, the new line will drastically reduce current travel time and positively impact its surrounding environment with significantly reduced CO2 emissions.


Commenting on the contract win, Artur Majczak, Country Manager of Ayesa Poland, said:

“The project represents a fantastic opportunity for Ayesa to strengthen its position in Poland’s engineering services market.

“Our teams will use advanced BIM (Building Information Modeling) in the design phase to create a digital catalogue of vital physical and functional elements. We will employ the most up-to-date technology during the construction phase, which will help us adhere to the project’s strict environmental regulations.”


Luis Sanchez Carreto, Director of Transportation, EMEA & ASIA said:

  “This is a significant project for the future of the region, helping to bring efficient rail services and infrastructure to less connected areas in Europe.”

Ayesa opened its first permanent office in Poland in 2009. Since then, it has provided supervision services for over a hundred rail, road, and renewable energy infrastructure schemes.

Recent projects in the region include the construction of a new cargo terminal at Kraków John Paul II International Airport, as well as photovoltaic power stations in Budzyń, Przykona, Chotków and Konary for major clients such as EDP.

To find out more about Ayesa’s award-winning engineering work, click here.

The next generation of new build homes has been introduced by Castle Green Homes.

Combining time-honoured style and materials with modern methods and digital technology, the homebuilder has revolutionised the way its homes are built and sold.

Headquartered in St Asaph, Castle Green is currently building and selling new homes at Bridgewater View at Daresbury Garden Village, Cheshire; Brook Meadow, Penyffordd, Flintshire; Orchard Place, Thornton, Sefton; and Mayes yr Haul, St Asaph, Denbighshire.

Across all its developments, the homes combine the best of old and new, both in their design and construction. Externally they’re inspired by the architecture of the Arts & Craft era, while inside they’re designed for modern living.

The homes are built using sustainably sourced, precision-made timber frames. Around a quarter of UK homes are currently built with timber frames, but they date back to medieval and Tudor times.

“Modern timber frames offer a fast, reliable method of building, with lower CO2 created than conventional building methods,” Stuart Andrew, design & planning director at Castle Green Homes, said. “Effectively, the timber frame system replaces the block work in the construction of our homes. The properties still look the same, with the advantage that build times are reduced, so our customer can move sooner. Plus, because timber framed homes are engineered to have lower air permeability and are generously insulated, this reduces the amount of energy needed to heat the home, making them potentially cheaper to run.”

Castle Green’s homes achieve an Energy Performance Certificate rating of A or B, making them among the most energy efficient available. Kitchens are fitted with energy efficient appliances. Eco labelled white goods such as dishwashers/ washing machines are provided or encouraged, all to A level rating.

The energy efficiency of a new Castle Green home increases the finance options available to our purchasers.

Sales and marketing director Caryl Russell said: “Research from the Home Builders’ Federation suggests those who live in a new house could save £2,200 a year on their energy bills*. The HBF found that new homes are 55% cheaper to run than older properties and predicts that when the Future Homes Standard come into effect energy bills for the average new build property will be 70% cheaper than their older counterparts. But it’s not just lower energy bills that our homeowners can enjoy.”

Caryl added:

“Homes with an EPC rating of B and above qualify to be purchased using green mortgages. Lenders tend to offer a lower rate with a green mortgage compared with a standard mortgage. This means that our homeowners can potentially enjoy long term savings on their monthly mortgage repayments. We can put buyers in contact with mortgage specialists who will help them understand the options available to them.”

Buyers at Maes yr Haul could find they have even more options available as selected homes there qualify for Help to Buy – Wales.

Designed to make homeownership easier to afford, Help to Buy – Wales is exclusive to new homes priced up to £300,000**. The Welsh Government scheme is only available with homes with an EPC B rating and above.

To purchase a home using Help to Buy – Wales, customers should only need a 5% deposit and 75% mortgage. The remaining 20% is covered by an equity loan, which is interest free for five years.

Further  research by the HBF suggests it costs more than £70,000 to bring a three-bedroom semi-detached home up to the same standard of a new build equivalent.

“The financial cost doesn’t take into account the time or the emotional investment renovating an older property requires including sourcing trades and finding suppliers,” Caryl said.

“Buy a new Castle Green home and you can select from a wide range of standard and upgrade options to customise it to your personal taste, then sit back while we take care of the hard work.”

Castle Green has revolutionised the home-buying journey with Willow, a digital new homes assistant. The innovative system has earned awards including the digital transformation category of the Marketing Week Awards and the best use of marketing technology category of the Construction Marketing Awards.

“Willow is industry-leading, providing our homeowners with a digital new homes assistant to support them throughout their homebuying journey and beyond,” Caryl added.

“Developments and homes can be favourited and compared to help you make the right decision for you and your family.  All documents relating to the purchase of your home will be completed and stored online, meaning you won’t have to worry about keeping them safe.”

Willow can be used to customise your Castle Green home by selecting choices wherever and whenever you want, including making payment for extras. There’s the ability to live “chat” with customer care and sales teams and to watch the 10-step progress of your home being built.

Caryl said:

“We have an extensive range of options available to our homeowners, subject to build stage and Willow gives them the ability to see and compare the various choices. We don’t simply offer computer generated images of what a house type looks like, we provide customers with a digital twin of their new home so they can see exactly what their specification choices will look like in their new home.”

Source: Business Wales

Britain’s Octopus Energy said on Friday its renewables investing arm had launched a dedicated fund with Japan’s Tokyo Gas (9531.T) to invest 3 billion pounds ($3.7 billion) in offshore wind projects by 2030.

The Octopus Energy Offshore Wind fund, set up with a 190 million pound cornerstone investment from Tokyo Gas, will invest in offshore wind farms as well as companies creating new offshore wind capacity, with a focus on Europe, Octopus said.

The fund will look at both traditional offshore wind turbines and floating turbines.

“The potential to make a positive impact, boost energy security and reduce fossil fuels dependence is massive with offshore wind,” said Octopus Energy Generation Chief Executive Zoisa North-Bond.

Octopus Energy Generation has said it plans to invest $20 billion in offshore wind by 2030, with an aim to boost energy security and reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

New technology helps create sustainable spaces

New technological developments within the architecture and construction industry are allowing Gloucester-based Roberts Limbrick to create more sustainable buildings than ever.

Roberts Limbrick is a practice that focuses on sustainability. It believes good environmental design can improve user experience and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and whole lifecycle cost. These elements are considered a holistic part of the design process and Roberts Limbrick collaborates with specialists to ensure its buildings are well designed and comfortable.

Joe Roberts

Joe Roberts, director, said: “Set in the context of a climate emergency, sustainability is a fundamental factor of design and business in the 21st century. As a practice, we believe it is time for architects to step up and take greater responsibility for the spaces we live, work and socialise in. We continue to embed sustainability at the heart of our business activities and seek to create buildings that are both sustainable and improve people’s lives.”

Working in this way means as many sustainable elements as possible are put into designs, employing technology and techniques aimed at enhancing energy efficiency and resource conservation. Technology such as rainwater collection, air source heat pumps and HVAC systems have been popular client requests, giving the practice a wealth of experience incorporating these systems into its designs.

Careful use of space is just as important, and Roberts Limbrick implements this through strategies such as green roofs in projects like Cirencester College’s Gloucestershire Applied Digital Skills Centre and the Hartcliffe apartment buildings in Bristol.

BREEAM is one of the leading sustainable standards within architecture, with ratings from Outstanding to Acceptable. To date, Roberts Limbrick has been involved with many buildings which have strong environmental credentials. These include buildings that have BREEAM Outstanding, Excellent and Very Good ratings. The firm’s own offices were designed to achieve BREEAM Excellent.

Spirax-Sarco Engineering plc

Roberts Limbrick was appointed to replace the current extension at Spirax-Sarco Engineering plc’s Group HQ with a contemporary, four-storey headquarters office that remained sympathetic to the adjoining Grade II listed building and was fully in line with the group’s One Planet: Engineering with Purpose sustainability objectives.

The firm strived to make the design as sustainable as possible, and the building has been accredited with BREEAM Outstanding at design stage. This rating recognises the top 0.5% of sustainable new builds and is the highest rating BREEAM offers. An energy-efficient building will be achieved with features such as solar glass, heat pump technology, photo voltaic array and materials reused from the demolished structure.

The redevelopment of the building offers an opportunity to enhance the outdoor space and create a haven for nature to thrive, in line with the group’s focus on biodiversity. New trees, planting beds and a wildflower garden will also help to improve the biodiversity of the site. Further ecological enhancements will include a wildlife pond, bat and bird boxes, hibernacula and an insect hotel.

Carnival Leisure Centre

Sustainability in the sport and leisure industry is of great importance. Creating a sustainable building provides users of the facilities with a more positive and uplifting environment.

The client for Carnival Leisure Centre was Wokingham Borough Council, which prepared a climate emergency action plan in 2019, prompting Roberts Limbrick’s involvement in the project.

Roberts Limbrick was appointed for its specialist sport and leisure experience and to make sure the project stayed on track. The firm redesigned and delivered an accessible and inclusive leisure centre, which met and exceeded Sport England design guidance, while retaining the sport, leisure, library and community facilities, working with Pellikaan Construction.

Sustainable features, such as photovoltaic panels and air source heat pumps, were incorporated and the thermal fabric was significantly improved. This saw an 87% reduction in CO2/ m2 in operation. The building is one of the country’s most energy-efficient leisure centres and received a BREEAM Very Good rating.

Carnival Leisure Centre

Forest of Dean Campus

Educational facilities are one of the most vital places to implement sustainable architecture. Making sure sustainability is at the forefront of students’ minds while they are learning, through the architecture around them, can help shape sustainable futures.

Roberts Limbrick was brought in by Gloucestershire College to design a new, highly sustainable campus for the Forest of Dean. The college required flexible, futureproof facilities, which could be shared by students and the community.

The building is situated on a site of national ecological importance populated by bats, newts and dormice. This meant that every stage of development needed to be extremely sensitive to the surroundings and, through targeted consultation and working with ecologists, Roberts Limbrick reduced the ecological impact of the campus on the site.

The sustainable building design is orientated to provide high levels of natural light and uses the existing site contours to minimise the impact of the facility on the landscape. It incorporates brown and green roofs to provide habitats for wildlife, along with greywater rainwater harvesting and roof-mounted solar panels.


Roberts Limbrick has been placing a huge focus on sustainability within architecture for many years. The firm’s architects understand the importance of looking towards the future when designing.


Source: Punchline

How Australia’s prefab industry can help the housing crisis

Prefabrication is a practical solution to meet Victoria’s urgent housing needs by providing speedy and cost-efficient dwellings

The Victorian government’s recent announcement that it’s aiming to build 800,000 new houses in a decade might seem very ambitious, but it aims to address a very serious problem.

Housing supply in Australia has not kept up with demand. There’s a national shortfall of housing, increasing interest rates which are creating significant levels of mortgage stress, spiralling rental prices and the large number of people now priced out of the housing market.

All of these factors are contributing to what’s now being described as a national housing crisis.

But could prefabricated modular construction – which basically involves producing standardised components or the whole of a structure in an off-site factory, then assembling them on-site – become a key part of the solution.

Our team sat down to look at some of the key issues and how prefab might help.

Dr Tharaka Gunawardena: How could prefab help tackle Australia’s housing crisis?

Due to the diminishing availability of skilled labour and the demand for quicker construction, prefab is fast becoming a necessity more than an option.

While providing the means to build houses with speed but with a reduced labour load, prefab can offer many more advantages.

It can allow construction with minimum on-site congestion, waste generation and pollution by moving away from a labour-oriented onsite operation to a more process-oriented offsite manufacturing and assembly process.

The fact that prefab units, especially volumetric modules (where the whole structure including finishes and fittings are manufactured offsite as modules), can be removed from the main structure for future reuse, relocation or repurposing is also a boon. This reusability contributes significantly to prefab buildings having a much lower life cycle energy.

Construction can also start earlier because prefab panels or modules can be manufactured in the factory while the onsite preparation and foundations works get underway.

Financially, investors in housing projects can start generating revenue much earlier and the construction process itself is significantly less vulnerable to adverse weather, which means projects are finished faster.

At the same time, advanced mass customisation methods in design and manufacturing allows architecturally unique housing designs to be built while allowing for mass manufacturing.

In all areas, prefab is a more than capable option in building high-quality dwellings in a short period of time.

Joyce Ferng: Does Australia’s prefab industry have the capacity to match the government’s housing ambitions?

Victoria’s housing goals align well with the PrefabAUS Prefabrication Industry Roadmap for 2023-2033, setting the stage for substantial economic benefits and cost savings associated with Smart Building, which aims to decrease construction time frames and waste while increasing quality, productivity and affordability.

The roadmap projects that Australia could earn an annual benefit of $AU9 billion by 2033, driven by the efficiency of Smart Building practices and prefabrication.

In the short term, prefabrication is a practical solution to meet Victoria’s pressing housing needs. Its ability to provide speedy and cost-efficient housing makes it a strong choice for the demands of both single dwellings and multi-residential buildings.

One piece of analysis points to Melbourne’s potential for 230,000 granny flats, a fast-track solution to housing shortages, thanks to prefabrication and the flexibility it offers in navigating town planning regulations.

This current surge in housing demand is a catalyst for elevating the prefab industry’s capacity and capabilities, from single dwellings to customised complex multi-residential buildings.But there also is the critical need for strategic initiatives and robust partnerships to provide a foundation for this burgeoning industry – providing answers to housing affordability, climate resilience and carbon reduction through energy-efficient design.

Professor Tuan Ngo: Is the current regulatory framework supportive enough to fast track this many houses this fast?

There is an urgent need for more comprehensive standards and guidelines for the design of prefabricated housing.

The importance of a reliable design approach for modular structures cannot be overstated, as an unsuitable design can significantly impact both project costs and timelines.

Currently, traditional ‘limit state design’ criteria, which includes stability, strength and serviceability, are the prevailing design practice for modular buildings. But the absence of comprehensive design guidelines for prefabricated modular buildings can mean these techniques, even when using innovative materials, fall short of expectations.

To ensure a safe and robust design, the design loads (like the dead weight of the structure, the weight of occupants and finishes, and other attachments or fittings) of any structure must take into account all potential circumstances. The design loads in modular construction are different from those in traditional construction because of their unique loading characteristics (owing to the transportation, lifting and handling stages of a prefab installation).

The construction process itself requires distinct infrastructure – demanding careful consideration of factors like geometric inaccuracies and installation procedures.

Offsite construction requires a highly detailed design at the early stages. This means the design requirements for modular buildings are significantly different from those of conventional structures.

But the current design of modular buildings mainly relies on a conventional design system and lacks the necessary design guidelines – so it’s imperative to establish and implement suitable design guidelines for modular prefabricated housing.

Professor Shan Kumar: Is prefab cost effective in the medium to high rise and multi-residential market?

If it’s well coordinated (by engineers, architects and prefab manufacturers), uses appropriate materials (timber, steel, concrete and other sustainable composites) and smartly executed by skilled prefab-modular contractors, then prefab construction will certainly deliver a cost effective, quality home on time.

More of these projects in the pipeline would encourage prefab contractors to invest in research and development, which in turn, would help achieve simple, smarter, innovative modern methods of construction.

To bring more building contractors into this prefab-modular construction space, there must be a mandatory skills requirement.

Government-initiated grants for research and development as well as low interest bank loans and tax credit initiatives for setting up prefab manufacturing factories would help create interest and reduce barriers to entry.

In terms of regulatory requirements, they must be made easy to make this smart construction a viable alternative to building affordable homes – not just in mid to high-rise apartments, but also in single dwellings and unit developments.

Upskilling the prefab-modular industry, which should start at the student undergraduate level, is the key to successfully getting the required number of affordable home projects completed on time.

Professor Priyan Mendis: In terms of research and development, has there been enough investment to allow these kind of rapid solutions for the housing crisis?

There is a genuine need for more investment into the research and development of modern methods of construction, with prefab as the base.

This need is real – both from the construction industry and academia.

The University’s Centre for Advanced Manufacturing of Prefabricated Housing (CAMPH) which, for five years, worked in strong collaboration with industry pioneers continues to disseminate its knowledge and expertise long after its conclusion.

However, many more areas – like advanced and sustainable materials, factory automation, robotics, financing and value chain issues – still need further development.

Unfortunately, recent trends in government funding have seen less and less attention given to research and development in the construction sector.

The urgent need to solve the housing crisis demands a more significant commitment in government funding to ensure that higher quality housing solutions are provided for future Australian homeowners.

Source: The University of Melbourne

Miranda Lepri details the Cavendish Laboratory’s role in the future of space-based solar power

As crazy as it may seem, the possibility of launching solar farms in space is becoming more science than fiction. As of this June, the University of Cambridge is one of eight institutions to receive grant funding from the UK government’s Space Based Solar Power Innovation Competition. The competition is part of the Net Zero Innovation Portfolio, which allocates funding to the development of low-carbon or renewable technologies and systems in order to realise the set goal of net zero emissions by the year 2050.

While solar energy has long been floated as a potential alternative to combustibles, several factors have stood in the way of its viability in eclipsing carbon-based fuel as a major energy source. For one thing, solar panels on Earth, particularly residential cells, often operate at somewhere between 17% and 20% efficiency, with the most advanced recent developments reaching closer to 50%. This is due to a variety of factors, not least including variations in weather conditions and limited daylight hours.

None of these would be factors in space, where a satellite in geostationary orbit about 36,000km above the Earth’s surface could continuously generate energy close to 24 hours a day. While most mid-sized solar plants, which includes all solar farms in the UK, cap out annual production in megawatts, space-based solar plants would easily deal in gigawatts – for context, one gigawatt (GW) is equivalent to 1,000 megawatts, and a potential 10GW annual generation capacity would account for ¼ of the UK’s net electricity consumption. Space solar farms would also greatly reduce the sheer amount of land required to generate solar power, with the UK’s largest solar farm inhabiting over 250 acres for a mere 72.2-megawatt maximum output.

When considered in these terms, space-based solar farms seem too good to be true. The technology is not without its downsides though, chief among them the longevity of the hardware in space, an environment which presents accessibility issues, as well as potentially prohibitive costs, when considering potential repairs. This is where the new research out of Cambridge comesin.

In partnership with programs at the University of Southampton and IQE PLC, a British company dealing in cutting-edge semiconductors, Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory is developing lightweight solar panels that will not deteriorate in the face of high levels of solar radiation. Louise Hirst, Professor of Material Physics at the University, and her team are currently working on the production of concentrator photovoltaic devices – solar technology that converts light into electrical energy – that are able to resist deterioration from radiation due to their ultra-thin nature and the implementation of integrated light management technology.

The ultra-thin solar cells resist degradation better than their thicker counterparts, as the charged particles carrying solar energy travel a shorter distance across the cell, offering fewer opportunities for the particles to strike, and thus degrade, the solar panel’s crystal structure. While thinner cells do have higher transmission losses, the addition of internal light management structures, such as textured, reflective surfaces within the solar cell, would help to optimise the solar panels’ energy production. The team will also apply a thin film coating to the prototypes, allowing the device to regulate its temperature by releasing excess heat into space.

Professor Hirst’s team is also working to minimise the costs of this new technology, enabling what Hirst described in a University press release as “a complete, technically feasible, robust, and relatively inexpensive solution for generating power from space”. The general decreasing trend in the cost of launching heavy cargoes into orbit will also ease the start-up cost of space-based solar farms in the coming years.

The potential for energy generation in space seems highly promising. This raises the question, though – how will this energy be transported back to Earth? The answer is, shockingly enough, microwaves. That’s right – the same science that heats up your pot ramen could transport gigawatts of solar energy from orbit to the Earth’s surface. Just this year, researchers at Caltech launched a prototype spacecraft and successfully transmitted solar power to Earth through the use of microwave technology.

To justify the costs of space-based solar farms, this technology must become highly efficient, rather than merely technologically viable, by retaining a significant portion of the energy generated in the transfer. This technology will need to develop alongside Hirst and her team’s lightweight panels in order to make space-based solar power a feasible source of renewable energy. The technology may not be ready to launch tomorrow, but for a 24-hour completely renewable energy source, with little to no carbon footprint here on Earth? We’re willing to wait.


Source: Varsity