Sustainable alternatives for varnish, vinyl flooring and building blocks. Plus, a heat recovery system that makes the most of waste water and, below, the start of a quiet revolution in wind turbines

Interlocking building blocks

Natural Building Technologies has launched a thermally efficient clay building block. Ziegel Building Blocks have a honeycomb structure and are fixed using a thin joint system. The blocks only need a masonry bed when jointed horizontally as they interlock vertically, eliminating the need for mortar. As well as blocks for corners and lintels, NBT also has blocks for internal pipe work and internal walls. A 300 mm block has a claimed U-value of 0.35, and higher-performance blocks are available. The system is also available for flooring and roofing.

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Combination condensing boilers

Halstead Boilers has launched two combination condensing boilers called the Ace HE 24 and the Ace HE 30. The difference between the two models is the rate at which the combi boiler heats water, 10.9 litres/min and 14.71 litres/min respectively for a temperature rise of 30°C. The products dimensions 758 mm × 446 mm × 327 mm.

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Mineral wool wall insulation

Knauf Insulation has launched two full-fill wall insulation products, which it says will allow wall cavities in masonry walls to be less than 100 mm wide and still meet the provisions of the new Part L. Knauf claims the products, DriTherm 32 and DriTherm 34, have elemental U-values of between 0.27 and 0.32 in wall cavities between 75 and 100 mm. The products are said to be good insulators against fire and noise. DriTherm will be available in Knauf’s glass mineral wool and rock mineral wool ranges.

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Vinyl sheet flooring

Mannington Commercial has unveiled a vinyl flooring range called Relay. Forty per cent of the flooring is made from excess tile trim from other products, which is turned into coloured chips that are used to decorate Relay. The product is available in 1.8 m widths and is topped with urethane plastic to prevent staining. It comes in 16 colours, including green, beige and blue.

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Water-based varnish for wood flooring

Liberon has added Natural Finish Floor Varnish to its woodcare products range. The water-based varnish is approved by the European Eco-label scheme. Liberon claims it is suitable for indoor use on soft and hard wood flooring. It is available in matt, satin and waxed finishes, in 0.75 and 2.5 litre containers. The company claims the varnish is touch-dry in 30 minutes.

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Waste water heat recovery

Northern Irish company Envirozone is introducing Power-Pipe, a system that can recover heat from waste water, to the UK. The Power-Pipe replaces a section of the waste-water pipe and includes a coil of thin tube through which water circulates. This recovers the heat passing through the waste-water pipe. Envirozone says that Power-Pipe can transfer 50-85% of the heat from waste water from showers and sinks and requires no maintenance. The Power-Pipes are either 76.1 mm or 108 mm in diameter, and 150 mm long. The looped coil that fits tightly around them is either 15 mm or 22 mm in diameter.

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Product innovation: The winds of change

XCO2 has released the Quiet Revolution 6 kW wind turbine, which it claims is quieter and vibrates less than traditional wind turbines. Unlike the latter, which rotate horizontally, the QR rotates vertically and has three long carbon-fibre blades connected to the vertical axis.

XCO2 claims the design performs more efficiently as it does not have to keep changing direction with the wind as a traditional turbine would. This decreases vibrations and cuts down on aerodynamic noise.

The rotating section is 5 m high and 3.1 m in diameter, and is designed to work up to a maximum wind speed of 16 m/s.

The turning of the turbine drives the 6 kW generator and creates electricity in the same way as a traditional turbine. QR can be mounted on either a 5-10 m high tower or a roof, and will produce a claimed 6000 kW/h per year in a low wind site and more than 12,000 kW/h per year in a good wind site. The company says the product can last for 20 years.

The QuietRevolution is also available in a version fitted with a series of LEDs in the blades. According to XC02 these can be programmed to light up in sequence as the turbine rotates and be used as an illuminated display for artwork or advertising.

The design is currently in pre-production and will undergo final assessment before the first commercial installations in winter 2005. Planning permission has already been given for developments on London’s Southwark Bridge Road, commencing in December 2005, and one at Temple Meads Roundabout in Bristol, starting in January 2006.

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Walk on Brise Soleil

Levolux has launched a brise soleil that it claims is strong enough to support a person’s weight. The Walk On Brise Soleil is made of “J”-shaped units that are installed across a wall and supported by either cantilevering or other structures. Non-slip tops are installed between the units to make a platform that Levolux claims can support a person’s weight. This can be used for jobs such as external maintenance and window cleaning.

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Movers and makers

  • Heavy-duty sheet vinyl flooring from Polyflor has been given an “A” rating under the BRE’s Green Guide to Specification scheme. The Polyflor Standard XL 2 mm and Mystique PUR 2 mm meet the BRE’s standards for environmental performance. Polyflor says the reason for the “A” rating is the inclusion of a layer of polyurethane, called Mystique PUR. This enables the flooring to be maintained without polish, which reduces the need for chemical cleaner.
  • Atkins Water has issued new best practice guidance to promote water conservation and drainage. The Atkins recommendations include promoting low-flush WCs, cutting external water use by planting drought-tolerant plants and using showers that set a maximum rate of water flow.
  • Nigel Carter and Larraine Wilde have written a book to explain the process behind environmental assessment and environmental due diligence. The book is called Environmental Due Diligence – The Role of ISO 14015 in the Environmental Assessment of Sites and Organizations and is published by BSI Business Information.
  • CIRIA Books has launched the second version of its Environmental Good Practice On Site handbook (C650) to update its 1999 edition (C502), and a companion Environmental Good Practice pocket book (C651). This update, edited by Philip Charles and Samantha Connolly, was funded by the CIRIA Core Programme and the Environment Agency.
  • The UK cement industry is to develop a new code that will include standards on sustainability. The cement maker’s code will have sections on local communities, product quality and management systems. A cement taskforce also announced an industry-wide strategy to cut carbon emissions, which will include greater use of cement waste as fuels, improved kiln efficiency and in the long term the development of hybrid-cement energy facilities to generate electricity. The taskforce is also to introduce an annual industry corporate responsibility report.