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Feature Eco materials for 2015

2 T-Barrier by ARC Building Solutions

1 Carbon Buster blocks by Lignacite

> All of these focus on fabric

performance over renewables introduced by the 2013 iteration of Part L – are driving a back-to-basics approach for building materials and technologies, and perhaps a greater scepticism towards solutions that sound too good to be true. “Quite often new things are untested and don’t perform as well as they should,” says architect and sustainability consultant Bill Gething, citing the example of condensation and overheating in highly insulated buildings. “Most of the time, we don’t need a new product – rather, we need to use the products we already have better.” Radical inventions may grab the headlines, but innovation is more usually a gradual process, agrees Jane Thornback, sustainability policy adviser at the Construction Products Association. “You do occasionally see a step-change, but that tends to be with the introduction of materials or processes that were developed outside construction, such as nanotechnology or BIM. But innovation is going on all the time among manufacturers, either through continuous improvement – the “men in sheds” effect – or in response to a challenge. That’s what manufacturers love.” Given the scale of the challenge ahead, that’s probably just as well... CM


Lignacite has been making masonry blocks from recycled aggregates and other waste materials for more than 60 years. In 2013, it launched the Carbon Buster, billed as “the world’s first carbon negative building block”, developed in partnership with Carbon8 Aggregates. Each block is made from more than 50% recycled aggregates, combined with carbonated aggregates derived from the by-products of waste- to-energy plants. This means that each block captures 14kg of carbon dioxide, more than is released during its manufacture and transport (up to 100 miles from the plant). So far, its biggest client has been

Hopkins Homes, which has used the blocks in around 600 homes across 30 developments in East Anglia. Contractor BAM will also be adding the Carbon Buster to its standard specification: “People have been talking about whole-life carbon impacts for a while but we’re now seeing a big upsurge in client interest,” says senior sustainability manager Jesse Putzel. “There is now often a requirement for the structure of a building to have a minimum recycled content.”

This cleverly shaped insulation product is designed to slot into the cavity between party walls in new-build housing, sealing the junction and enabling it to achieve a U-value of zero. Although T-Barrier has been available for several years, its moment came with the 2013 update to Part L of the Building Regulations. This prioritises fabric performance, and proposes a notional dwelling in which the party wall has a U-value of 0.0W/m2

K. The

closer designers get to this, the more freedom they will have elsewhere. T-Barrier is made of rock fibre mineral wool and there are versions for masonry, timber frame and steel constructions, which also provide up to four hours fire integrity and reduce sound transmission. It has already been specified by a couple of the major housebuilders, and ARC – which has a patent on the T-shape – is now in negotiations with others about a major roll-out during 2015. The company is also developing a system to provide a full fire and thermal seal between dwellings at roof level.

“Innovation is going on all the time among manufacturers, either through continuous improvement or in response to a challenge. That’s what manufacturers love”

Jane Thornback CPA

3 Recoh-vert heat exchanger by Hei-Tech

Wastewater heat recovery (WWHR) systems use the warm water that drains away as you shower to heat the cold mains water coming in, either to the water heating system or the shower itself. “It’s really hot water we need to save,” says Cath Hassell at Ech2o Consultants. “We still need to reduce our use of water full stop, but it’s recognised now that the priority is to reduce our use of hot water.” Hassell is a fan of the Recoh-vert

heat exchanger, a double-walled copper pipe fitted vertically below the shower for use with first-floor bathrooms. Warm waste water runs down the walls of the inner pipe, heating incoming mains water in the outer tube with an

efficiency of up to 65%, depending on the length of the pipe. Such systems are more suitable for

domestic use than greywater recycling, adds Hassell, as the latter is vulnerable to bacteria build-up and requires far greater maintenance. WWHR systems are difficult to retrofit, as there must be space below the shower and the minimum length of the pipe is 1.27m. But they are increasingly popular with volume housebuilders as a cost-effective “fit-and-forget” way to score SAP points – for example, Recoh-vert costs around £47 per SAP percentage point compared with £160 for solar thermal systems.

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