Building Research Park

For information and research conducted at the facility and its impact on the future of construction

Topic: Research

Environmental Chamber Arrives Onsite


📥  Building research, Civil Engineering, composite material, construction, Research, technology

Environmental Chamber

Environmental Chamber

The Building Research Park welcomes the addition of a 4x8m Environmental Chamber funded by the EPSRC. This giant chamber can mimic the environment through controlled simulations and allow evaluation of large scale construction material under weather conditions. By introducing a panel, the chamber creates a sandwich which simulates the indoor condition on one side of the construction material and external conditions on the other side. Weather conditions such as extreme temperature, humidity, wind and rain can be simulated making the research at the park even more relevant. Not only can we see what happens in the real environment, but we can look at how predicted environmental pressures affect the world of construction material.




HEMPSEC Project Imagery


📥  architecture, Building research, insulation, Research

Dr Eshrar Latif gets highly commended in the University of Bath's 'Image of Research' competition for his image of the Building Research Park's HEMPSEC project. Indeed 'Don't be deceived by appearances' this project is the start of a greater understanding of what energy performance means to buildings in the real world. Looking forward to seeing some papers in the coming months...


BRP plays host to local associations


📥  Civil Engineering, HIVE, Research

Institution of Civil Engineers South West

Institution of Civil Engineers South West

The HIVE played host to 2 associations today. The Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership and the Institution of Civil Engineers South West. A keen interest in the future technologies of construction were appreciated by all. But when will we see these great leaps of construction research technologies make it to the main stream? Well, as always, the answer is if you use it. There is always a choice to be made but are we making the right choice because of the cost now, or the cost in the future… If we can prove that you’ll save money in the long term would the public or private sector pay more? Who makes that ultimate decision? Do we really understand how the choices are being offered on large scale construction?


Opening of the HIVE

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📥  air quality, architecture, Building research, Civil Engineering, composite material, construction, façades, HIVE, insulation, integrated systems, Low carbon, low impact, Research, structural engineering, technology

Chancellor Opens the HIVE on 25th September 2014

Chancellor Opens the HIVE on 25th September 2014

The Building Research Park opened its site today for its grand launch event and unveiling of the HIVE. The HIVE was opened by HRH Earl of Wessex KG GVCO, Chancellor of the University of Bath who took a tour of the HIVE during the event to witness the potential research projects hoping to do real time research of construction exposed to the open environment. The Vice Chancellor, Professor Dame Glynis Breakwell, accompanied the Chancellor showing the support of the University towards low carbon research.

Speaking at the event, BRE Group Chief Executive Prof Peter Bonfield said: “I have no doubt that the HIVE will become a national asset, an exemplar of world class Britain: forward looking and leading the charge for better, more sustainable and resilient construction in the UK and worldwide.”

Also speaking at the event, EPSRC Director Dr Lesley Thompson said: "the facility will give the construction sector the opportunity to look at the impact of building materials both on flooding but also looking at how we can develop more sustainable materials."

ECO-SEE Project Stand

ECO-SEE Project Stand

Researchers exhibiting at the event included ECO-SEE, HEMPSEC, WEIR, Flood Resilience of timber buildings and Mach Acoustics (acoustics in facades and buildings). The University especially the  Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering turned out to show their support of the project and promote the work and research potential available.

Director of Building Research Park Dr Mike Lawrence explained that "the research possibilities in construction were limited only by the imagination."

Visitors to construction research facility during the event included Lord Faulkner of Worcester (Deputy Speaker of House of Lords), Sarah Troughton (Lord Lieutenant), Peter Addington (High Sherrif of Wiltshire), Teresa Page (Mayor of Swindon), Rt Hon Robert Buckland MP (South Swindon MP)Building Research Establishment, ESPRC, Ecostrata Ltd, Lister Beare, Mott MacDonald, SWLEP, L'Ecole D'Ingenierie et Travaux de la Construction, Cornwall Sustainable Building Trust, Greencore Construction Ltd, Barnwood Construction, Structural Timber Association, Leading Energy,Internorm Windows, HR Wallingford, Europa Facade Consultants, Skanska UK, Construction Industry Training Board, Portsmouth University, University of West England, Parkside Group, University of Plymouth, Innovate UK, Ramboll, Birmingham City University, Building Analysis and Testing Ltd, Rennes University, Hemcrete Projects Ltd, Integral Engineering Design, Mann Williams, Science Museum Group, DM3a, Oculus Consultancy, BLDA ArchitectsLaing O'Rourke, Sir Robert McAlpine, Foster and Partners, Intelisen, BDP, Steico, Quest Solutions, Saint-Cobain, Wintech Testing, Buro Happold, Actis Insulation Ltd, Institution of Civil Engineers and English Heritage

Coverage of the event can be seen BBC South today, BBC Bristol, Heart FM, Jack FM Swindon, The Guardian, The Times Higher Education, Engineering for Growth, BRE Group E&T Magazine, Royal Blogs, Royal Central, CITB, Bath Business News, Swindon AdvertiserBuilding4Education, AzoBuild, Edie, Rural News, Green Building Press, Building Products , Construction Index,, Swindon Link, Swindon Business, Flic Wiltshire, This is Wiltshire , Alpha Galileo, DPA on the net, and Business Biscuit.


Can we grow our way out of climate change?

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📥  construction, HIVE, Low carbon, low impact, Research

Dr Mike Lawrence is Director of the University of Bath’s Building Research Park (BRP)– aimed at reducing the carbon footprint of buildings. The following blog appeared on the Guardian Sustainable Business website on 25 September 2014 to coincide with the launch of the BRP's opening.

The Hive

So how can growing buildings help with climate change, you may ask? Well, it’s all about renewables and ‘sequestered carbon’. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skill’s 2010 report on Low Carbon Construction concluded that construction was responsible for some 300 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2­­) emissions, which is almost 47 per cent of the UK’s total emissions. Of this figure some 50 million tonnes is embodied into the fabric of buildings. It uses 1.46 tonnes of CO2 to make 1 tonne of steel and 198kg CO2 to make 1 tonne of reinforced concrete. One square metre of timber framed, hemp-lime wall (weighing 120kg), after allowing for the energy cost of transporting and assembling the materials actually stores 35.5kg of CO2.

If we can convert plants into building materials, we are in a win-win situation. Firstly, plants use the energy of the sun to convert atmospheric CO2 and water into hydrocarbons – the material that plants are made from. The plant acts as a carbon store, sequestering or ‘absorbing’ atmospheric CO2 for as long as the plant continues to exist. This CO2 is only re-released when the material is composted or burnt, and the great thing is that through replanting it you can re-absorb this CO2 annually, in the case of straw or hemp, or every decade or so in the case of timber, rather than the 300 million years that it takes to recycle coal or oil.

Secondly, plant based materials can be used to make high performing building envelopes, protecting against external weather and  making a building more comfortable, healthy and energy efficient to live in.

Not only can they be used as insulation materials, displacing oil-based alternatives such as polyurethane foam, but they also interact with the internal environment in a way that inorganic materials just can’t do. This is because they are ‘vapour active’. Insulating materials such as hemp-lime, hemp fibre and wood fibre are capable of adsorbing and releasing water vapour. This is doubly effective, because not only can they act as a buffer to humidity (taking moisture out of the air), but they also stabilise a building’s internal temperature much better through latent heat effects (energy consumed and released during evaporation and condensation within the pores of the material).

To build using hemp, the woody core or shiv of the industrial hemp plant is mixed with a specially developed lime-based binder. Factory-constructed panels are pre-dried and when assembled in a timber frame building, the hemp shiv traps air in the walls, providing a strong barrier to heat loss.  The hemp itself is porous, making the walls well insulated while the lime-based binder sticks together and protects the hemp, making the building material resistant to fire and decay. As the industrial hemp plant takes in carbon dioxide as it grows, and the lime render absorbs even more of the climate change gas, hemp-lime buildings have an extremely low carbon footprint.

In this way bio-based materials can be used to construct ‘zero carbon’ buildings, ie. buildings where the materials have absorbed more CO2 than is consumed during construction. By applying PassivHaus principles (the voluntary industry standard for low-carbon design) to bio-based buildings, a building’s energy use once inhabited can also be reduced to minimal levels. This is a true ‘fabric first’ approach, where the fabric of buildings passively manages energy consumption, rather that purely relying on renewables such as solar panels and ground source heating systems which have a more limited life-span and have the potential for failure.

I worked on a project recently for the Science Museum to reduce the high energy cost of archival storage. They needed to have large enclosures kept at a steady humidity and temperature to ensure that items ranging from the first edition of Newton’s Principia through to horse drawn carriages and even Daleks do not deteriorate. Normally this uses energy intensive air conditioning systems.

The three storey archival store that the Science Museum built in 2012 using a hemp-lime envelope was so effective that they switched off all heating, cooling, and humidity control for over a year, maintaining steadier conditions than in their traditionally equipped stores, reducing emissions while saving a huge amount of energy.

In the BRE Centre for Innovative Construction Materials (BRE CICM) at the University of Bath we are working on some very exciting EU funded projects to increase the use of low carbon construction solutions. Research programmes aimed at producing certified construction systems using straw bale and hemp-lime respectively have potential to transform the construction industry in the UK, introducing such revolutionary sustainable products to the mainstream sector.

Other research we are carrying out is finding better ways to passively improve the internal air quality of buildings by using improved bio-based materials to interact with air borne pollutants, removing them from the building.

The new HIVE building - a £1m project funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) - acts as a platform for research projects of this type. The HIVE also has a purpose built flood cell, which will support research into creating buildings and building materials which are more flood-resilient – a valuable resource in these times of climate change induced adverse weather conditions.

In practice what this all means is that the industry and government now need to embrace the opportunities presented by bio-based construction materials to reduce emissions. Good quality domestic housing can be built out of structural timber with a bio-based insulating envelope such as the ModCell® system using straw; the HempCell® system using hemp-lime, or other  systems using wood fibre or other cellulose fibres.

With domestic housing high on the Government agenda, surely it is time the construction industry recognised the economic and environmental benefits of bio-based construction materials and became less reliant on depleting resources such as oil and steel.

Dr Mike Lawrence is Director of the Building Research Park, the University of Bath’s new research centre for sustainable construction materials and systems which opens on 25 September 2014.  Anyone interested in finding out more can contact , visit or follow @HiveBRP on Twitter.


HRH The Earl of Wessex to open the HIVE

📥  Building research, composite material, construction, façades, HIVE, Low carbon, low impact, Research, technology

brp-logo-blogHIVE logo

The University of Bath's Chancellor, HRH The Earl of Wessex will perform the opening ceremony for the HIVE at the launch of the University's Building Research Park (BRP), it has been announced. The event will take place on 25th September 2014 at the BRP, and will be attended by select guests from government, industry and academia.

The HIVE is a £1m research facility funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the University of Bath, offering ground-breaking research into low carbon, low environmental impact construction materials and methods. Dr Lesley Thompson, the EPSRC's Director of Sciences and Engineering, will be giving a keynote speech at the event on opportunity for research funding.

The Building Research Park is a facility offered in conjunction with the University of Bath's Building Research Establishment Centre for Innovative Construction Material (BRE CICM). Professor Peter Bonfield, Chief Executive of the BRE Group, will also give a keynote speech on the opportunity the facility offers to the construction industry.

After the ceremony, the Chancellor will take the opportunity to inspect the HIVE and the BRP, meeting with the HIVE research team, and other researchers who are planning to use the facilities. Guests from a large number of universities and research minded construction companies will be present, which offers the ideal opportunity to network and to begin to develop research and development programmes in collaboration with each other.


HEMPSEC Project Build Complete

📥  Building research, insulation, Low carbon, low impact, Research, Uncategorized

HEMPSEC Pods Construction Reaches Completion

HEMPSEC Pods Construction Reaches Completion

One of the first construction research projects, HEMPSEC, has finished construction.The HEMPSEC project looks to compare different construction types of similar insulative value to discover the real life environment performance of this material in the Atlantic climate. The 5 pods constructed on the Building Research Park's platforms are made of different materials at the core but externally look identical.

A press release fom the University of Bath is one of many expected to be released from forthcoming projects anticipated at the Building Research Park. A brochure has been released to encourage other construction researchers to utilitise and realise the true potential of their research through this facility.


Building Research Park gets go ahead

📥  Building research, Civil Engineering, HIVE, Low carbon, low impact, Research, structural engineering

The  Building Research Park gets the go ahead. Dr Mike Lawrence of the University of Bath's Architecture and Civil Engineering Department has been awarded EPSRC funding to construct the HIVE, a unique building dedicated to the testing of construction materials in Atlantic Climate conditions. This facility will add to the facilities of the Building Research Establishment's Centre for Innovative Construction Materials, furthering current and future research projects.

The facility has been granted planning permission from Swindon Borough Council to be built at the Science Museum Group's Storage Facility in Wroughton. This ex-military airfield gives the building research park the best weather conditions that the UK climate can throw at it, allowing for construction material performance reviews in real conditions outside the standard laboratory regulations.

This facility aims to lead the future of construction material and technology through the research of energy efficient and environmental testing.  Collaborations with industry, researchers and international centres are being discussed, with future opportunities welcome.