Carbon countdown: How can the UK make the step change required for zero carbon?


Whether you like it or not, the Government’s 2016 target for all new homes to be built to Code Level 6 of the Code for Sustainable Homes (CSH) is set to remain. Although the definition of zero carbon is still up for discussion and our current economic woes significantly add to this challenge, it is highly unlikely that the 2016 deadline will be postponed.

Zero carbon housing requires a fundamental step change in construction techniques on an unprecedented scale. While the CSH identifies what constitutes a Code Level 6 home, it does not prescribe the exact mix of materials and technologies which should be used.

It is therefore critical that we gain practical experience and understanding of building at the highest levels of the Code now.

At the University of Nottingham’s School of the Built Environment, we have embarked on the Creative Energy Homes project, a long-term initiative to build six homes with partner companies. Our aim is to explore the CSH and how this translates in reality as well as investigating the performance of a range of new build and retrofitting techniques.

Monitoring the performance of all of these properties is at the heart of our work. By using state-of-the-art monitoring techniques in the post build phase, we are investigating fuel and electricity usage, thermal performance and the efficiency of appliances and renewables.

Tarmac’s two semi-detached properties are the latest phase of this major test bed project which aims to provide the construction industry with valuable data and practical insight in order to help it make the transition to the highest levels of the CSH.

Our work with Tarmac aims to understand how the CSH translates into reality. Critically, we want to understand if it is possible to build a low cost, scaleable Code Level 6 home which could be replicated across the UK. And we want to ascertain if this can be achieved by using traditional masonry techniques and what mix of renewable technologies is required.

How people will interact with a Code Level 6 home is also important to our research work in the post build phase. As the industry looks to just comply with the highest levels of the CSH, this is an area which has largely been forgotten. Once built, families will live in the Tarmac properties and we are keen to explore how they will potentially adapt to living in a Code Level 6 home - there is no point building a home to Code Level 6 if it is lived in by Code Level 1 occupants!

With 2016 looming ever closer, now is the time to move away from theory and undertake practical research. I am confident that with partners such as Tarmac these next two properties will provide some of the answers to questions that the construction industry desperately needs now.

By Dr Mark Gillott, School of the Built Environment, University of Nottingham

 


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Did you know?

Fact 12

Does not melt

Masonry concrete does not melt in high temperatures.  This means that there is no need for protective paints or special insulation – and finishes can be viewed just as the designer intended.

See more in Why Masonry?