Friday, 15 October 2021






 


Is Passive House The Go-to Standard?

 

What we look for in our homes has changed dramatically over the last few years. With working from home becoming the ‘new normal', we have started wanting and needing more from our builds. Even though we are no longer in lockdown, we’re still spending more time in our homes than ever before. 

 

But how can a passive house make the difference? 

 

Passive homes are built and designed to have year-round climate control. This means they offer a far more comfortable living space. Gone are the days where your homes are naturally hot in the summer and cooler in the winter. Passive houses have changed our whole living experience. 

 

Mould and condensation are also eradicated from Passive Houses. With their excellent ventilation systems and total air-tightness, they are designed right from the beginning to ensure the best possible living experience. Don’t forget that these impressive builds can use up to 90% less energy than a standard build. Not only will you benefit from this in comfort, but you’ll also see a huge difference in your energy bills!

 

The UK Government has set a deadline of 2050 for net zero carbon emissions. So, with that in mind, Passive Houses are becoming more popular. These homes are designed and built ready for the future. So, if you’re looking to self-build, Passive House Standard is probably the most appealing. 

 

The concept of Passive House originated from Germany, and has become more popular over the last few years. 

 

Do passive homes cost more to build?

 

Well, this is a straightforward answer, yes, they do. But if you’re building with the intent of a ‘forever home’ then you’ll quickly make your money back. What you have to remember is you’re paying for quality, quality which you don’t normally get from standard types of buildings. This is an investment, an investment for your future! 

 

Passive Houses are more relevant now than ever. They are at their best in high-use buildings, and as stated, we are now using our homes more than ever. Meaning, we can really utilise our passive builds and their impressive technology.

 

Can I retrofit my existing home into a passive house?

 

This is a complex question, the answer is yes and no. Can you make your existing build more energy efficient? Yes, without a doubt. Can you pass the Passive House Standard? This is trickier. Passive House has some strict criteria that must be implemented throughout your build. The design of your build will also play a massive role in whether your build meets Passive House Standards, and as you can imagine, this isn’t something which can be easily altered. 

 

You don’t need to give up hope though, all changes which can be made are beneficial, and you can make positive alterations to ensure your home is as energy efficient as possible. But, if Passive House Standard is what you want, it’s always best to start from scratch. It is always easier to ensure compliance from the beginning than in retrospect. 

 

Thankfully, we are all currently looking into our builds, and undertaking essential works to ensure energy efficiency. This is partly due to the Government schemes, which have allowed more people to make the essential changes. 

 

Ultimately, if you’re looking to self-build, consider a passive house. The benefits outweigh any negatives!

Friday, 1 October 2021


 







Common Problems with New Builds

 

New build homes are enticing, they’re ready to move into, and sometimes, you can even have a say in the materials used for the flooring etc. What’s not to love? Well, they can also come with their own problems. You must always do your own research on the development, and even the developer. 

 

Developments are built quickly, but this is sometimes viewed as a bad sign. To perfect a build, you need to ensure every stage is spot on, the materials are right, and the craftsmanship is top quality. 

 

Now I’m not trying to put down developers. They’re good at what they do, but because of their schedule, and the tight deadlines, they sometimes don’t have the time to put in to ensure everything is just right. 

 

Don’t let this put you off from buying a new build though. There are plenty of excellent houses out there, you just have to make sure you know exactly what you’re buying into. 

 

Some of the most searched questions regarding new builds relate to the problems you might encounter. So with that in mind…

 

What are the most common problems with a new build?

 

Cracks 

 

Cracks are common with new builds. This can often put off potential customers, but cracks are quite normal. Most new builds will experience some settlement cracks. This is literally where your build is simply settling on its foundations. 

 

The time it takes a build to settle is disputed and can vary from anywhere between 9 months to 3 years. The only time you need to worry about this is when the cracks keep growing or if they become very wide. 

 

If you’re concerned, contact your developer or tradesman, and they will inspect the cracks and put your mind at ease. 

 

Living in England doesn’t help, as the weather plays a huge part in cracks and when they develop. 

 

Condensation

 

When you buy an older property, you can experience damp and mould, but don’t think new builds are an exception. The problem here is that condensation can happen due to the amount of moisture in the building process. A new build property can take up to 12 months to dry out fully. 

 

Homes these days are constructed to be airtight. Yes, they have to have the right ventilation, but this is for the homes use, not to include the building process. 

 

Again, you need to research your builder, look at their portfolio. This isn’t a small purchase, and you need to make sure you have all the information. 

 

Make sure you ventilate your home. This is the first and foremost point when talking about damp and mould. 

 

Insulation Problems

 

We’ve all bought into the idea of being energy efficient, and looking after our planet and its future, and new builds are part of this. 

 

Once again, this comes down to research. You need to ensure that you’re getting sufficient insulation. In recent past, it has been reported that some new builds didn’t actually have the insulation required. This can be costly if you don’t find out until it’s too late. One way to ensure you know is to get the necessary surveys and checks done first. These can tell you what insulation you have and if it’s sufficient. 

 

Floors Separating 

 

This actually relates to cracks in the walls, in the same way they form, newly laid hardwood boards can also crack. This can often happen in the winter, but it’s completely normal. 

 

If the cracks become big or you experience cupping, this is when you need help from the professionals. 

 

So, there you have it, the basic list of problems common with a new build home. Just keep an eye on everything, and if you have any problems, go back to your developer. Homes need time to settle in, just like us.

Friday, 24 September 2021








Exciting Prospects For Up-and-Coming Construction Talent.

 

The construction industry is huge, and if you’re lucky enough to be part of it, you’ll know how important it is that each trade works together, and no position is left unfilled. 

 

Covid19 has made its impact on our industry, and we’ve been left with the highest levels of vacancies since records began. We need to ensure that we continue to grow as an industry. If we don’t, we won’t be able to keep up with the demand for builds, and the impact from this could be huge. 

 

Thankfully, there has been a new initiative, backed by the Government, launched this month! Talentview Construction also has the backing of the Construction Leadership Council, Universities, Colleges and Construction Industry employers. It was launched on September 21st 2021 and helps support early careers in the construction industry. 

 

Talentview Construction

 

The idea behind this initiative is to fill the vacancies left in the construction industry. There are already over 600 apprenticeships listed! Considering it’s recent launch, that’s an impressive number. Employers can register with TVC and use this to promote their early career jobs. It’s a huge directory for construction careers. This will be the go-to site for anyone starting out in construction. 

 

Yes, we can put up our jobs anywhere and advertise them anywhere, but this allows us to open up all opportunities to a wider audience. This could also encourage more construction managers to open more opportunities on their sites. 

 

You can sign up for alerts for both jobs and training, and you can get advice on particular roles, as well as start building your own network. This is a fantastic tool for anyone starting out in our industry. I can’t wait to see how this website evolves, as if done correctly, this could have a huge positive impact on our industry. 

 

As an employer, you can search for a candidate directly. Do you have specific qualities you’re looking for? Does a potential candidate stand out for you? Don’t worry, you can headhunt them for your position. Build your own network, work closely with universities and colleges, build a future for our younger generation. 

 

The construction industry is a leading industry to work in. It’s fast paced, energetic, talented and vital. We need to ensure that the next generation is as eager to be in our industry as we are.

 

TVC is free to use! The construction industry currently employs around 3 million people and still needs to recruit 217,000 new workers between now and 2025 to continue on the same trajectory and support the current demand. This figure is subject to rise! TVC can hopefully start to bridge this gap and open up the opportunity for new talent!

Friday, 10 September 2021


 






Is Your Business Crumbling Due To A Lack Of Materials?

 

I’m sure you’ve read in the news in the last few days that Jewson's have warned that material prices will continue to rise because we are still experiencing a shortage. The building material shortage is one of many problems we, as an industry, have to deal with after the pandemic and Brexit. No one has come out of the last few years unaffected, and it’s likely to take us a while to get back on our feet. 

 

I have written about this topic a few times. In the past, I hoped it would pass quickly, but unfortunately here I am again, because this is more relevant now than ever.

 

Jewson has announced they will have to continue to put up the prices of some of their goods. Timber, insulation, and even wheelbarrows are on the list. We have seen the cost of timber rise considerably recently, and it’s safe to say it doesn’t look like it has plateaued yet.

 

The disruption to supplies has caused havoc across our industry, projects have come to a standstill, and profits have been considerably lowered.

 

Jewson’s are not the only construction material suppliers to speak out about this crisis. Travis Perkins has also warned of shortages of timber and plasterboard, and B&Q has also spoken out on this issue. Even shops including Ikea and Argos have made reference to not being able to get hold of products.

 

But why is this happening? 

 

Unfortunately, it's the mix of the pandemic, limited workers, and Brexit that affects the supply chain. It seems we, the consumers, face the brunt of the impact.

 

The Bank of England forecasts a rise in inflation this year of 4%. That's the highest inflation rate for 10 years.

 

What is being done?

 

It has been noted Hanson has said they are allocating cement to ensure that there is a reasonable supply. Jewson has also limited certain products to 'so many' per customer. I’m sure you’re aware this isn’t an ideal situation, you don’t need me to tell you that. We need to find a way out of this crisis, because we are slowly coming to a halt.

 

Supply and demand is a huge issue. If you’re needing more information on who is limiting what, you can go onto their websites. They have a note on there explaining what products are causing problems. 

 

On top of this, we are still attempting to reach the government's deadline of 2050 net zero carbon emissions. We're supposed to hit this deadline, but how are we supposed to do it when we're also limited on supplies? I don’t want to say it’s impossible. I’m still hoping this will turn around, but any delays will have a massive impact on how quickly this can be done.

 

If you’re still looking for more info or updates, check out these links below. They might not solve your problems, but they might answer some of your questions. 

 

constructionnews.co.uk

Jewson Supplies

The Guardian

Friday, 3 September 2021









How Does Construction Affect Our Environment?

 

The world is beginning to realise its impact on the environment. Carbon Footprint is a phrase uttered in almost all sectors, but none as much as our industry. 

 

Do you know your impact?

 

"If nothing changes, nothing changes," there is no truer sentence. If your approach to building does not develop with the world, no positivity can come from it. You will always get people who do not believe they can make a difference, or even believe changes are necessary. 

 

The construction industry employs roughly 2.7 million people! 2.7 million people who could make a difference to the carbon emissions! We are not only in one of the biggest industries, but we also have one of the largest proportions of self-employed people, roughly 36%.

 

How much carbon does the construction industry contribute?

 

With regard to air pollution, the construction industry is responsible for 23% of pollution and 32% of total landfill. They’re huge numbers to be responsible for, and it doesn’t take a genius to work out that these figures need to be reduced. 

 

We are one of the biggest uses of non-renewable energy resources, consuming about 40% of stones, gravel, sand, and about 35% of wood per year. These are NON-RENEWABLES, don't forget. What we have to remember is although we are considered massive uses of materials, we are also a fast-paced industry when considering new technology. We have invested considerable sums of money to ensure that our effects are reduced. Nothing is perfect and it will take a while, but with everyone behind the new plans, there is no reason why we cannot turn it around. 

 

Roughly, domestic buildings contribute 27% of carbon emissions, and non-domestic produce 18% of total carbon emissions, which amounts to a whopping 45% together. 72% of domestic emissions come from space heating and hot water. 

 

What can be done?

 

As I said, huge investments are being made in research, materials, deliveries, techniques and construction methods. But it's up to us, as industry workers, to implement them. Yes, they can come at a cost, and sometimes we don’t have it in the budget, but this is where we need to change our thought process. The more we invest in our builds, the more they are potentially worth. We are not a small industry, so our impact has, and will always be huge, but it doesn't have to be negative. 

 

We can use new technologies, including 3D printers and biodegradable materials, as well as better construction methods. 

 

The staggering figure is that the construction industry in the UK accounts for 59% of total waste. That’s 59% of ALL waste in a year. Why do we create so much? If each of us can reduce our waste as individuals, this figure will drop dramatically. 

 

What is it they say? All actions have consequences, and these are ours. Energy efficiency is becoming one of the most talked about subjects, which is fantastic. But talking alone won’t make the changes, we need actions. The UK government has invested significant time and money to ensure that we can move forward and start taking note of our carbon footprint.

 

If you’re building, think about what you can do. Is a Passivhaus for you? Perhaps you might consider living completely off-grid, growing your own veg and being totally sustainable? Whatever it is, even the smallest changes can have a positive impact on those figures. I think we can all agree that something needs to be done, because ‘if nothing changes, nothing changes’.   

Friday, 13 August 2021










Benefits to modern construction techniques; build better together


Construction is a fast paced industry. You might not believe this if you’re waiting for your home to be built or if you’re waiting on materials to be delivered (especially post covid/Brexit 2021) but actually, in terms of technology and techniques, this industry is one of the fastest around. 


From ‘self-healing concrete’ to ‘3D modelling', we’re in a position now where we have many options; too many maybe. 


So how will these help us? 


They’re here to make our lives easier, take the workload off of us, and provide us with security in our products and craftsmanship. 


Whether residential or commercial, buildings are in demand. The speed in which construction is required doesn’t always marry with what can be offered. Hence, why we’re always looking for ways to improve.


Many of the construction techniques we use have been around for years. They may have had a revamp, or some improvements, but their general workings are the same. Others, we are slowly getting to grips with. 


Modular buildings are an excellent example of how to speed up the construction process. This is where the build is actually constructed off site. The build is then brought to the site and ‘put together’. Yes, it can still take time to manufacture, but it can save much wasted time on site. It is also more exact, so assuming you have the correct measurements (and you should), this will be manufactured to your precise design. 


Some other techniques starting to come out of the woodwork are:


Assisted Building Technology Including Augmented Reality and BIM 


Through the above techniques, construction workers can now appreciate what their designs will look like, way before completion. This is a fantastic way to ensure your design is exactly what you want, and it will also highlight any potential issues. You can use this technology to reduce the energy efficiency of your build and become more eco-friendly. 


Raised Access Flooring 


As buildings use more technology, there is a need for a raised floor. This is where there is a floor built above a solid floor below. This leaves a gap between the two and allows building services to be installed. There are two main points here, the first being that this is an excellent way to ensure the space for all new building technologies, as well as allowing access if there are any problems or fixes needed in time. These floors have been around for a while, but due to the ever-changing nature of buildings these days, they have never been more popular. 

 



Thin Joint Masonry 


This technique allows builders to put up walls much faster on the construction site, without negatively affecting the thermal performance of the build. The thermal performance stays the same as if you were using the standard methods. Time is precious, anything which can help improve the speed of construction without compromising the quality will be a massive hit in our industry.


Kinetic Footfall Energy Harvesting 


Kinetic harvesting can be used to essentially ‘harvest’ or ‘collect’ energy, which can be used to help power things including signage and lights. This technology is best used where there is high footfall, so ideally on public walkways etc. The idea is to build and store power with each step. This is produced using kinetic energy from sensors placed in the ground. 


Self-Healing Concrete


This is another one which sounds completely mad. What does self-healing concrete actually mean? This is where the concrete automatically rectifies any cracks. These cracks usually appear over time, but with this new technology, this isn’t something you’d have to worry about. 


Speed and accuracy have never been more prominent on a construction site. Often you can find that you don’t get one with the other and it’s a constant battle. With the offerings of today’s society, we have reached a point where we have options, and can use new technology for security. 


With all this new tech on hand, it should make life easier and help us push forward to that deadline of 2050. Energy efficient builds are our future, and anything that can help get us there must be a good thing, right?

Friday, 30 July 2021








 What Do I Need To Know About Planning A Sustainable New Build?

 

In 2021 there is nothing more important than building eco. Energy efficiency is top on the list of priorities for many of us when building or buying our homes. The construction industry, as I have stated in previous blogs, plays a huge part in the sustainability of our environment. Currently it is one of the largest contributors of carbon emissions in the UK, so it is more important than ever that we, as an industry, take note and start to rectify these issues. 

 

The Government has taken action. Not only has a deadline 2050 been set for zero carbon emissions, there are also other schemes to help us, as individuals, to ensure our current homes, as well as new builds, achieve the best possible energy efficiency rating. 

 

Get help at the EARLIEST possible stage

 

Regardless of the size of your build, in order to build sustainably, or even build at all, you will need to plan! There are many aspects to having an eco-build and you need to make sure that these methods, materials and designs are implemented correctly. I know I sound like a broken record but the best way, and in my opinion the ‘only’ way to do this, is to speak with the professionals at the earliest possible stages. I know sometimes people think this is all about ‘making money’ but it really isn’t. If your car needed fixing, updating or even upgrading, you would go to a mechanic. This is no different. In order to get the best results, you need to know HOW to get the best results, and who’s more equipped to do this than an assessor? 

 

The experts will be able to help you from the planning stage. You might be surprised to know that the design of your build plays a huge part in ensuring the energy efficiency of your build. If you don’t know how to do this, or if you don’t follow this advice, then you really will fall at the first hurdle! 

 

Use The Right Materials 

 

When constructing an energy efficient build, you need to make sure you use the right materials. There is no point getting the plans right only to install below par windows, for example. 

 

There are certain aspects which are usually at the top of the list when building to a high energy efficiency specification, and windows are up there with the best. Not only will they need to have U-values below 0.8 for passive house but they will also need to be positioned to receive the most natural light all year round. This is where your design comes into play. You can see how easy it is to omit certain aspects. 

 

Not only will you need to consider windows but you will need to look at things such as MVHR and the potential use of a timber frame. Timber frames are extremely energy efficient as they have a high degree of thermal insulation as well as being ethically sourced. You will have to consider the insulation used in your build and ensure it is sufficient for the type of build you’re completing. Air tightness is absolutely paramount for the whole build to work in harmony at 0.6 ACH (air changes an hour). Your Air Tightness test will ensure your build doesn’t have any gaps where unregulated air can escape from the property or even enter the property. 

 

Renewable Energy Sources

 

It goes without saying but all energy has to come from somewhere. To ensure you complete an energy efficient build you will need to consider the use of renewable energy sources such as Solar PV, Air source Heat Pumps or even Ground Source Heat Pumps. Solar PV, as I’m sure you’re aware, takes energy from the sun and uses it to generate electricity. There is also the option for Solar Thermal, which is again where energy is taken from the sun and this is used to heat your water. Both are great systems to install in your energy efficient home. Air Source Heat Pumps use heat from the outside air to warm up your home. They are extremely energy efficient and even work well in the winter! The Ground Source Heat pump works on a very similar basis. However, instead of using heat from the air, it takes heat from the ground. 

 

Energy Efficient Appliances

 

Once your build is up and running you could be forgiven to think all is done and sorted. But you haven’t finished yet. You need to think about the appliances that you have in your build. Each appliance will have its own energy efficiency rating, from washing machines, to fridges and everything in between. All of these will contribute to your build’s overall energy rating. Don’t forget the small things, even LED lightbulbs need consideration. If you’re trying to ensure that your build is as energy efficient as possible then every last detail needs to be thoroughly thought out. 

 

As I say, there is a lot to consider, more than I can put down here. But you don’t have to do it alone. There are many companies out there who can help you sort out the details. If you want to go through anything, I know of this fine little company which is always willing to help. 

 

https://atspaceltd.co.uk

Friday, 23 July 2021









Can I Make My Current House Passive?

 

Ok, I am often heard talking about Passive House (Passivhaus) Standard but one of the main questions I get asked is “Can I turn my current home into a passive house?” So, with that in mind I thought I would break it down.

 

Sustainability and energy efficiency are becoming the ‘norm’.  Already, when building, we have to adhere to certain guidelines in order to pass regulations. So most builds will now conform to higher energy efficiency standards than previously, which is always a good start. Obviously it goes without saying, that building from scratch is the easiest and most efficient way of ensuring you reach Passive House Standards. But, I also appreciate that this isn’t always possible. You might not have the ability to move, you might just like your home and location, but you just want to ensure you’re getting the most from your home. Whatever your reason, there are things which can be done which will bring you closer to Passive Standard. Be warned though, they’re not all easy in retrospect and can sometimes, depending on your home, be quite costly. Achieving Passive Standard in retrospect is a very difficult task, some would say impossible. 

 

Don’t be alarmed or put off though. Whatever happens improvements CAN be made. 

 

When building a Passive House, you would need to consider every part of construction, right down to the design. Obviously, without demolishing your home, this isn’t something you can change in its entirety. You can of course add extensions or renovate the home, but the design will ultimately not be suited to Passive House. 

 

When constructing a Passive House, you would need to ensure that it is completely air tight, and you would also have to think about the materials that you use. Passive Homes are often constructed using timber frames. Timber frames are used for many reasons, ranging from being more environmentally friendly, to giving better insulation. 

 

What Can I do If I Want to Retrofit My Home To Passive Standards?

 

The Passivhaus Institute has set out a new standard for anyone who is looking to achieve Passive House Standard in a retrofit property. If you wanted to read more about it check out this link. https://passipedia.org/certification/enerphit

 

Ideally, with this standard, you would manage to reduce your heating demand by up to 90% by using passive methods. 

 

In order to meet this standard, you will need to provide proof of the following:

 

·      Improved Thermal Insulation

·      Reduction of Thermal Bridges

·      Excellent/Improved Air Tightness

·      Use of high-quality windows and doors, potentially even ones which are designed specifically for Passive House Standard

·      Effective and improved heat generation

·      Implementation of renewable energy sources. 

 

So, to answer your question “Can I make my current home a Passive House?” The answer is yes, and no. The chances are you wouldn’t be able to meet the Passive House Standards of a new build, but you have every chance of meeting the standards set out specifically, by Passivhaus, for a retrofit. 

 

Don’t forget, when you’re undertaking your Building Compliances it is always best to work with an assessor at the earliest possible stage, especially for something like retrofits. You know what, I think I know a company who could help 😉 

 

 https://atspaceltd.co.uk

 

 

Friday, 16 July 2021





What Is Thermal Bridging And Why Do We Get It?

 

Thermal bridging usually happens when there are gaps in the building’s envelope. A thermal bridge can also be referred to as a cold bridge. Typically, this can happen if there is a gap or a break in the insulation. This can occur when the insulation itself has been penetrated with something that actually has a higher thermal conductivity. 

 

A cold bridge will not only allow the loss of heat, but it will also cause any warm air inside your building to cool down. This isn’t ideal, in fact it’s far from ideal. Thermal bridging and cold bridging need to be eradicated as early as possible by making sure that your build is designed well, constructed well and the materials used are the best. You will also need to know what materials can work in unison, and what materials could cause potential problems. If you know what the causes are, or why thermal bridging happens, then you’re halfway there. As I say, knowledge is power!

 

Buildings are now starting to be better insulated in the hope that this will contribute to the overall energy performance of the build. However, if you experience thermal bridging it can severely impact your build. The heat loss from this can be quite dramatic, which why it is important to ensure that this doesn’t happen. 

 

If cold bridging happens then you could experience mould. As we all know, not only is mould unsightly, it can also be very problematic and even, in severe cases, cause health issues. 

 

The design of your build can play a big part in whether you experience thermal bridging. The design of buildings isn’t just to decide how your home, office or project will look. It actually dictates how your build will perform, in terms of energy efficiency. The materials used and the workmanship of your build are also important factors. 

 

If you’re currently building, or planning on building you need to know that either you, if you’re self -building, or your workforce, know and understand thermal bridges, as well as cold bridges. They will need to know and understand what building components will interact with each other. The heat itself will always find the easiest route to escape. Thermal bridging can cause up to 30% heat loss! That’s a huge reduction!

 

Breaks in the building’s envelope are usually found around the windows or doors, between the walls and floors, the connections between the walls and roof or penetrations from pipes, cables and steel wall ties. This isn’t to say that it can’t happen anywhere else; these are just the most common areas and ones to look out for. Make sure that you fully understand how both thermal bridges and cold bridges happen before you start construction. 

 

Older buildings commonly have thermal bridges, which can be down to the construction methods, design, materials used, a general misunderstanding or even poor workmanship. The regulations we now have to adhere to in construction, help to ensure that our builds are the best that they can be. These regulations have got tougher over the years, so it is quite understandable that thermal bridging is often seen in older homes. 

 

Prevention is always better than a cure, so don’t rest on your laurels. Ensure you know all there is to know before construction begins, before design even. Make sure you have a great team behind you and seek help from the experts at the early stages. That’s what they’re there for after all. 

 

Friday, 9 July 2021












Net Zero Carbon Emissions, What Does It Mean?


We’ve all be talking about the 2050 deadline the Government has set, but what is it going to take for us to reach?

 

Thankfully this initiative is going to open up many jobs for the construction industry and after the last year it couldn’t come at a better time. In order to reach these targets it’s not just new builds which have to be held accountable, but also existing homes. We currently have roughly 7-8 million lofts which need more insulation, roughly 19-20 million uninsulated floors and 4-5 million uninsulated cavity walls. All of these need to be upgraded in order to reach the target!

 

They sound like huge numbers, and I am in no way suggesting it’s going to be easy, but in the grand scheme of things, with the right task force, I have every faith. 

 

While it is relatively easy to build energy efficient homes, it isn’t always as easy to upgrade older builds. Not only were they built to completely different standards, they potentially used different materials and techniques. Also, let’s face it, everything is always harder to fit in retrospect. 

 

What we have to remember is that if we’re going to achieve net zero we need all four nations to be on board and singing from the same hymn sheet. Scotland has actually said it will be net zero by 2045, 5 years earlier than the rest of the UK. That’s quite a challenge, but who am I to argue? 

 

Unfortunately, it seems that when building, a lot of us are more concerned with what our homes look like and not how they perform. I can understand this logic, we’re human, we’re visual creatures, we want our homes to look nice, but we shouldn’t disregard our home’s energy efficiency. What we need to remember is that the better performing homes are cheaper to run. So, not only is the Government trying to reach its target of 2050, it is also helping to reduce the energy costs. The more the energy efficient your home is, the less you’ll be paying out in monthly bills. So actually, it’s a win win. 

 

There are many schemes happening now which offer home owners the opportunity to upgrade things, such as loft insulation and cavity wall insulation. The Government will pay a certain percentage towards the costs, and in some cases you wouldn’t have to pay a penny! It’s always worth checking your local Council’s site to see what schemes they have taking place in your area. 

 

As well as homes, it is also important, actually vital, for businesses to decarbonise. As political figures met at the G7 last month it became evident that there seems to be growing support for investment in green sectors. It’s become fairly obvious that without reducing the energy demand you won’t reduce the emissions. We, collectively, need to take away the energy demand and replace it with something much more energy efficient to continue down the path of net zero carbon emissions.

 

The goal with our builds is, as stated, to have net zero energy use. This means that homes, new builds or refurbishments, must produce enough energy to meet the needs of the build, for example the hot water and heating etc. Although up-front these homes can cost more to build, in the long run you recoup the costs from the money saved in bills. 

 

 

 

Friday, 2 July 2021

 





















How Has The Pandemic Changed Our Housing?

 

I know, I know, we’re still here talking about the pandemic when all we want to do is get back to normality. But what is normal now, aside from the fact that our working lives have dramatically changed, from social distancing to reduced numbers and a smaller workforce? We keep hoping that we will be back to pre-pandemic life, but things just aren’t that simple. 

 

During the various lockdowns and restrictions we’ve all experienced around the world throughout this pandemic, we have had no choice but to rethink our needs. Whereas before COVID19 some wouldn’t have thought twice about having an apartment or flat, now people are craving the outside space, you know, just in case. 

 

But what does this mean for us, as developers?

 

It comes down to the fact that we’re going to have to re-think how we build. Developers have always built according to needs and desires, as well as budget. If people are changing their requirements, then we have no choice but to open up discussions to potentially change what we offer. 

 

As things currently stand, you have to pass your Sound Test in order to have your build signed off. Now, as with all these Building Compliances, there are levels to this. You can achieve the basic pass, or you can really ensure you have covered all bases and get top results. This might sound like a small part of the jigsaw, but it’s a contributory factor nonetheless. Flats and apartments are often hubs of sound. You can hear your neighbours walking around, hear them talking, hear their music, and hear if they have guests. You can hear them in the communal areas, such as the hallway or on the stairs. When people are confined, it can become quite a noisy environment. Perhaps this is a good place to start a simple, yet effective improvement to apartment living. Improving on the sound insulation can improve the health of the occupants. 

 

Now we can move on to space. Although a lot of the restrictions have been lifted, which have seen more people going back to their place of work, they have also allowed for more flexibility of home working. Some companies have realised that actually they no longer need the office spaces, and the bills that come with them. Others have a combination of both home working and office-based work. Either way, there are more people reliant on their homes to provide them with a working environment. This means, as developers, architects, and designers, we have to consider this option when building. Before COVID19, unless you were already home-based, you might not have thought much about having a study. You would perhaps have used it as a spare room or store room or you just might not have had the space in the first place. Now, buyers are looking for more versatility in their homes. They need to be able to have that space, or they need to be able to have clever design so, if they need it, they have options. There is a shift in thought regarding home-based working. People don’t want to feel trapped, they want to feel they are in control, so that they can, if they choose, alter their homes to fit their needs without having the added expense of moving. This also applies to exercise space, entertainment space and, obviously, general day-to-day living. 

 

There is an excellent article here http://www.bdcnetwork.com/post-pandemic-‘new-normal’-apartment-buildingswhich discusses the way in which we are changing our needs. This study, although completed in America, sets out what we need to do, as developers, to continue to meet the needs of our customers. It’s not a bad read and certainly gives some insight into the changes that need to be made in order to meet the standards we’re now being held to with regards to apartment/flat living. 

 

As flats/apartments don’t tend to always have their own outside space it’s now more important than ever to provide this. It can include things such as balconies or shared communal green areas. It’s escapism at its finest. No one wants to be cooped up staring at the same four walls, day-in day-out. You’d be surprised (or perhaps not anymore) how much of a positive impact a bit of fresh air can have. 

 

So, what do we do now?

 

Well, we do what we have always done and deliver what people want. The difficulty here is to not go over budget. These homes, whether we’re talking about houses, flats, or complexes, need to be within budget. People’s budgets have not dramatically changed. We need to be able to think outside the box, look to alternatives without compromising on design or quality. It might sound like a challenge, and I guess it is. But one thing our industry isn’t afraid of is hard work! 

 

 

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