A programme of testing being carried out by one of the country’s leading research universities is expected to verify the team’s early findings around the WikiHouse offsite building system – indicating that West Fraser’s SterlingOSB Zero panels offer superior performance benefits for the production of their large format blocks, beams and other components. The material’s compressive and shear strength have proved key to the successful outcomes.


WikiHouse has been developed to provide an economic and sustainable means of constructing low-rise housing and other accommodation which is straightforward to manufacture and erect.  A switch from imported plywood to UK-produced SterlingOSB Zero, which uses only renewable energy and has no added formaldehyde, is seen as increasing the successful housebuilding system’s environmental credentials.


Originally prototyped in 2011, WikiHouse is a zero-carbon building system, maintained in the UK by Open System Lab, and offers a comprehensive selection of key components which can be shared as code and produced in small local workshops, rather than a large factory.  Crucially, the WikiHouse blocks are produced to an accuracy of 0.1mm and can be rapidly assembled by a small site team, requiring none of the traditional trade skills.


WikiHouse’s Engineering Lead, Gabriele Granello, explains:


“The main idea of the system is that we are proposing these blocks – fabricated for beams, columns and other elements – that, when you join them, characterise the structural system of your house.  Up until now, we have been working with plywood but there is no UK-produced plywood, so the question for us was, could we switch and still span six or seven metres as we are now?


“We suspect it can as the way the system works is that it relies much more on the compressive and shear strength of the material, rather than its tensile strength.  We have done analytical modelling for the SterlingOSB Zero and because it is made up of myriad of non-directional strands, instead of alternately orientated plys, at a microscopic level, there is no single shear plane along which the OSB will fail.  We have already carried out some preliminary testing of the joints in isolation, where the OSB actually performed better than plywood, so now we are engaging with Imperial College in London for one of their final year Masters students to conduct a programme of full-scale experiments.”


The work at Imperial College’s laboratories is expected to continue for three months, with London-based Hub Workshop being the supply chain partner responsible for supplying the actual WikiBlocks.



The UK government has published an action plan aimed at ensuring faster delivery of large infrastructure projects such as offshore wind farms, transport links and wastewater management facilities.

“The plan we have published today demonstrates the commitment across government to ensuring the planning system supports us to improve our energy security and deliver the major transport links and essential facilities this country needs to thrive,” stated Local Government Minister Lee Rowley.

The policy paper “Nationally Significant Infrastructure: action plan for reforms to the planning process” was published by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and applies to England and Wales.

The government wants to make the planning system for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs) better, faster, greener, fairer and more resilient. It says that between 2012 and 2021, the time it took for projects to go through the NSIP process increased by 65%, from 2.6 to 4.2 years. Its ambitions to improve the infrastructure consenting process were set out in the National Infrastructure Strategy in 2020 and included in the British Energy Security Strategy in 2022.

The action plan measures include reviewing National Policy Statements (NPSs) more regularly for better clarity to make decisions. The government also plans to speed up the application process by streamlining regulations and updating guidance. A fast track process will be piloted, with powers for the Secretary of State to set shorter timelines for certain projects.

The reforms are further intended to realise better outcomes for the environment, which will involve replacing the “cumbersome” environmental assessment processes with new Environmental Outcomes Reports. Measures to embed community input and benefits earlier in the process are also planned.

The government will seek to bring forward by the spring of 2024 the key regulatory and guidance changes needed to deliver the action plan.

Industry group RenewableUK welcomed the outlined planning reforms. “In particular, it’s good to see that Ministers have listened to industry on the need for early and meaningful engagement between project developers and the statutory bodies we work with, and a commitment to scale up the resources required within the planning system to make it work more efficiently, as this will enable us to deliver critical renewable infrastructure,” said the group’s environmental policy analyst Juliette Webb.

With respect to wildlife protection and the views of local communities Webb said: “The government’s proposals make it clear that the right balance will be struck to ensure that projects will only go ahead when those safeguards have been met, and we fully support this environmentally sensitive approach.”

Energy industry trade association Energy UK said on Twitter: “We’ve long called for planning reform and look forward to working with the government over the next months as they consult on how to put these changes into practice.”



Kingspan unveils new QuadCore Lower Embodied Carbon range – QuadCore LEC


QuadCore LEC has been developed specifically to help reduce the carbon footprint of the buildings it is used on. Using comparative Lifecycle Assessment Data (LCA) data to the EN15804-A2 standard, this breakthrough in insulated panel technology demonstrates a 41% reduction* in embodied carbon in modules A1-A3 (product stage) for QuadCore AWP in a 100mm thickness. The first products in the QuadCore LEC range will be in available in Q1 2023 in the UK and Irish markets.

Further reductions in the embodied carbon of the QuadCore LEC range are expected between now and 2030 and are underpinned by the business commitment to Net Zero Carbon manufacturing by 2030, the introduction of an internal carbon charge, and the investment in H2 Green steel – a company pioneering the manufacture of steel using hydrogen instead of fossil fuels.

Mike Stenson, Head of Innovation for Kingspan Group explained “As a business we are committed to developing high performing, energy efficient, building envelope solutions that help minimise the carbon footprint of buildings over the whole life cycle. Creating products with reduced embodied carbon and enhanced potential for circularity is key to achieving this.

QuadCore is already one of the highest performing insulation technologies in terms of thermal efficiency (underpinned by a 25-year thermal warranty) which could enable higher energy and carbon savings through the operational life of the building. This is the first step on our journey to reducing the embodied carbon of our products and we anticipate some major milestones by 2030 to drive that down even further.”

The new QuadCore LEC insulated panel range will have all relevant independent testing and certification for UK & Irish markets.



*Quadcore AWP LEC LCA shows a 41% reduction in LCA modules A1 – A3 (product stage) when compared to existing Quadcore AWP LCA to the EN15804-A2 standard for a 100mm thickness. The LCAs for QuadCore KS1000RW and QuadCore Coldstore are currently going through the verification process and EPDs (Environmental Product Declarations) will be published ahead of the products launching in Q1 2023. The 41% reduction is achieved through raw material changes. When comparing modules A-C (product stage, construction process stage, use stage, end of life stage) the overall reduction is 17%.




UK: +44 (0) 1352 716100   IRE: +353 (0) 42 9698 500





In the drive towards reduced net zero, Gilberts Blackpool claims its new MFS-HR surpasses performance of anything comparable on the market for commercial and public sector applications.

Building on Gilberts’ pioneering MFS hybrid ventilation unit- the first of its kind to be developed in the UK- the combined hybrid unit can achieve up to 75% heat recovery.

The exceptional and market-leading heat recovery performance means that when employed as part of a sustainable strategy including photovoltaic arrays, MFS-HR could achieve energy negative status.

As with the original MFS and other alternative hybrid ventilation systems, MFS-HR is a stand-alone unit installed through the façade to ventilate, cool and warm the interior. Initial tests indicate each MFS-HR will provide up to 4kw heating and 2kw cooling capacity whilst still delivering a airflow rate of up to 470l/s. It could cost as little as £10/annum/zone to operate.

Manufactured by Gilberts in the UK, the whole MFS range makes optimal use of recyclable materials making it low on embodied carbon, MFS attains air leakage better than legislative requirements – 3m3/HR/m2, and a U value of less than 1W/m2/°C, all combining to further enhance the green credentials.



“When we launched the original MFS, there was nothing else like it in terms of performance,” says Gilberts Sales Director Ian Rogers. “MFS-HR will build on that, taking hybrid ventilation with heat recovery to new heights in the drive towards energy and carbon reduction and re-affirming Gilberts’ position as a technological leader.”





Architects have warned that a government-funded drive to create new homes for rough sleepers, while welcome, will not solve homelessness

Around 2,400 homeless people are due to be rehoused through the government’s Single Homelessness Accommodation Programme (SHAP), which launched last September.

The homes, which must be completed within three years, will be provided through a bidding process at the local level. The total funding available is £270 million.

London mayor Sadiq Khan said he would find housing for 800 homeless people in the capital by 2025 thanks to a £70 million slice of the funding announced last month (24 January).

The homes will be delivered by registered providers working in partnership with local authorities and are expected to target 18-to-24-year-olds. It remains unclear what form they will take, and whether they will be modular or retrofitted existing buildings.

HTA Design partner Mike De’Ath said that although this initiative would help ‘transform’ the lives of London’s rough sleepers, it would not fix the wider issues of homelessness.

‘The industry needs to take a holistic approach to ensure these homes are delivered to transform people’s lives both in the short and long term,’ he said.

‘Ultimately though, tackling homelessness goes beyond housing delivery, and the provision of shelter isn’t a silver bullet. Government funding also needs to address the socioeconomic conditions that lead to homelessness.’

De’Ath highlighted youth homelessness charity Centrepoint’s work providing 35 modular homes in Peckham, which will house people previously sleeping on the street, as an example of how the industry could collaborate using off site construction methods to solve homelessness.

Levitt Bernstein director Jo McCafferty echoed De’Ath’s call for a solution to the housing crisis that was in turn leading to people becoming homeless. She called the latest housing programme ‘only a sticking plaster’.

McCafferty told the AJ: ‘We are all elbow deep in housing and regeneration projects, where viability is worsening on a daily basis, where planning processes are delayed, where stretched programmes are jeopardising the funding that does exist, despite the admirable efforts of City Hall.

‘All of these factors are rapidly slowing the delivery of social housing when people need it the most, when the cost of living is making access to good housing even less attainable for so many, and daily life is such a struggle.’

Heather Macey, of the Architects Aware! think tank, told the AJ that any new housing needed to be provided alongside new support services – particularly for young rough sleepers, whose numbers rose during the pandemic.

She told the AJ: ‘Youth homelessness is a complex problem which has been further exasperated during the pandemic.

‘Our research has shown that the emergency accommodation currently on offer to young people is substandard, often in poorly converted buildings, and frequently with no privacy, security or space for social support.’

Macey, whose think tank has called for unused buildings in London to be turned into homeless shelters, added: ‘Purpose-built emergency shelters for young people at risk of or suffering from homelessness are barely in existence at all.

‘A lack of design guidance around this area of housing provision – as well as almost no discernible clear policy to implement these types of projects – makes their delivery an uphill struggle.’

Following the announcement, the mayor of London said: ‘We can’t do this alone, and to end rough sleeping in our capital, particularly amid the cost of living crisis, the government must intervene to prevent the circumstances that lead to people sleeping rough before thousands more are forced to face a winter on the streets.’

Under the mayor’s announcement, capital funding will be made available for homes starting construction from April 2023 and completing before March 2025.


Jo McCafferty, director, Levitt Bernstein:

Whilst entirely endorsing the mayor’s much-needed increased funding for housing for rough sleepers, and the vital work of Crisis and St Mungo’s, the SHAP is only a sticking plaster to solve a broader housing problem across the capital. This is emergency funding for the most vulnerable, not a long-term solution. Ultimately, the basis of any broader and deeper answer to our housing problems must come down to the total quantum of state funding available for social housing and easy access to these funds.

This is only a sticking plaster

We are all elbow-deep in housing and regeneration projects, where viability is worsening on a daily basis, where planning processes are delayed, where stretched programmes are jeopardising the funding that does exist, despite the admirable efforts of City Hall. All of these factors are rapidly slowing the delivery of social housing when people need it the most, when the cost of living is making access to good housing even less attainable for so many, and daily life is such a struggle.

If I sound angry, it is because I am. Very. Invest in high-quality housing for all, as crucial, vital infrastructure, and the burden on our health, social care and education systems will dramatically reduce. It is a fact. We need a government that understands this and has the moral conscience to commit to a radical, nationwide social housing programme. It is that simple.


Source: Architects Journal


Wood pieces at different stages of modification,

from natural (far right) to MOF-infused functional wood (far left)

(Credit: Gustavo Raskosky/ Rice University)


An engineered wood material that could be used in construction has been modified to capture carbon dioxide.

The reportedly energy-efficient process, which also makes the material stronger, was developed by researchers at Rice University in Texas.

Structural materials like steel or cement come at a high cost, both in money and CO2 emissions – building construction and use accounts for an estimated 40% of emissions. Developing sustainable alternatives to existing materials could help mitigate climate change and reduce emissions.

Working to address both issues at once, materials scientist Muhammad Rahman and colleagues found a way to incorporate molecules of a CO2-trapping crystalline porous material into wood.

“Wood is a sustainable, renewable structural material that we already use extensively,” Rahman said. “Our engineered wood did exhibit greater strength than normal, untreated wood.”

In the conversion process, the network of cellulose fibres that gives wood its strength is first cleared out through a process known as delignification.

“Wood is made up of three essential components: cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin,” Rahman said. “Removing the lignin is a fairly simple process that involves a two-step chemical treatment using environmentally benign substances. After removing the lignin, we use bleach or hydrogen peroxide to remove the hemicellulose.”

Next, the delignified wood is soaked in a solution containing microparticles of a metal-organic framework (MOF), known as Calgary framework 20 (CALF-20). MOFs are high-surface area sorbent materials used for their ability to adsorb CO2 molecules into their pores.

“The MOF particles easily fit into the cellulose channels and get attached to them through favourable surface interactions,” said Soumyabrata Roy, lead author on the study.

MOFs are among several nascent carbon capture technologies developed to address climate change. “Right now, there is no biodegradable, sustainable substrate for deploying carbon dioxide-sorbent materials,” Rahman said. “Our MOF-enhanced wood is an adaptable support platform for deploying sorbent in different carbon dioxide applications.”

“Many of the existing MOFs are not very stable in varying environmental conditions,” Roy added. “Some are very susceptible to moisture, and you don’t want that in a structural material.”

CALF-20, developed by University of Calgary Professor George Shimizu and colleagues, stands out in both performance and versatility under a variety of environmental conditions, Roy said.

“The manufacturing of structural materials such as metals or cement represents a significant source of industrial carbon emissions,” Rahman said. “Our process is simpler and ‘greener’, in terms of both substances used and processing byproducts.

“The next step would be to determine sequestration processes as well as a detailed economic analysis to understand the scalability and commercial viability of this material.”


Source: Institute of Mechanical Engineers

World-first solar technology is a game-changer in providing affordable clean energy to flats

  • SolShare is the world’s only technology for connecting multiple residential units within a single building to a single rooftop solar PV system
  • Wales is the first nation to implement new solar technology for housing blocks in Europe
  • Each household could benefit from savings of around 50% off their electricity bills
  • Social landlords leading the way in transition to cleaner, more affordable electricity



Allume Energy, Wales & West Housing and the Welsh Government have today announced the first installation of Allume’s SolShare technology for the UK’s housing sector, to provide clean, affordable electricity to residential flats in Cardiff.

The project has connected 24 flats to lower cost solar energy at Odet Court, with the potential to meet 55%-75% of each flat’s electricity demand. Based on the average usage of 1800kWH – 2,400 kWh for a 1-bed flat this could equate to an electricity bill saving of around 50% (between £390 to £530) a year, based on current average electricity costs in the UK of 34p/kWh. The project has been funded by the Welsh Government in association with Wales & West Housing as part of the Optimised Retrofit Programme.

SolShare is the world’s only technology for connecting multiple residential units within a single building to a single rooftop solar PV system. Until now, previous options involved installing individual solar systems into each unit – a largely unworkable solution for developers due to cost, footprint and inefficient energy utilisation. In the case of Odet Court, this would have meant installing 24 sets of panels, 24 inverters and 24 batteries.

Not only has SolShare significantly reduced the amount of hardware and footprint required, it has also reduced installation costs as compared to a typical solar system. Its ‘dynamic sharing’ capacity also delivers an improved solar utilisation of over 25%. Importantly, SolShare is suitable for retrofit projects as well as new builds, as it does not require any changes to the existing supply and metering infrastructure.

“Wales is leading the way with the installation of this new technology,” commented Jack Taylor, General Manager Europe, Allume Energy. “We hope it will serve as a template for governments and social housing providers in the UK to provide cost-effective energy efficiency upgrades to multi-unit residences. Simple and affordable solutions are available, so it’s great to see governments and housing associations embracing innovative technologies which help tackle fuel poverty and climate change.”

Climate Change Minister Julie James said: “This is an exciting first of its kind project for Wales and exactly the type of thinking we need to see within the housing sector. The decarbonisation of homes plays a big part in our journey towards a Net Zero Wales by 2050 and I look forward to following this innovative project as works progress. At a time when costs are rising, improving the energy efficiency of homes will not only help us to deal with the climate emergency but also help families through the cost of living crisis. It’s another important step in our journey towards a stronger, greener, fairer Wales.”

Joanna Davoile, Executive Director (Assets) at Wales & West Housing said: “At a time when many people are facing difficult choices of whether to heat their homes or feed themselves and their families, it is only right that we explore ways to make our homes more energy efficient for our residents where possible. In recent years we have been trialling different methods of retrofitting older homes with energy-saving technologies but one of the main challenges has been how to fit PV panels and battery systems to our apartment homes so that everyone living in the schemes could equally benefit. The SolShare system seems to be a much fairer solution as the energy generated by the building can be shared equally to help our residents to keep their electricity costs down rather than going back to the grid. We are excited to see how the technology used in the SolShare system will work for our residents.”

Caerphilly-based social enterprise, Celtic Offsite, has teamed up with one of the UK’s leading timber suppliers, Premier Forest Products, as part of their ambitious plan to develop a Welsh supply chain to reduce its carbon footprint and support the local economy.

Celtic Offsite, part of the United Welsh Group, manufactures low carbon homes by producing high quality, sustainable timber frame structures, complete with factory fitted insulation and windows, to build up to 250 low carbon homes a year.

Premier Forest Products was initially approached by Celtic Offsite to supply Oriented Strand Board (OSB) for sheathing for timber frame panels, plywood and chipboard. However, thanks to Premier’s growing product offering, they have recently started supplying roof trusses, engineered floor joists and Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL) for structural beams, taking Celtic Offsite ever closer to their goal of using Welsh suppliers for more of their manufacturing work.

Neil Robins, Managing Director of Celtic Offsite said: “We are actively committed to making the areas in which we work better and more environmentally sound. We have been certified as a Climate Positive Business by Earthly, meaning we will remove more greenhouse emissions than we produce. One of the ways that we will do this is by working with local suppliers who have a similar mindset to our own.

“We have been so impressed by the service and quality of the products supplied by Premier Forest that we have consistently increased the range of items that we order from them.”


Co-founder and CEO of Premier Forest Products Terry Edgell said: “As an organisation, we firmly believe that the use of timber should be at the forefront of sustainable housing development. At the moment, wood in construction is the only commercially viable carbon capture and storage system so, simply by using more wood in construction, we can turn our built environment into a weapon against climate change.

“It is so inspiring to be working with an organisation in Wales that not only recognises the benefits of using timber but is actively working to build a sustainable supply chain, hopefully changing the way that homes are built.”


Premier Forest Products is a vertically integrated timber operation engaged in the importation, sawmilling, processing, merchanting, and wholesale distribution of timber and timber products from its 12 sites in the UK.

As part of its commitment to the local community, Celtic Offsite offers an on-site training suite to provide skills development and apprenticeships for green construction jobs.

The factory has been awarded two prestigious International Organization for Standardization (ISO) certifications; ISO 9001 for quality management and ISO 14001 for environmental management. Celtic Offsite has also achieved PEFC certification for the chain of custody of forest-based products and were awarded Gold by the Structural Timber Association in their latest audit.

Illustrative image of nuclear fusion concept

South Oxfordshire District Council Planning Committee approves fusion energy project; construction to start this year at UKAEA’s Culham Campus.

The fusion demonstration will be built to 70 per cent scale of a commercial power plant at UKAEA’s Culham Campus. The fusion machine is expected to be commissioned in 2026 and fully operational by early 2027.

Following the resolution to grant planning permission by the South Oxfordshire District Council Planning Committee, construction of General Fusion’s demonstration at the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority’s (UKAEA) Culham Campus is expected to start this summer.

When construction of the 10,500m2 building is complete, General Fusion will lease the building from UKAEA. The company’s fusion machine is expected to be commissioned in 2026 and fully operational by early 2027.

Built to 70 per cent scale of a commercial power plant, the demonstration will create fusion conditions in a power plant-relevant environment, achieving temperatures of over 100 million degrees Celsius. This is a crucial step on the path to eventually powering homes, businesses and industry with zero-carbon fusion energy. The facility itself will not generate power.

Siting the facility at the UKAEA’s Culham Campus, part of the thriving UK Fusion Cluster, enables General Fusion to access world-leading science and engineering capabilities, such as knowledge and experience in designing, constructing and operating the record-breaking Joint European Torus. In addition, the company will benefit from the UK’s existing fusion energy supply chains.

“The UK has been a longstanding leader in fusion energy development. We are thrilled to join the Culham Campus and the UK’s Fusion Cluster, and anticipate creating 60 long-term jobs at the site,” said Greg Twinney, CEO of General Fusion. “In addition, we expect the project will generate approximately 200 jobs during construction.”

“The UKAEA welcomes this milestone as it aligns with our strategy to create clusters that accelerate innovation in fusion and related technologies, and support public-private partnerships to thrive,” said Professor Sir Ian Chapman, CEO of UKAEA. “It also builds upon our heritage of hosting major fusion facilities here at our Culham Campus.”

The building was designed by architects, AL_A, led by Stirling Prize winner Amanda Levete and Ove Arup Engineers, and has been developed to exemplary design and sustainability standards.

“Receiving planning permission is a huge milestone and testament to the close collaboration between our team, General Fusion, and the UKAEA. The building will not only be highly efficient but one that also expresses the technological optimism of fusion to solve the energy problems of the world,” said Amanda Levete, founder and principal of AL_A. “The design projects a confident message to the public about the extraordinary potential of this technology. It represents a clear shift in the relationship between environment and industry, moving from one of opposition to one of symbiosis.”

The design of the fusion demonstration facility is intended to enhance the surrounding biodiversity. The building will achieve BREEAM excellent accreditation through a mix of strategies that include reusing waste heat, natural ventilation to minimize cooling loads, as well as a large green roof and extensive photovoltaics.


Source: Built Environment Network