Housing Specification Blog

Queen’s Speech acts as spur to increase Zero Carbon innovation

June 18, 2014 PaulGroves Housing DesignHousing IssuesPlanning & Legislation

New legislation introduced in the Queen’s Speech, which some critics believe waters down the impact of the 2016 Zero Carbon target, serves as a spur to encourage innovation in the building industry, says an insulation expert.

The rules, announced this month, confirmed concerns that in the government’s battle to increase building across the UK, the reins on house builders have been loosened, enabling them to reach their low carbon goals through investing in Allowable Solutions rather than via improving fabric efficiency. They will now be allowed to reach code level 4 on site and top it up through Allowable Solutions, rather than attaining the originally proposed level 5.

But, while on the surface the move may sound to some like a backward step, what is needed is greater awareness of cost effective and innovative building products which will enable developers to get close to the Zero Carbon goal without such a great emphasis on these measures, believes insulation manufacturer Actis.

The firm’s technical manager, architect Thomas Wiedmer, says while the Allowable Solutions element of the Zero Carbon target is a good approach in principle, strengthening the FEE (Fabric Energy Efficiency) through a range of innovative products and techniques is also essential.

“It is important not to forget that innovation has an important role to play in our quest for Zero Carbon,” he said.

“To achieve carbon compliance housebuilders will have to meet two criteria – Fabric Energy Efficiency and efficient building energy technologies such as renewables, with Allowable Solutions being the third requirement to help them achieve the goal of zero carbon homes.

“The three key elements in improving the target FEE are lower U-values, reducing or eliminating thermal bridging and improving air tightness. This is quite straightforward – and not just for high end developers but for volume house builders too. Our CE marked Hybrid range, which consists of an insulation product, an insulating vapour control layer and an insulating breather membrane, plays a role in all three of these elements.

“These products can achieve the highest U-values requirements and provide both insulation and air tightness properties. They are flexible, which means any margin for error in installation can be reduced or eliminated as they can be fitted neatly into irregular shapes, reducing thermal bridging as directed in the revised part L regulations, and improving air tightness.”

Because the products have been dual tested, both in the lab and in situ, they guarantee performance, addressing the DECC and Zero Carbon Hub recognised performance gap.

“Additionally the products are physically stable and will not change over time which means they will continue performing in the same way over many years. Achieving zero carbon isn’t just about the day the developer hands over the keys to the new owner, but about that performance continuing for the next 50 years. It’s important to choose a product which has this capacity for long term physical stability to ensure the performance is guaranteed over time, regardless of the climatic conditions.”

Not only is it physically possible, adds Thomas, but also, contrary to popular belief, it actually costs around 20% less than using traditional insulation to achieve the same or a better U-value.

“Depending on the combination of products used and the thickness of insulation, U- values can be as low as 0.13 and beyond.”

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