Low carbon homes lay foundations for future builds

Two low carbon prototype homes have performed very strongly under extreme test conditions.

The houses were built last year in a unique Energy House 2.0 climate chamber at the University of Salford.

They are the result of a partnership between the university, housebuilders Barratt Developments and Bellway, and construction experts Saint-Gobain.

Now as the research project celebrates its first anniversary, the test results will contribute significantly to industry understanding of Future Homes Standard houses.

Early results indicate that the Future Homes Standard can be delivered at scale by 2025, providing that the supply chain of key components can keep pace and skills training is readily available.

The two homes have been put through rigorous fabric testing. The chamber can recreate environmental conditions of 95% of the earth’s inhabited land, with temperatures from -20c to 40c, including rain, wind, snow, and solar. It was built in part thanks to funding from Innovate UK Innovation Accelerator.

The first results from the project concentrate on the fabric of the homes, including the overall performance, as well as the walls, roofs and floors.

The Future Home Standard is the new Building Regulations for new UK homes built from 2025 onwards, designed to produce 80% fewer carbon emissions than homes built under 2013 regulations.

Researchers have been testing The Future Home from Bellway and eHome2 from Barratt/Saint-Gobain, both three-bedroom homes, built using high-performing, efficient fabrics.

Initial findings show the buildings stood up very well to current climate extremes, which are expected to become even more common in the future.

Both homes, constructed using different methods, had a small difference of up to 8% between the anticipated performance when designed, compared to the actual performance when tested in climate-controlled conditions.

This makes the homes amongst the most efficient to be tested in research conditions.

Professor Richard Fitton, of Energy House 2.0, said: “The challenge for the construction sector over the next decade is being able to deliver Future Homes Standards houses at scale. In the past year, Barratt Developments and Bellway built over 28,000 homes, so the scale of the change is significant. Working with product provider, Saint Gobain, this industry collaboration is truly groundbreaking.

“Without Energy House 2.0 this type of testing would take significantly longer to complete but thanks to the fact we can control temperature to within 0.5c we have been able to get meaningful data in a matter of months.”

Oliver Novakovic, of Barratt Developments, said: “The initial testing of eHome2 has exceeded our expectation with the difference between design and actual performance equating to £4.50 per month so now the home would cost our customers £88 per month to run.

“This is a very positive result when you consider this is a pilot of a highly efficient zero carbon home.

“The project has highlighted some gaps in skills and technology improvements we will need to work on, which we were expecting. We’re working with our supply chain, and the next generation, to ensure that we plug these gaps.”

Jamie Bursnell, of Bellway, said: “The results of the initial fabric testing of our Future Home are very encouraging and allow us to be confident of delivering homes at scale under the new Future Homes Standard.

“With further testing to come, we will be able to provide the wider industry with data that helps inform the transition to net zero, which can only be gathered in a research facility like we have at Energy House 2.0.”

Mike Chaldecott, CEO, Saint-Gobain UK & Ireland, said: “The first results of eHome2 show the house performed exceptionally well with airtightness levels being measured as better than design values and low levels of heat loss.

“This means the fabric of the house as a whole product would retain heat extremely well, leading to a comfortable and efficient house to live in and run for its occupants. We’ve also been able to take some very useful learnings so far from the concept house.

“This has enabled us to already develop a number of new sustainable housebuilding systems that we can take forward and provide our customers new ways to deliver the types of homes residents should expect with high levels of fabric performance using efficient off-site construction methods.”

Research will now focus on how homes can maintain heating, hot water and healthy living conditions using low carbon technologies.

Further testing later this year will examine the effectiveness of different types of electrified heating systems within the homes.

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