Want to know more about the construction of the HIIVE facility? The Structural Engineer released this month shows the trials and tribulations of constructing this unique facility in the midst of an ex World War 2 military site. The exposure of the site to weather conditions may put the research materials through its paces, but the ultimate design of the facility needed some careful consideration to such a weather variant site.
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?
The Building Research Park has welcomed tour and visits from Construction Associations since the opening including Constructing Excellence and the Zero Carbon Hub. The increasing awareness of the facility is providing real interest to a Construction industry striving to find ways to create low impact and sustainable infrastructure. These events are not only helping to promote the awareness of the Building Research Park but starting to bring questions from industry experts that need answers if the carbon targets are to be met. "What do we do with existing housing stock?" "How can we build more efficiently?" "Why does the product I specify not perform the way it should?"
The Building Research Park is offering the platform to allow construction researchers and specialists a solution to their research needs that will help answer these questions. Welcoming the research potential and enquiries that the facility is being brought, it is becoming clear that the need to find the real life realities and solutions to construction materials and technologies needs this flexible platform to get the answers.
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."
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 Architects, Laing 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 Advertiser, Building4Education, AzoBuild, Edie, Rural News, Green Building Press, Building Products , Construction Index, Phys.org, Swindon Link, Swindon Business, Flic Wiltshire, This is Wiltshire , Alpha Galileo, DPA on the net, and Business Biscuit.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org , visit www.bath.ac.uk/brp or follow @HiveBRP on Twitter.