Bicester Eco Town, North West Bicester

Key facts

  • 94 homes to be built as part of first “Exemplar” phase
  • The UK’s first “eco town”, achieving high standards of environmental sustainability
  • Delivered to true zero carbon rating, equivalent to Code for Sustainable Homes Level 5
  • Energy efficiency delivered primarily through the build envelope
  • Homes weather tight, air tight and fully insulated in 72 hours
  • 0.15 U-value, air tightness of 3 and thermal bridging of 0.04

Type and size of project

A2Dominion’s development in North West Bicester is a 393-home project, aiming to deliver the most sustainable living in the UK for its residents.

With the homes designed to achieve true zero carbon rating, delivering energy efficient, good quality affordable housing will be crucial to the success of the project. Timber systems were therefore an ideal fit for the priorities of the ambitious task at hand.

Description of project

Stewart Milne Timber Systems will be working with A2Dominion and Willmott Dixon, the main contractor, at what will be the UK’s first eco town. The project will be the only eco town still to adhere to the Government’s original Eco Town Policy Planning Statement, designed to achieve high standards of environmental sustainability.

The company’s role in the project will be to provide its Sigma II Build System, with novel C-stud technology, for 94 of the first 393 homes, as part of the “Exemplar” phase of the project. Initial infrastructure work began in late April 2014, while construction work on the homes is expected to commence in early summer. The first residents are expected to move in to this phase of the project in 2015.

The first phase is being designed with a fabric first approach, complemented by renewable technologies, keeping the build fabric central to creating a sustainable community. The homes will attain Code for Sustainable Homes (CSH) Level 5 through excellent heat retention and air tightness, with a 0.15 U-value, air tightness of 3 and thermal bridging of 0.04.

Much of this will be achieved through the build fabric, with pre-assembled flat roof modules and insulated floor cassette edges, meaning a pair of semi-detached homes can be weather tight, air tight, secure and fully insulated within 72 hours. This will provide a safe and efficient means to complete the homes on site. Air testing will also be conducted prior to first fixing, building in assured performance of the fabric.

The use of off-site construction will bring a number of benefits to the North West Bicester project. The quality of the timber systems will be assisted by precision engineering when compared to erecting the building on-site. At the same time, this method of construction will mean reduced costs on preliminary site preparation, as well as reducing health and safety risks, avoiding weather interruptions and limiting defects.

The development will feature the UK’s largest domestic solar panel array, with 17,500 square metres mounted across the rooftops of all homes to generate electricity. This will include freestanding photovoltaic (PV) panels, overlaid PV panels and inset PV tiles, with some garages benefiting from green roofs.

The development will also include a range of additional features, aiming to minimise its residents’ impact on the local environment. These will include rainwater harvesting systems to recycle water; home information system displaying energy, water consumption, and real-time information on local public transport; an electric car club and eco-pub; optional electric car charging points; and high speed fibre-optic broadband to promote home working and reduce car journeys.

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