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EcoBuild 2016

This year it was all about lifestyle at Ecobuild 2016.

Ecobuild is the industry exhibition that just keeps giving. Together with my EAL team I went to find out what we could learn from the industry leaders on the future of sustainability and what recent research and developments findings have shown. Well, it was a real eye opener but we were not shocked at the results, as they all made perfect sense.

I virtually remained glued to the bench at the Building Performance learning hub for the whole morning. It was all exceedingly interesting, kicking off with the seminar on Homes for the Future.

It was clear that the long term success of a building will depend on its ability to satisfy user needs, cope with the changing environmental conditions and survive evolving expectations. The house building sector must push itself to create wonderful homes that leave a legacy for generations to come.

  • How do we build sustainable buildings that perform? 
  • How have the lessons of 10 years of sustainable building been embedded and how will this inform the future of quality housing? 
  • Following the housing Standards Review, post CFSH and without zero carbon targets, what is achievable and cost effective?

ecobuild 16 - 2In this seminar we heard the business case for delivery of quality sustainable homes from leading sustainable house builders; Richard Cook, Head of Residential at Lendlease talked about the challenges and opportunities of embedding sustainability and what this means for the home of the future.

He advocates Code for Sustainable Homes standards at Lendlease, “because it’s the right thing to do” and he, “hates waste“. I totally agree with him. He also explained that homes of the future are about place and the environment. Its more than just renewables and zero carbon targets. He has a vision of sustainable places. It’s about people and building homes in the right environment for them. He asks, what do they want? What are they looking for? In finding the answer to that question he hopes to champion homes for the future.

  • What would you be looking for when choosing your new home? 
  • Would it be near your work place? 
  • Would you want to work from home? 
  • Would you want to be surrounded by a soft landscape and a lake? 
  • Would you want to have a coffee on the way to work and stop off for a drink after work and be able to walk home?

The responsible elimination of waste is also leading Lendlease to invest in sustainable buildings and communities. They intend to focus on resilience and adaptation, diversity, inclusion, and nature. He asks, how can we engrain this in to the future so that, as a business benchmark, building to Code for sustainable homes level 4, as a baseline, becomes standard?

Do you have any ideas, apart from engaging with communities, local schools and offices?

The Barriers

  • The current housing demand from the government is increasing rapidly.
  • Building sustainably comes at a cost.
  • How can the higher demands in standards meet the speed of build required and who will foot the bill?
  • What do the improved measures mean to the customer?
  • In terms of post sales occupancy where is the value? How can we sell these sustainable houses and link it to a profit?

Looking at some of Lendlease’s projects, the answer could be staring us in the face. It’s lifestyle. They showed us Cobalt Place, using cross laminated timber (the rediscovered, new fast build, carbon neutral/negative, product on the block), water recycling, reduced energy loss, PV and solar panels. Another development called Elephant Park, is also being built to this higher specification and will command a higher price point because the buyer will put a value on the greater comfort with a more natural feel, comfortable heating and reduced bills.ecobuild 16 - 3

We also heard from Chris Tinker, Executive Board Director and Regeneration Chairman of Crest Nicholson on delivering quality homes that perform. He echoed the drive to improving community lives and that includes a much needed re-education on how best to use new and improved forms of heating like CHP or ground source heat pumps to get maximum benefit. Crest Nicholson have re-written quality manuals to help site managers, staff as well as property professionals and end users on how to deliver maximum efficiency from renewable energy technologies and heating and cooling systems.

Personally, I wonder if it would not have been wiser to call an air source heat pump an air boiler. We have gas boilers and electric boilers, so wouldn’t air boilers have been a more natural progression for terminology and an easier sell for developers and Joe Public? At the end of the day, isn’t that what an air source heat pump is?

Ultimately, he concluded that, moving forward, a leading, current, trend in sustainable building is Social Value and the Garden Village Principal. Back to lifestyle again, I find.

Understanding the business case for sustainable homes by Stephen Woodridge, Sustainability Manager, Barratt focused on lifestyle as being the key. Creating a great place to live that increases quality of life on a daily basis. So being able to walk or cycle to work , schools, bars, restaurants, parks, lakes and shops all create cleaner, healthier and a more attractive environment and way of life.

So what are the benefits to developer?

  • Grosvenor Estates use these principals for their premium brand. This leads to higher price points.
  • Little Kelham scheme in Sheffield was all sold out in 3 weeks with a 10 – 15 % uplift.
  • The green book allows £10K per asset as a benefit
  • Local councils will look more favourably on building companies that believe in and demonstrate sustainable projects showing that they care about the community.

Next up was the hot topic of tackling overheating in homes. When a building becomes uncomfortably warm because of its design this is known as overheating. With expected increases in unusually hot summers and more frequent heat waves due to climate change and denser city centres the occurrence of overheating is a real concern. John Bootland of the Passivhaus Trust pointed out a key driver in combating overheating is the increased risk of deaths caused by over insulated building and rising temperatures in the UK. Energy, ventilation and thermal comfort all have to be balanced correctly to keep us safe in our new homes. The seminar explored ways to ensure homes remain comfortable and safe by examining recognised risk factors and how to equip designers, housing providers and retro fitters with knowledge to tackle overheating.

Paul Ciniglio, Sustainability and Asset Strategist at First Wessex, addressed the question. How big is the problem and when and why does it occur? Then Nicola O’Connor, project Manager of the Zero Carbon Hub talked about identifying risk factors and mitigation strategies. Nick Grant, principal at Elemental Solutions gave us some very valuable passivhaus guidance on summer comfort and avoiding overheating.

Finally, my favourite takeaway of the day came Tom McNeil, Engineer at Max Fordham, on energy modelling and testing at design stage to prevent overheating. He showed us a picture of what the perfectly sustainable home of the future should look like. I was overjoyed when he unveiled the slide of a beautiful continental style, Maison de Maitre, house complete with fully opening windows and… the new key to keeping cool and conserving energy …wait for it …… shutters that are regularly closed at night and opened in the morning!– Plus ca change……..!

Thank you to all the presenters and exhibitors for an amazing day of learning for our EAL Consult team helping us to keep on top our game and be in a position to share our knowledge and experience with our valued customers. If you attended Ecobuild2016, what where your thoughts on the event?

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