Questions & Answers

Here below we have tried to answer some frequently asked questions about the project. We'll be building more answers here as the project progresses. 

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For now, we've added a few questions that Tarmac are asked frequently:

Q - How can the homes achieve warmth in the winter or remain cool in the summer?

Our strategy for capturing optimum solar energy via the solar thermal and PV panels is based on the predicted annual energy demand/generation. We anticipate that in the summer months that the PV will generate a large surplus that will be fed into the grid. Similarly we would expect that the solar thermal will provide all of the hot water demand or at least the majority. In the winter months, in particular January and February, the biomass boiler will be required for central heating and the hot water. Any solar benefit we get will be a bonus. The same is true for the PV although there will still be a contribution even on dull days.

The angle of the roof was chosen to accommodate the 22m2 of PV and also optimize solar access in the summer months.

The properties are being fitted with a range of monitoring equipment which will allow us to see what the actual power demand/generation actually is as both homes will be occupied. In many ways this is the more interesting part of the project as the build has been very simple and traditional and complying with the Code, whilst demanding, is design exercise. The monitoring will also investigate internal ambient conditions and water consumption/savings. Finding out how the properties, and the occupants, actually perform in practice compared to the theory will tell us a lot about the potential for housing to reach zero carbon.

Q - What is the Code for Sustainable Homes and when does it take effect?
A - The Code has been introduced to drive a step-change in sustainable home building practice. It measures the sustainability of a home against 9 design categories including energy / CO2, water, materials and health and well-being issues. Points are awarded depending on the level of performance achieved for the various categories, leading to an overall rating for the home from Code Level 1 (one star) to Code Level 6 (6 stars). The Code has been adopted in Government funded housing schemes since April 2007, and is expected to be adopted for all housing from April 2008.

Q - What are the benefits of using masonry construction in meeting the Code requirements?
A - Enhanced energy / CO2 and sound insulation performance can be achieved using Tarmac products in external and separating wall constructions respectively, thus gaining points towards the required Code Level. The materials section encourages the use of constructions with low environmental impact and Tarmac constructions can be specified, to wall and floor (beam and block) elements, with many solutions achieving an 'A' rating according to BRE's Green Guide to Housing. There are also many indirect benefits to consider. Tarmac's masonry is inherently durable and can contribute towards resilient construction thus mitigating the risk of flooding (Category 4 - Surface Water Run-off). The adaptability of Tarmac masonry can be used to benefit in meeting the standards of Lifetime Homes (Category 7 - Health and Well-being).

Q - Category 3 (materials) awards points based on the environmental impact of the construction. How do Tarmac Topblock products perform in this area?
A - The minimum requirement at Code Level 1 is for at least three of the key elements (walls, floors etc.) to achieve a rating of at least D in accordance with the 2007 Green Guide to Housing. Beyond this points can be gained for constructions with a B rating and above. In fact many Tarmac constructions used in beam and block ground floors, external and internal walls will achieve an 'A' rating so will help considerably towards meeting the required Code Level.

Q - The Materials Category also mentions Responsible Sourcing. What does this mean?
A - This aspect is concerned with promoting the specification of responsibly sourced materials for the basic construction as well as finishing elements. In this context responsible sourcing means using materials that are produced and traded legally and ethically and with due regard to environmental, social and economic impacts throughout the supply chain. Although this aspect was originally developed to try to address concerns over the illegal logging of timber, the requirements apply to all materials. Compliance is based on a graded ('Tier levels') scale to reflect the rigour of the compliance scheme used to demonstrate responsible sourcing.The majority of our raw materials, about 95%, are sourced from within the UK from companies operating within the rigorous framework of UK legal and environmental requirement. Most of our suppliers operate an Environmental Management System (EMS) that provides a high level of assurance regarding the legality and responsible sourcing of the materials we use to manufacture our products. For example, all Tarmac block production sites operate a BSI Certified EMS, enabling the point available for Tier 4 to be utilised. Currently the concrete industry is working in consultation with the Building Research Establishment towards a concrete products sector compliance scheme which will eventually allow us to achieve maximum points available.

Q - How do I give feedback on the website?
A - Please click Contact Us in the middle of the top white menu bar to give us your feedback or click here masonryhome@tarmac.co.uk .

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Fact 19

Being seen to be green is popular among 70% of the UK population, but only 40% of people are actually taking action.
Source: Energy Saving Trust 2008