May 22, 2014

Building the future in Bicester

The future of housing is something many people are discussing at the moment. How do we build good quality, affordable homes in sufficient quantities to match the seemingly inexhaustible demand we have in the UK?

A few years ago we worked on a Government-backed project as part of the AIMC4 consortium, aimed at answering this very question. That saw us deliver eight homes to Code for Sustainable Homes (CSH) Level 4 using a fabric-led solution, without the need for renewable devices, which was an award-winning UK first.

This year we’re involved in another first for Britain. We’ll be working with housing provider A2Dominion and construction firm Willmott Dixon on the North West Bicester (NW Bicester) project, the UK’s first eco town.

That will see the first 94 homes, of the “Exemplar” phase’s 393 in total, using our award-winning Sigma II Build System. The novel C-Stud technology used in this build system will deliver excellent heat retention and air tightness, with a 0.15 U-value, air tightness of 3 and thermal bridging of 0.04.

To improve the homes’ energy performance even further, the party walls and roof will be site-insulated and put together with air tightness membranes, to achieve the very low U-value. Along with pre-assembled  flat roof ceiling modules and insulated floor cassette edges, this means a pair of semi-detached homes can be weather tight, air tight, secure and fully insulated within 72 hours.

The whole project is designed to deliver sustainable living, with the homes built to achieve a true zero carbon rating and CSH Level 5. We’ll not only be designing the timber systems, but supplying and installing them on site which will increase the speed of build and assure performance, while cutting down on waste and reducing project costs.

Crucial to achieving this is the design approach. Our Sigma II Build System adopts a fabric first approach, in combination with offsite construction. That means we’ll be able to precision engineer the timber systems, which cuts down on defects, simplifies construction on site and allows for greater air tightness and thermal performance, as well as building them much more quickly.

But there are a number of other key features that are going to help make this one of the most sustainable developments in the country. These range from a site-wide gas turbine combined heat and power system, rainwater harvesting to recycle water; home information devices displaying energy and water consumption, substantial green landscaping and bio-diversity, to real-time information on local public transport and an electric car club and eco-pub.

Achieving such high performance specifications on any housing project is clearly a significant challenge. Success requires careful planning and a focus of thinking towards getting the building fabric right. That means using materials and a design approach that make the most of energy efficiency, while also reducing carbon emissions.

By working with our partners at A2Dominion, Willmott Dixon and the design team, we’re going to achieve this in NW Bicester. The project should be an important moment on the road to the future of housing, and zero carbon living.

What do you think is the future of housing in the UK? Tell us by getting in touch or tweeting us on @TimberSystems.

Homes For Scotland Home Builders Federation National House-Building Council Royal Institute of British Architects Structural Timber Association Constructionline British Board of Agrement Wood Campus Build Off Site Building Research Establishment WOOD FOR GOOD

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