Resilience is the key to sustainable building

The Government’s sustainability targets have put the UK on the map in terms of ambition, but they set a huge challenge for policymakers, the construction industry and the wider public. Steven Smith of Knauf Insulation says if we get it wrong, residents, social housing providers and the planet could be left counting the cost.

Future Homes Standard will require new build homes to be future-proofed with low carbon heating and exceptional levels of energy efficiency. Both of these are positive steps, providing that house- builders and contractors close the current gap between notional and actual performance. But, depending on how the Future

The climate crisis has penetrated the public consciousness. Whether it’s swelter- ing summers, torrential rain or freezing winters, few people now deny our planet is experiencing more extreme weather – and that addressing climate change is one of the most urgent issues we face. So, the Government’s renewed focus on

this subject is both overdue and neces- sary. In March 2019, it passed world-leading targets to bring UK green- house gas emissions to net zero by 2050. But, less than eight months later, experts are already warning that policies are not being implemented fast enough to meet this target. When you consider buildings are

responsible for more than 40 per cent of global energy usage, the construction industry clearly has an important role to play in realising this ambition. The indus- try, Government and even the wider public must align to meet the challenge. The upcoming changes to Part L of the Building Regulations and planned

Homes Standard is executed, there could be unexpected consequences. For example, it’s anticipated gas boilers may be replaced by electric heating on a massive scale, but if this happens without improving the efficiency of the property, home occupants could find their energy bills doubling. Such a spike in energy bills could have

far reaching consequences. Earlier this year, a Bank of England blog reported that homeowners living in energy-efficient homes were less likely to default on their mortgages. Indeed, some mortgage lenders have been reflecting this lowered risk with green mortgages that offer lower rates for the most efficient homes. It stands to reason that the reverse is

also true, and spiralling energy bills could drive many people into fuel poverty with implications for lenders, landlords and social housing providers alike. For such far-reaching changes to be a

success, it is essential that the public sees a positive link between Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) ratings and the affordability of their homes. Homeowners, renters and investors must demand better buildings – but what makes a building better? Insulation materials are the most

efficient way to regulate the internal temperature of the home, helping to keep

buildings cool in hot weather and warm when it’s cold outside. However, while energy efficiency is important for the reasons stated, it’s not the only factor. Homes are not a disposable commodity. It’s estimated that 80 per cent of the UK’s building stock in 2050 already exists today. This means it’s vital we think about how to create homes that are fit for purpose far into the future. The concept of resilient buildings –

where their fabric delivers high thermal, fire safety and acoustic performance in the real world and over the long term – needs to enter the public psyche. Improving insulation isn’t the complete answer, but it certainly has a role to play. When it comes to fire safety in particu-

lar, it is imperative that buildings are designed and constructed to both minimise the risk of fire and its spread should it occur. Not all insulation is equal where fire performance is concerned. So, if a product has been identified for its thermal and acoustic performance, it is important to check its Reaction to Fire classification. All CE marked insulation materials are given a Euroclass Reaction to Fire Classification in accordance with BS EN 13501-1. Classification ranges from F, the lowest, to A1, the highest. In England, 2018 changes to Approved

Document B and Regulation 7 mean that all insulation used on the external walls of certain types of buildings over 18 metres in height must have either A1 or A2-s1, d0 Euroclass Reaction to Fire Classification. In Scotland, the proposed regulations impose an even stricter height restriction – insulation products with either A1 or A2 Reaction to Fire Classification will have to be used on any building over 11 metres. Post-Grenfell, there is a real possibility

that if the wrong material is specified, subsequent remedial action may be required, and it could fall to the housebuilders and contractors to bear the cost of such works. Where fire safety is concerned, why take the risk? The safest option for buildings of any height are products classified as A1 – such as Glass or Rock Mineral Wool insulation – which are non-combustible and will not contribute to the development or the spread of a fire should it occur. Acoustic performance is another factor



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