What is striking about BRE’s latest project is how ordinary it looks. The innovation park, the BRE’s showcase for the latest low carbon housing is stuffed with weird and wonderful looking houses.

This new project is a polite conversion of an old Victorian stable block with sash windows, gables and even a little clock tower.

The interior is more anodyne new home, it’s all painted white and there are no period features to speak of. It might look plain Jane compared to its futuristic looking neighbours but this is where the real action is.

Upgrading existing homes to meet our ambitious carbon targets is a much bigger task than the new homes agenda and the BRE have embarked on this project to test out a smorgasbord of low carbon techniques.

Look more closely and each window is subtly different from its neighbour. Different rooms have different types of insulation; one wall features insulation on the inside of the wall and another has it on the outside.
BRE will monitor all these different materials in a bid to find out how well all these products work.

The BRE’s Peter Bonfield points out some of the products as we walk around. There’s an ordinary looking refurbished single glazed sash. Bonfield points out this is vacuum glazing, a 6mm thick double glazed piece of glass separated by a miniscule vacuum.

It looks like single glazing but has the performance of standard double glazing. It has a metal sealing button on the glass where the air has been sucked out but it doesn’t look obtrusive. 

Although you can’t see it, elsewhere is areogel blanket insulation. This is a product that has the same thermal performance as ordinary high-performance insulation but is half the thickness. In theory it’s ideal for people who don’t want to lose too much space when they insulate their solid walls and can stomach the cost.

One room has phase change ceiling tiles. These can absorb heat when the room gets hot and release it again once the room gets cold and in theory will save energy.

The lights look a bit strange as these are all giving off slightly different colours. It turns out these are LED downlighters from several manufacturers hence the variation in colour.

Monitoring of the building is underway and the results from this could be more significant than the Victorian stable blocks fancy neighbours.