Jun 19, 2014

The evolution of a build system: how one home marked the way for the future of housing

The best products and services evolve over time. Seldom is something introduced to a market as an end in itself. The most successful companies, whether that’s Apple or Dyson, have demonstrated that with their products and commitment to innovation.

We invest a great deal in R&D. That’s helped us bring innovation to the construction sector. Our Sigma II Build System is testament to that fact. Over four years it has evolved as the market and our customers’ requirements have changed.

It all began with the Sigma Home in 2007. At the time, it was the first house in the UK to receive a five star rating for the government’s Code for Sustainable Homes (CSH) standards. It was the result of our work with Oxford Brookes University and the Energy Saving Trust to research performance testing, monitoring and occupancy evaluation.

The whole ethos behind the project was delivering sustainability in a cost effective manner, which would mark the way for the low carbon, low energy homes and buildings we require in the future. Out of this project, our thinking for high performance products was born.

Designed to meet the challenge of delivering these sustainable homes through superior air tightness and thermal bridging without relying on renewable technology, our Sigma II Build System was designed to make low carbon living easy for householders.

The product was an immediate hit. In 2010 the Sigma II Build System won the Sustainability Innovation prize at the 2010 Inside Housing Sustainable Housing Awards.

From January 2011, it evolved even further as part of the government-back AIMC4 consortium. We built eight properties spread over three sites across the UK using Sigma II Build System, to provide a robust, fit and forget solution to low carbon building.

In late 2011, it received BBA certification, the UK’s gold standard of product or system approval. At this point, the product had been rolled out across housebuilding and commercial developments, highlighting its flexibility and suitability for a variety of projects.  

Last year we made it even better, improving the Sigma II Build System so that it can be used for projects that reach six storeys.

As proof of its success, the build system has been used on a number of our sustainable projects over the last few years. Here are just a few of them:

  • The Serpentine: Working with Thames Valley Housing, this project sought to deliver high quality affordable homes in a cost effective manner. We employed the Sigma II Build System on this project to meet that challenge. Each home was delivered for less than £60,000 while achieving high energy performance. U-Values of 0.15 W/m2K were accomplished in the external walls, 0.15 W/m2K in the ceilings and 1.4 W/m2K in the windows, which were pre-fitted to the external walls. The homes were built quickly, with residents keen to get their hands on the keys.
  • Essex University: In higher education, speed of build is a critical factor in project success. Term times are non-negotiable and that means, regardless of the standards to be met, there is a definite deadline. This student accommodation project was designed to BREEAM Excellent rating by the architects. Again, the Sigma II Build System was a great fit for the development, given these two priorities. U-Values of just 0.23 W/m2K were achieved along with Y-Values between 0.05 and 0.06 and air tightness of three.
  • Young’s Homes: The aim on this project was to achieve first-class energy saving insulation and air tightness, as well as cost-efficiencies through offsite construction. Sigma II was ideal given its use of modern methods of construction to strip out on site costs and processes that don’t add value. The development’s 15 homes were erected ahead of the five week build programme to Code for Sustainable Homes Level four. We used space stud technology to vastly improve thermal bridging and created pre-insulated, closed external wall panels, filled with blown polystyrene beads, to provide high thermal performance.

We’re looking forward to using the Sigma II Build System on even more projects. There is still plenty come from this product and our continuing commitment to R&D means we could yet provide further iterations of it to reflect the needs of the market. So watch this space.

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