New products give rise to the next generation of solid wall homes

Modern building methods are increasingly focused on balancing the speed, cost and overall aesthetic appeal of new- build properties, with their environmental impact and overall energy performance. The introduction of solid wall solutions, based around Durox thin joint blockwork, presents the end user and specifier with a tried-and-tested way to meet these needs, whilst also providing many additional benefits.

From a build point of view, solid block walls are a fast reliable method, and taking into account the speed that thin joint blockwork can progress – with no restriction on the height of walls that can be built in a day – it is likely to rival alternative construction techniques in terms of lead time, total build time and in its simplicity of construction.

In fact, once the Durox external wall is built, work can commence simultaneously on internal and external trades. But does it have to be thin joint construction? Strictly speaking, any concrete block can be considered in an appropriate solid wall design. However, the Durox thin joint blockwork offers the opportunity for more accurate construction – a real plus for following trades such as external applied insulation and render as well as the opportunity to use thin coat plasters internally.

Experience has also shown that the use of thin joint – particularly as the sole masonry element in the superstructure - can reduce site wastage considerably, which is a real advantage given the pressure to reduce site waste going to landfill. From a technical performance perspective, Durox thin joint solid wall systems will improve the air-tightness of the structure and its low thermal conductivity (0.11- 0.19 W/m2K) will lead to high-energy efficiency of the walls.

The solid wall concept builds on the flexibility that all masonry construction provides. It is not constrained by standardised elements and therefore offers greater potential for the positioning and sizes of door and window openings in the external elevation, as well as flexibility in the layout of internal walls.

When constructing any property, additional stresses will be generated on specific parts of the building where the load from flooring joists or heavy products like water heaters will be concentrated. When considering how to counter these stresses, masonry based structures have inherent strength, so the need for extra design features and load management is eradicated. For solid wall construction in particular, the ability of blocks to overcome additional loading allows the end user to specify more slender blocks from our Durox range, which offer a compressive strength of 2.9N/mm2. This added flexibility allows architects to incorporate design features that can then be enhanced once the blockwork is clad with thermal renders or insulated thin brick cladding systems.

To help customers take advantage of the latest building products and techniques, Tarmac Topblock’s development team has been investigating all aspects of solid wall construction. The recently published Code for Sustainable Homes literature, which gives a clear indication on the future direction of Part L Building Regulations (thermal standards) and the future changes planned in both 2010 and 2013, demonstrates the obvious opportunities for solid wall. In particular, the use of external insulation applied to solid walls, the so called ‘tea cosy’ effect, will be one way of incorporating really high levels of thermal efficiency with the potential to meet a U Value of 0.15W/m2K. Reaching this figure, or close to it, will eventually be a necessity in working towards zero carbon homes by 2016. Therefore, solid thin joint wall systems are an important part of meeting these energy efficiency targets.

Creating construction solutions that meet these high standards is all part of our R&D programme, which helps us to deliver build methods that can meet and exceed the challenges set out by the Government. Attaining U values of 0.15W/m2K using Durox blocks and thin joint mortar is therefore significant, especially as these values can be achieved with a wall thickness of just 340mm.

It is important however to translate this achievement by comparing like-for-like wall thicknesses. The current industry standard for traditional homes is for a wall 300mm thick, which achieves U values of 0.26W/m2K. A new Durox thin joint solid wall structure, typically at 200mm thickness, finished with cladding or render and a 5mm internal plaster wall finish, can achieve U values of 0.19W/m2K, So even if new solid wall structures are constructed using a 300mm wall thickness, there is a dramatic benefit to be gained from what is currently being achieved.

The additional advantages of using solid wall relate to the simplicity and speed of installation, and the health and safety advantages this method brings for site workers. Solid wall construction enables sites to be managed more effectively by minimising the need for equipment and wet concrete on-site and therefore increasing the overall safety and security. It also means that a larger number of properties can be constructed at once, further reducing build time.

In conclusion, constructing a Durox solid wall system for new housing offers many benefits and offers developers and specifiers a way to deliver 21st century, energy-efficient properties. It provides all the attributes of traditional masonry but is used in such a way that combines exceptional build speed and safety with the potential for very good environmental performance, taking fully into account the projected changes to Part L of the Building Regulations up to 2016. In addition housing providers can be assured of predictable and low maintenance costs and housing stock that will have a service life way beyond the 60 years that is assumed for new housing generally.

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Fact 26

Automation of energy-using technologies
Controls for home heating and for energy-using appliances and electronic equipment could becomehighly sophisticated and controllable remotely to minimise energy use.
Source: Energy Saving Trust 2008