platform allowing people with excess energy to sell that energy directly to their next-door neighbour and vice-versa. Addressing recent Government policy initiatives, Morgan says: “It’s all very well the Government saying we need another two million houses but actually, these are predominantly going to be electrically driven, what’s the impact on the national grid? This addresses those issues.”

When questioned on the longevity of the technology, given fast moving developments in energy management, Morgan responds: “We’re thinking about that too.” Atelio features a central utilities core – an ‘energy cabinet’ – designed to be swapped out as and when any technology becomes obsolete. Being made primarily of glass, the panels are fully recyclable, helping contribute to the circular economy.

Beyond the performance gap

At the heart of Atelio is a panellised system made of a reconstituted glass composite material

with large floor to ceiling windows, rooms with dual aspect focused on a connection to nature.” The first Atelio typologies resulted in small apartment buildings (consisting of twelve one and two bed units) and four independent houses (two bed over one level, two bed over three levels, three bed over two levels, four bed over two levels). Following those, the architects have been developing semi detached and terraced typologies to ensure a wider offering into the market and engage with issues of density in peri-urban sites.

Communal energy

Atelio’s pro-collective ethos is stressed by all parties involved, with Morgan describing CFG as a ‘community-first’ organisation. The buying experience is client-driven, and he draws parallels with buying a new car: “If you want to buy a car, you go and choose your model, in red, with leather upholstery, effectively that’s what we're going here.”

Housing typologies can be expanded and retracted to give way for extra interior space, balconies, terraces, or more outdoor space. Windows and doors can be placed at the discretion of the end-user, with Grimshaw’s BIM model checking for any potential design clashes. Local planning restrictions are also built into the model, saving legal hassle and further minimising build times. Accounting for the constraints placed by the British climate on

year-round energy generation, smaller buildings can make use of photovoltaics and battery storage to meet their energy demands. Larger buildings, on the other hand, can make use of inter-seasonal thermal storage. Energy is taken from the photovoltaics and pumped into the ground during the summer months, ‘charging the ground with thermal energy’, which is ready to be recovered with a heat pump in the winter months. In the spirit of zero-carbon, Morgan also sheds light on possible mechanisms of community energy management. CFG are working on the development of a peer-to-peer energy trading


Despite its nascent nature, Atelio will be available to order in 2018 following construction trials. Despite it being designed to offer zero carbon, the group behind the project claim the delivered cost will be around £136/ft2

, in line with a traditional brick and block building –

and that cost is expected to decrease. “We’re actually at the most expensive now,” says Morgan. “In order to get the economies of scale in the production line, we need to be delivering 2000 houses a year, at that point there’ll be significant supply chain cost reduc- tions,” making Atelio more competitive than traditional housing. Criticisms of the project have included questions around panels’ limited scope to facilitate architectural design, but Morgan says that Atelio is fully customisable. Curved panels are a possibility, and exterior finishing options are said to be ‘virtually endless’ for clients.

From a product R&D perpective, Atelio’s resulting proposal is certainly compelling – offering faster and more integrated construction methods resulting in ultra low-energy residences through a process anchored to the end user. And, with the collabo- ration between architect and manufacturer so central to the project, it consolidates an evolving role for architects. As Vimercati says, “The architectural profession is more and more open to this ‘agency’ approach, and we feel it could gain a lot from it.” 

“Typically in the UK, the amount of energy required to run a house post-occupancy is 10 times greater than the original design of the building,” Morgan notes, “building out of materials where they are layered up, there’s an inherent issue in the way that the materials go together.”

The collaboration is also concerned with addressing the performance gap, which is particularly troublesome for the end-users of large house building projects. Atelio combats this by fundamentally compressing the supply chain, as Morgan explains: “It’s a one-stop shop which strips out a lot of the cost.” He continues: “Traditional D&B contracts are often contractor-led. The primary contractor inevitably has the overall say in the design process. They water down the sustainability credentials of that development and when you actually get to developing and delivering on-site, subcontractors that are taken on don’t necessarily understand what the intention of the original design feature was, and mistakes are made.” By contrast, the Atelio approach is centralised, facilitating full stakeholder engagement, with all parties aligned from day one of the project to create what’s claimed as the “first zero-carbon modular building”.



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