More than 100 more tower blocks must be urgently stripped of combustible cladding panels in a significant widening of the fire safety crisis since the Grenfell Tower disaster.

High-pressure laminate (HPL) panels, often made from compressed wood and paper and used to produce colourful patterns on new buildings, should be removed “as soon as possible” from housing taller than 18 metres, the government’s expert panel on fire safety demanded on Thursday.

The order (pdf) could affect thousands of tenants and leaseholders who previously believed their homes were safe. Industry experts believe at least 100 residential tower blocks will be affected.


Delays to safety reforms ‘risk a repeat of Grenfell disaster’

It is not the first time concerns have been raised over HPL cladding. Essex University is removing the panels from a student accommodation block in Southend after it was found to be in breach of building regulations despite being signed off by a building inspector.

The announcement is likely to mean fresh rows over who should pick up the bill, with the cost of stripping and replacing cladding often exceeding £20,000 for each household. There is no sign that the government is planning a bailout.

Experts, led by Roy Wilsher, chair of the National Fire Chiefs Council, said that following fire tests it had become clear that many HPL panels were “very unlikely to adequately resist the spread of fire”.

“Building owners with these systems should immediately take action,” the fire safety panel said. “Action to remediate unsafe HPL should be carried out as soon as possible.”

HPL is widely used but the government has only recently tested it, having focused on cladding similar to the aluminium composite material (ACM) that helped spread the fire that claimed 72 lives at Grenfell.

The order applies to most forms of HPL cladding, which is categorised by fire resistance. Those below class B fire resistance should not be used, while class B, if used with combustible insulation, should also be removed. Class B, used with non-combustible insulation, had passed a fire test, the government said, and class A was considered safe.

Labour said it was a disgrace that ministers “waited until two years after Grenfell to confirm to people that they have been living in potential death traps”.

Sarah Jones, the shadow housing minister, said: “The government must immediately require building owners to check for this cladding, as they did with ACM, so we know the scale of this problem. Ministers must set a hard deadline to replace all dangerous cladding and toughen sanctions against block owners that won’t do the work.”

Work to remove ACM panels have been slow, with only a quarter of the 433 high-rise residential and publicly owned buildings identified as needing remediation having been fixed, leaving tens of thousands of people living in potentially dangerous buildings.

Householders have mounted night patrols to look out for fires. Many have described serious mental health problems and even suicidal thoughts as a result of the stress that comes from potential bills in the tens of thousands of pounds and homes plunging in value.

“We have seen the distress caused to tenants and leaseholders and that will now increase,” said Stephen Mackenzie, an independent fire safety consultant. “This could affect thousands of people. The government needs to get a grip of this.”

The government said it had always insisted it was the obligation of building owners to ensure that homes met building regulations and that materials used have undergone fire testing.

James Brokenshire, the housing secretary, said on Thursday that all buildings with ACM cladding must be fixed by June 2020 or their owners would face “enforcement action”, although he did not specify what that would be.

The new order for HPL to be removed is likely to fuel fears that further fire safety problems could yet emerge. This week Neil O’Connor, the director of the Ministry of Housing’s building safety programme, wrote to all local authority chief executives requesting that they identify the external wall materials and insulation used on every high-rise residential building over 18 metres tall in council or private ownership in their areas.

He did the same with social housing landlords and said the government “continues to consider safety risks to high-rise buildings”.

A housing ministry spokesperson said: “There should be no buildings in this country with this combination of cladding and insulation. Building owners are legally responsible for ensuring the safety of their buildings and need to make sure this is the case. They should be well aware of their responsibilities as we issued clear-cut advice in December 2017, reinforced last December, telling them to check that only safe cladding and insulation combinations had been used on their buildings.”


Source: The Guardian

A McKinsey & Co. study gives construction industry low ranking for AI adoption.

Artificial intelligence (AI) has pervaded almost every industry; however, the construction industry is failing to take advantage of this technology, according to a 2018 report by the New York-based consulting firm McKinsey & Co.

When discussing AI in the construction industry, the report’s authors cite lack of resources as the impetus holding contractors back from embracing this technology. “Despite proven high return on investment (ROI) and widespread management interest in AI solutions, few [construction] firms or owners currently have the capabilities—including the personnel, processes and tools—to implement them,” the article states.

This may begin to change, as industries adjacent to construction, such as transportation and manufacturing, continue to advance AI. Because tools and solutions used in adjacent industries can be applied to construction, the industry may be forced to evolve and begin using AI, as well. “Stakeholders across the project lifecycle—including contractors, operators, owners and service providers—can no longer afford to conceive of AI as technology that’s pertinent only to other industries,” the article states.

Current state of AI in construction

Construction is falling behind in integrating AI into the industry. In a study conducted by McKinsey, researchers found that out of 12 industries, nine ranked higher than construction in the percent of firms integrating AI into their businesses. High tech and telecommunications led the industries with almost 32 percent AI adoption, while travel and tourism ranked last with about 11 percent AI adoption. Construction’s AI adoption rate was approximately 16 percent.

AI transferred from other industries

Because AI encompasses an array of possibilities, such as natural language processing and robotics, technology that has been formulated for other industries can be applicable to construction.

Authors of the McKinsey article explain that transportation route optimization algorithms can be transferrable for construction project planning optimization. Existing technology allows transportation companies to optimize routes and improve traffic navigation, the McKinsey article states, and once reinforcement learning—learning which allows algorithms to learn based on trial and error—is applied, more efficient methods of transportation may be created. “Such technology could be directly applicable to [construction] project planning and scheduling, as it has the potential to assess endless combinations and alternatives based on similar projects, optimizing the best path and correcting themselves over time,” the article states.

Retail supply chain has utilized AI to reduce manufacturing downtime, reduce oversupply and increase predictability of shipments, the article says. In the construction industry, this technology can be applied to inventory management of off-site materials.

Robotics is an element of AI that is already being applied in construction today; however, the article explains that there are opportunities for its uses to be maximized: “For example, robotics industry researchers have successfully trained robotic arms to move by learning from simulations. In [construction], this application might someday be applied to prefabrication techniques and maintenance operations for oil and gas as well as other industrial industries.”

Machine learning algorithms

Machine learning, both supervised and unsupervised, is an element of AI. The McKinsey study looked at various business applications where machine learning may be used.

One example the article cites is that owners and contractors can use supervised learning methods to aid them in decision making. “These applications can recommend to engineers and architects the use of a specific design, such as … architectural finishes (for example, curtain walls vs. window walls) based on various criteria (for example, total cost of ownership, timeline to complete execution, likelihood of defective construction mistakes during execution). The end result is that owners and contractors have more information with which to make an informed decision,” the article says.

How leaders can take advantage of AI

Stakeholders in the construction industry may want to consider implementing AI in their companies. Because of limited resources that construction companies currently have, AI should be used in the areas where it can have the most impact and where it can be most effective. The article also suggests that construction companies dedicate a portion of their research and development funding towards improving their digital capabilities. Without sustainable digitization, AI cannot flourish. McKinsey’s research found that companies with strong digitization efforts are 50 percent more likely to generate profit from using AI. Along with this, companies should be knowledgeable about what other industries are using AI for and consider if those applications can be translated to the construction industry.

Looking forward

Although the construction industry has not yet fully embraced AI, in the future, the industry may benefit from AI’s applications. Whether it be transferring existing applications from other industries or discovering applications unique to construction, AI can help optimize opportunities and increase revenues.


Source: Construction and Demolition Recycling

An affordable housing project will see 11 one- and two-bedroom ‘pods’ built using modular technology above the Chalks Road car park in Bristol.

A scheme to build 11 low-carbon, affordable homes above a car park has been granted planning permission by Bristol City Council.

The project was proposed by housing developer ZED Pods, which specialises in the manufacture of rapid build, affordable modular homes require minimal land for construction

The firm is now planning to build nine one-bedroom and two two-bedroom ‘pods’ above the Chalks Road car park next to St George Park in Bristol. Four of the units will be let at social rent, as the company seeks to signpost a way to create affordable, low carbon housing alongside existing land use.

Once all of the relevant planning conditions have been met, ZED Pods will begin production of the pods at the Peterborough factory of its partner Lesko Modular Group.

The modular ‘pods’ that are delivered to the site will include hard fixtures, such as a kitchen including fridge/cooker/hobs and a wet room with shower, loo, and washbasin.

Advocates of modular building techniques maintain that they can deliver high quality homes quickly and in a resource, carbon, and labour efficient manner that cuts down on costs and environmental impacts.

“The ZEDPods development rethinks existing land use, demonstrating a new possibility in helping solve the housing crisis, whilst at the same time providing beautiful, low carbon housing that lasts,” said Dr Rehan Khodabuccus, operations director at ZED Pods.

“Our focus on a 100 per cent sustainable end-of-life construction solution involves an integrated roof mounted solar array, a super insulated building envelope with triple glazed windows, mechanical ventilation with heat recovery coupled with a design that gives exceptional levels of daylighting resulting in extremely low running costs.”

This project is a collaboration between Bristol Housing Festival, ZED Pods Ltd, a Bristol based Housing Association, the YMCA Bristol, Bristol and Bath Regional Capital and Bristol City Council.

“Bristol City Council’s decision to support this development is great news for Bristol,” said Jez Sweetland, Project Director for Bristol Housing Festival. “Our initial plans were for seven pods, however we are now able to provide 11 pods through this planning approval. We are excited that this Festival project is a quality, low carbon build with great sustainability credentials and we look forward to seeing the pods completed.”

Source: BusinessGreen

Design practice Studio Precht teamed up with tiny-house startup Baumbau to design Bert, a tiny modular treehouse that’s expected to hit the market in spring 2020. Inspired by the Minion films, the playful periscope-like structures eschew hard angles and offer a livable and cozy environment with a minimal footprint and off-grid capabilities, including built-in solar and a water treatment facility.

Designed as a reaction to Bauhaus-style buildings found in cities worldwide, Bert embraces diversity and natural materials rather than cold concrete and steel. Built with a wood structure with fabric-lined interiors, the Bert treehouse mimics the shape of a tree, from its rounded trunk-like body to its brown leaf-like shingles on the facade that help camouflage the building into the surroundings. Large glass openings immerse users in the forest. As a modular structure, all parts of Bert will be prefabricated in a factory and assembled on site to reduce landscape impact.

Futuristic treehouse in Arkansas is designed to inspire imagination, “We are fully aware that architecture is this serious and profound craft with a long culture and tradition,” says the design team in a press statement. “You see that when we architects find reference for our projects in art, philosophy, literature or nature. For this project, we also looked at art to find reference. But not at Michelangelo or Dali. Rather we looked at cartoon characters of Sesame Street or Minions. We took a playful look at this project and wanted to create a rather unique character than a conventional building. A quirky looking character that becomes part of the wildlife of a forest. I think this quirkiness can create feelings and emotions. And maybe these are attributes in architecture that are missing these days.”

Modeled after a tiny home, Bert offers all the basic necessities within four floors. The entrance and living space is located on the ground floor, a bedroom and sitting area on the second floor, the kitchen and dining area with a secondary bedroom on the third floor, and the bathroom on the top floor. As a modular structure, the Bert treehouse can be customized to the buyer’s specifications to “grow” taller and wider with new modules, making it an ideal choice for eco-hotel operators. The smallest Bert structure starts at 120.000€ ($136,313 USD) and is expected to hit the market early next year.


Source: Inhabitat


A joint venture between Trafford Housing Trust, L&Q and contractor Willmott Dixon using modern methods of construction is set to deliver 250 homes on a Homes England site in Preston.

The development vehicle Laurus Partnership Homes will buy the land in the Fulwood area of the Lancashire town from the government’s housing delivery agency and subject to planning consent begin building the homes later this year.

The £47m scheme on D’Urton Lane will result in a mix of two, three and four-bedroom homes, with 127 being affordable through shared ownership and affordable rent. The remaining homes will be for private sale.

Larry Gold, chief executive at Sale-headquartered Trafford Housing Trust, called for the sector to take up his organisation’s business model which he said “sees us reinvest all profits into providing more new homes and supporting wider social purpose initiatives”.

Duncan Inglis, Homes England’s head of accelerated delivery, said modern methods of construction would be used on the Preston scheme to help increase the speed of the development.

The contractor would “adopt a sub-assemblies and components approach, which includes building techniques such as the installation of pre-cast ground floors, first floor cassettes, and installing pre-formed wiring looms”, Inglis added.


Source: Housing Today


By Mark Coates

With survey results indicating that many businesses are still not working digitally, it’s time for construction and infrastructure professionals to ask themselves, Can machines help us think better?

It has now been seven decades since Alan Turing, the pioneer of modern computing and artificial intelligence, wrote, “I propose to consider the question, ‘Can machines think?’” Turing’s question has now been proven beyond doubt in many fields: In chess, the IBM supercomputer Deep Blue beat former chess grand master Garry Kasparov in 1997. In science, the HiSeq X genome-sequencing system can map tens of thousands of human genomes in a year — a task that initially took an army of scientists from 20 universities across the world more than 13 years to complete.

In the construction and infrastructure realm, professionals now need to ask these questions: “Do you believe that machines can help you to think better? Do you believe that information and data can help you to work smarter?”

What’s the Payoff?

As Michael Douglas’s character Gordon Gekko said in the 1987 film Wall Street, “The most valuable commodity I know of is information.” Since that time, the value of information has been further amplified by an explosion of data: In the first 19 years of the 21st century, we have produced more data than in the previous 5,000 years of humankind.

The most important benefit that we derive from information is insight, which helps us make better decisions for ourselves, our businesses, and the wider world. And the resulting financial impacts can be massive: For example, a British government policy paper on data highlighted that more effective sharing of data within and between organizations can unlock GBP 149 billion of operational efficiencies, and GBP 66 billion of new business and innovation opportunities, in the UK alone.

Going digital can unlock these insights and make data the new currency. One only needs to look at the USD 110 billion of sales that Google made in 2017, or the USD 55 billion in revenue Facebook recorded in 2018, to know that it is true.

Why Do We Need to Redefine Working Practices?

Despite these compelling indicators, it seems that many people in our industry do not believe that technology can help them think better, or believe but are not acting accordingly. Bentley Systems’ survey of more than 720 business professionals across Europe, North America, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, Australasia, India, China, and Southeast Asia has shown that close to half of businesses (44.3%) have limited or no insight into company or project performance. These professionals are either not collecting data, or are collecting it manually instead of digitally.

It has never been more important for businesses — and all project delivery partners — to know what is happening on their projects. With 21st century construction projects becoming ever more complex, project partners are putting more money at stake while working to achieve tighter margins.

Making errors in project delivery can kill a business. Indeed, the results of our survey come just months after one of the British government’s largest contractors, Interserve, went bankrupt following spiralling project costs. A year earlier, the global contractor Carillion collapsed after losing GBP 470 million (USD 614 million) on contracts in the Middle East and Canada, and GBP 375 million (USD 490 million) on problem contracts in the UK.

It’s clear that the stakes are very high, yet our survey shows that many construction and infrastructure businesses across the world still do not have genuine oversight and understanding of their performance on projects, or of overall business performance. This situation needs to change, for their sake and for the industry’s sake.

We See the Value, but Are Not Able to Maximize It

While our survey has highlighted that many businesses are still not working digitally, what is heartening is that almost half of those businesses with little or no insight (45.2% of total respondents) understand the importance of collecting project data; they are just failing to make the most of it by not digitizing it. These businesses really value the importance of data, as they are investing the time to collect, collate, and report the information. However, they are taking longer by not going digital. This delay costs society: With USD 5.25 trillion a year at stake, taxpayers could be on the hook for USD 740 billion.

Collaboration is another case in point. 43.5% of respondents to our survey say that they have no capability for digital collaboration, or their information is paper-based and siloed. These companies are not realizing the full benefit of collecting this data, as they are not able to analyze and share it easily with their own organization or their project partners. They cannot properly collaborate and communicate with project partners, because they are unable to effectively share their valuable information. This system significantly impairs the productivity of a project and the project partners.

The global construction consultancy Mace estimates that in ten years’ time, the world will be spending USD 5.25 trillion on infrastructure a year. However, its analysis showed that around 80% of large projects experience cost or program overruns. Unless we can improve how we deliver infrastructure projects, Mace has calculated that taxpayers around the world could be left picking up the tab for an unexpected USD 740 billion worldwide. For taxpayers in individual countries, that translates into a cost of USD 229 billion to the United States, INR 9.1 trillion to India, AUD 59 billion to Australia, and GBP 19 billion to the UK.

To Unlock the Benefits of Digital Construction, Pick the Four Ps

Our industry has overcome many challenges to get to where it is today, including the creation of tools, industrial revolutions, and the improvement of health and safety standards. Now is time for us to work together to win the battle for the industry-wide adoption of digital construction. To help, we have created a set of guidelines — “The Four Ps” — that outline the journey construction and infrastructure businesses need to take when going digital.

Prepare for it. The single largest barrier holding us back from implementing digital construction is not the technology; rather, it’s the mindset and psychology of the people working in the industry. As Nietzsche said, “The worst enemy you can meet will always be yourself.” The industry needs to challenge itself, and each one of us working in the industry must question whether our outlook and preconceptions are holding back our businesses and our industry, as well as ourselves.

The tactical objections over monetary cost, time, effort, human resources, and education can all be overcome if we are prudent and prepare our businesses for change in an orderly fashion. First of all, we must submit ourselves to the answer of the strategic question – do I believe that machines can help us think better? Once we have defeated our own objections and prepared ourselves for change, we need to prepare our businesses for going digital by defeating the objections of our colleagues and the leaders of our industry. It is crucial to get the buy-in of the entire senior leadership team to successfully instigate change.

Pilot it. Every business, and every business’s encounter with digital construction, is slightly different. To make going digital a success, first pilot the initiative among a small portion of the company on a single project, and take the time for team members to become familiar with and understand the technology.

Long-lasting, sustainable change happens slowly. Winning over a small portion of the company to new ways of working is the most effective method of enabling that change to spread throughout the organization.

Probe it. To win over advocates, we must demonstrate the benefit of going digital and probe change. We need to measure and quantify success to prove that going digital has saved team members time, made their jobs simpler, and improved their productivity.

We need to monitor and evaluate the performance of the project at frequent stages to capture progress and refine and improve our working practices. Hold open forum meetings and get people thinking collectively about the changes they are implementing; it is important for empowering team members to think and analyze how they work and to discuss whether there are any ways that they can do it better.

Showcased at Bentley’s Year in Infrastructure 2018 Conference, Infraero – Empresa Brasileira de Infraestrutura Aeroportuária, an airport operator in Brazil, needed a better way to organize its data for the fourth-largest airport in southern Brazil. For this estimated BRL 330,000 project, Infraero wanted to create a digital twin that would act as a reality mesh and a central repository for all airport data, including infrastructure, buildings, building systems, facilities, and maps and management data. With the digital twin completed in 2018, Infraero saw maintenance cost savings and improved airport operation at SBLO. The project team expects to save over BRL 559,000 per year with its digital twin, and expects to see an increase in commercial profitability and the availability of critical equipment.

Process it. To create and maximize impact across the whole organization, we need to be able to process it. We need to capture changes, understand how we achieved results, and be able to repeat them. Reviewing and improving existing organizational processes is an important part of going digital; otherwise, organizations will continue to replicate the same problems.

Adopting and embedding digital ways of working needs buy-in at all levels of a business. Organizations should develop board steering groups so that the top of the business can see and understand the benefits of going digital. Businesses should also nominate digital champions for each department and each project to ensure that processes become embedded and that the results of going digital are communicated to all team members.

Taking on Going Digital

As an industry, it is important for us to remember that a construction project is only as strong as the weakest link in the chain. Project partners who are not working digitally do not have the level of productivity, communication, and assurance necessary for 21st century project delivery. Businesses that embrace and master The Four Ps, in contrast, are setting themselves up to be at the forefront of construction over this century.

We need to challenge ourselves, our businesses, and our project partners to spread the benefits of going digital and to stop the deployment of 18th century (and even older) working practices on 21st century projects. As the former American Davis Cup captain and French Open, Australian Open, and Wimbledon champion Arthur Ashe said, “You are never really playing an opponent. You are playing yourself, your own highest standards, and when you reach your limits, that is real joy.”

Let’s take on the task of going digital. There is too much at stake for us all not to.


Source: Cadalyst




By Malcolm Thomson, sales director at Scotframe

With the UK and Scottish governments keen to tackle the housing crisis – and setting stretch targets for the number of new homes – institutional investors have pricked up their ears to the potential earnings from offsite construction.

Currently touted as the ‘wunderkind’ of offsite construction is modular or – if you are of a certain vintage – an updated prefab for the 21st century. Whichever term you prefer, modular construction means three-dimensional homes built in a factory and shipped to site almost fully made. Assembling involves fitting the modules together, connecting services and adding the finishing touches.

Several financial investments have accelerated the buzz about modular. In April Goldman Sachs dropped a cool £75m into a UK modular housing manufacturer TopHat. Then Japanese housebuilding giant Sekisui House took a 35% stake in Manchester-based Urban Splash. Most recently Places for People confirmed the purchase of 750 modular units from Ilke Homes, with financial backing from Homes England.

However, while the buzz is getting louder, it’s worth bearing in mind that the current capacity of the industry is tiny – around 8,000-10,000 homes, with fewer actually delivered. Modern methods of construction as a whole, according to the National Homes Building Council, accounts for 15-20% of new-build homes, while modular itself probably accounts for less than 5%.

There is no doubt that offsite construction is a game-changer when it comes to tackling the housing shortage, not least because of the well-documented skills shortage in the sector. However, while modular has many positives – it’s quick, easy to assemble, more energy-efficient and less reliant on good weather than traditional brick or block construction – we need to be mindful that modular will only ever be part of the solution to the housing shortage. There’s another offsite solution that offers even more benefits – timber frame construction.

Scotland leads the way in this construction model, with 83% of new build Scottish homes using timber frame, compared to just 23% in England. This is partially explained by the impressive thermal performance of timber-built houses given Scotland’s climate. Timber is also particularly attractive option for self-build, which has always played a larger role in Scotland.

According to the Structural Timber Association, the market share for timber construction is rising steadily, aided by technologies such as cross-laminated timber and insulated panel systems like those used by Scotframe in our self-build homes.

Indisputably, offsite-manufactured timber structures have low operational and maintenance costs and achieve high performance standards. And taking a ‘fabric first’ approach – where energy efficient properties are built into a building’s exterior ‘envelope’ rather than relying on add-on’s such as photo-voltaic panels or smart home gadgets – can significantly improve a building’s sustainability credentials; an overall energy reduction of up to 33 per cent over a building’s lifetime.


Cost savings are an important factor too. A timber frame solution can often be cheaper in many instances, and that’s before you factor in the significantly shorter build time.

For me, timber frame also wins over modular when it comes to aesthetics. Modular, by its very nature, has to fit together in a pre-ordained way – the properties all look the same. Timber frame properties can be constructed to specific designs and have high kerb appeal. And this also applies to large, custom-build projects where the requirement is for numerous or bespoke house types.

So while modular will certainly play a part in helping the industry deliver more homes, it is only one of many offsite solutions. While it works for short-term homes in popular city areas, the need for something more personal will usually prevail with most buyers.

So my message to my colleagues working in the house building sector is this: by all means consider modular homes as part of your offsite construction strategy. But think timber frame too, as it offers a much more attractive, versatile and cost-effective package of benefits for your future house buyers.



Source: Scottish Construction Now


The Solar Trade Association underlines current scope for action on “Groundhog Day” CCC 2019 Progress Report to Parliament


Commenting on the CCC 2019 Progress Report to Parliament STA Chief Executive Chris Hewett said;

“For four years now the Committee on Climate Change has been urging the Government to get behind the most popular and cost-effective renewables. In what is now surely a national Groundhog Day, we again fully support their calls for technology neutral auctions that provide a secure route-to-market for large-scale solar. On the publication of last year’s Progress Report we said the Government must now surely listen and act. Not only has nothing happened but the policy framework has actually gone backwards for solar.”

The STA is disappointed that there has been no progress in levelling the playing field on market access for large-scale solar, nor progress on a ‘subsidy free’ CfD. Since last year the STA has had to fight off complex and potentially costly changes to transmission balancing charges that would have further damaged the progress of subsidy-free solar schemes, which carry notable risk. The scale of the threat has been reduced, but still remains.

The CCC report also underlines the growing importance of flexibility in the electricity system, but again the STA is fighting off damaging VAT changes that can apply to new solar when it is combined with battery storage for domestic homes. After sustained campaigning by the STA the Government has published its Smart Export Guarantee policy, but has failed to enforce a fair floor price for exported power and there is currently only one market participant.

However, the economics of rooftop solar in commercial and industrial installations is now clearly attractive and the Association is championing investment in solar by the public sector, as well as by households. The STA has long urged the CCC to consider the value of rooftop solar in its analyses, given these markets dominate across most of Europe where the technology plays a major role in delivering Net Zero buildings in all climates. Solar technology also puts the power to act in the hands of a range of players, including councils, businesses and individuals, which is enhanced by synergies with battery storage, EVs and renewable heat technologies.

Chris Hewett said, “Many organisations in the UK will once again share the CCC’s deep frustration at Government inaction. However, we urge the CCC and concerned parties to look very carefully at what can be done right now with rooftop solar, which can be economically attractive and which answers their call to put people at the heart of policy design. For those that are unable to invest in rooftop solar, there are further opportunities to support new solar parks through Power Purchase Agreements and genuine green tariffs. Of course we need to see Government get its act together on climate and energy policy, but the need to act is urgent and we must not wait on them when there is so much that can be done today.”


The Solar Trade Association

Fiona Fletcher-Smith, group director development and sales at L&Q, expressed her strong concerns regarding the banking sectors apparent reluctance to provide financial funding for, in particular, offsite projects. Warning that the banks reluctance posed a serious threat to the progress of housing portfolios that featured offsite construction methods.


Speaking at this years Chartered Institute of Housing’s annual conference in Manchester, Fiona said, “We need to make sure there’s a better conversation about what’s going on with the banks, If we cannot secure debt against these portfolios then we will not make this work.”


She stressed that her own Housing Association would need to use modern methods of construction in order to meet their target of 100,000 new homes over the next ten years.


Fiona continued, “In the next few months, you will hear much more from L&Q about how MMC will be a major part of that journey.” L&Q signed a deal in February with Stewart Milne Timber Systems to deliver frames for more than 1,500 homes, demonstrating its commitment to offsite methods.


She told delagates that she believed MMC would improve the quality of new housing and sited an L&Q home build by traditional methods where sprinklers had not been connected to the water system and nor fire alarms to the electricity, thus rendering them useless, “We are putting people’s lives at risk and it’s not good enough,”


She said that although offsite manufacturing was still expensive, the improved quality could result in long-term savings. “It’s the long-term management costs that matter to us as well,” she concluded. “I see MMC as saving more over the whole life cycle of a building.”


London and Quadrant Housing Trust

Why the octogenarian engineer Max Fordham claims ventilation is the worst excess of the building industry.


Max Fordham’s house is “simple and practical” and mostly all natural.

There has long been skepticism about Passive House, or Passivhaus in the original German. Passivhaus expert Monte Paulsen listed some of the misconceptions in a Green Building Advisor article a few years ago, including “too expensive” or “too stuffy” or “too complicated” or “too rigid” or “too ugly”. But in the years since it has become clear that none of these are true, and a lot of those skeptics have been won over.

According to Jason Walsh, writing in Passive House Plus, physicist and engineer Max Fordham used to be a bit of a skeptic and critic of the Passive House concept. But he independently developed his own approach to building energy efficient buildings, and it was looking more and more like Passive house. Fordham tells Passive House Plus that ventilation is the source of “the worst excesses of the building industry.” He then goes on about one of my regular gripes, radiant underfloor heating:

In particular, once you’ve solved the ventilation problem you’ve got a building that doesn’t really need any heating. What’s happening a lot with passive houses we’re seeing built is that people are demanding things like underfloor heating… I think it’s a conservatism: people are afraid, but it’s [passive house] then being adopted and people are adding underfloor heating to the brief. That’s the worst kind of heating to have, in a way, because if you have a thermally heavy [passive] building it doesn’t actually need any heating. So, if you don’t need any heating, you’d better not put in a heating system that is difficult to control and slow to control. It may look very luxurious and nice, but you can’t really turn it off. It’s just wasting heat.

Justin Bere, architect for the house, explains a bit of Max Fordham’s conversion:

Throughout his career he has, in his own way, developed his own version of passive house. He was on the same wavelength but didn’t know about it, and in this he brought together what he was doing and what the Passive House Institute was doing, saying: ‘Were both on the same mission to fight for the planet.’

One very interesting thing about this house is that it is on three levels, and there doesn’t appear to be much of a concession to the fact that Max Fordham is in his eighties, other than the stairs do not have winders in them. Jason Walsh writes that “there is a focus on accessibility; it is possible to live entirely on the ground floor, for example, while cork flooring provides some safety against falls.” And the bathroom door on the ground floor opens outwards, but that is about it, and it is a tight ground floor suite.

But it is a very small mews site and Fordham almost seems to be treating this more as a physics experiment than a house. He tells Passive House Plus:

I’m just getting some feedback on the energy use. It’s very interesting: the top has the most glass and is getting the heat. It’s very cosy. The ground floor tends to need a little heat so I’ve just written a note that says that we need to increase the internal air flow. It’s very exciting getting some real feedback.

Readers should visit Passive House Plus for the technical details, but the house hits only .38 air changes per hour (PH limit is 0.6) and costs almost nothing to heat. It is built with natural and renewable materials including wood fibre insulation and wood cladding. There is a little electric heater coil in the Heat Recover Ventilator and a heat pump domestic hot water system.

One of the reasons that there used to be so many of the misconceptions about Passive House is that there really wasn’t a lot of experience with them. That has now changed. The builder, Bow Tie Construction, notes that some architects still don’t understand it.

Yesterday I spoke to an architect who said to me, ‘I don’t want to have to learn all this [in advance]. I want you to show me.’ One really interesting thing that comes to mind is that we try to specialise in passive house but [some] architects look at the costs and see us as too expensive or unapproachable. We’d like to see more co-operation between builders like us and architects.

When builders, engineers, architects and clients all understand what they are doing and why, most of those problems and extra costs will just disappear.


by Lloyd Alter


SOURCE: Treehugger