This month, we prepare for the winter chills and snuggle up with the latest products and materials for super-energy efficient homes
A plum job
You would expect the workers of Silicon Fen to have an appetite for something a little different when it comes to housing, and Plum Developments is tapping into the market for modern house design with a string of small schemes around the Cambridge area. Its latest project at Melbourn places three four-bedroom detached houses in a conservation area and adjacent to a grade II-listed building that has been renovated as part of the scheme.

Putting the modern alongside the traditional often generates local opposition, but NOVO Design's solution has earned praise for its design, which combines white render and zinc roofing with some crisp, clean detailing. The houses' white rendered walls also contribute to thermal performance. External walls are made from Celcon 300 mm solar blocks, combined with thin joint mortar and finished in SBD Weber system render of 40 mm polystyrene with glass reinforcing mesh and an acrylic finish. This gives the walls their low U-value of 0.25 W/m2K.

"Apart from my desire to build a maintenance-free house, I was looking for methods of speeding the build process that would also offer good insulation," says Tim Poulson, founder of both Plum and NOVO Design. Full-height windows, coupled between storeys, have both an aesthetic and a practical purpose. "This arrangement is in part to satisfy the internal environment and prospect and in part to simplify the construction of the thin joint lightweight blockwork walls and the externally insulated render system," says Poulson. Roofs are made from an insulated composite panel system with a raised seam weathered zinc covering.

And if the architectural establishment gave an award for best designed garage, this scheme would surely win it. With room for two cars, the garages are perfectly proportioned freestanding pavilions, with a steel frame and the same render and zinc finish as the houses, plus electrically operated glazed doors.

What's the spec

Zinc Roof
Rheinzink 900

H+H Celcon 901

SBD Weber 902

Timber windows
Swedhouse 903

Cavity Closers
Cavity Trays has introduced a range of fire integrity rated closers for reveals, party walls, cavity isolation and cavity wall compartmenting. The range comprises eight products with from 30 minutes to four hours' fire integrity, which can close cavities up to 150 mm wide.

Cavity Trays 905

Loadbearing lintel
Hanson Brick has introduced the CombiArch, which combines a traditional brickwork arch with a loadbearing steel lintel to support the loading of an outer leaf cavity wall. The Combi comes with a brick slip finish, and the pointing carried out in the factory or on site to match the brickwork. Each lintel has a 200 mm end bearing. Standard arches are produced in spans of 900 mm, 1200 mm and 1770 mm.

Hanson Brick 906

Wall construction method
Insulating concrete formwork allows housebuilders to manufacture walls on site. The technology involves ready-mixed concrete poured into twin-walled expanded polystyrene panels or blocks. Walls are 240-600 mm thick and have a U-value of 0.2 W/m2K.

Insulating Concrete Formwork Association 907

Stonechip cladding
Fife council is completing the refurbishment programme of 1950s system-built homes, using Dollken Cladding. The Dollken system was specified because, the company says, it improves thermal performance, provides an attractive finish, and is a dry application that can be applied in harsh weather conditions. Dollken Stonechip Cladding is made from cellular foam thermo plastic with natural stone aggregate embedded into the surface. Panels are mounted vertically onto a latticework of treated wooden battens fitted to the wall that have insulation placed between them.

Dollken Cladding 909

Insulation panel
Linden Homes is using Springvale Platinum Floorshield insulation to achieve energy efficiency for a development of 43 apartments in Wroughton, Wiltshire. Springvale Platinum Floorshield is a rigid insulation panel, intended for ground supported and suspended concrete floors. The 50 mm Platinum Floorshield earned Linden an SAP rating of 90.

Springvale 910

Euromix mortar silo
The first EuroMix mortar silo has gone on site at Park Central, Birmingham, and another 13 will follow as development of the massive site gets under way. The scheme, which is being undertaken in a partnership between Birmingham council, affordable housing provider Optima Community Housing, and Crest Nicholson, involves the construction of more than 1400 homes, plus some 26,500 m2 of commercial space. CPI Mortars is supplying a variety of products and systems, including the silo mixing station, which provides a continuous supply of ready-mixed mortar.

CPI Mortars 911

Wall system
A high-performance wall system developed for use in multi-screen cinemas has been fitted in the £750,000 penthouses in Persimmon's K2 apartment scheme in Leeds. British Gypsum's GypWall AUDIO system is being fitted to provide the penthouses with exceptional levels of sound insulation performance, as well as 120 minutes' fire protection and a damage-resistant high impact surface. The system comprises acoustically braced twin independent Gypframe metal frames lined to both sides with Gyproc Plank and Gyproc DuraLine performance boards.

British Gypsum 912

Cast stone from Meadowstone was used to replicate traditional stonework when the Victorian Brook House in Repton, Derbyshire, was refurbished and converted into 16 apartments by Mainstream Properties. The restoration project called for decorative cast stone heads and sills in a bathstone colour.

Meadowstone 913

Fast-track cladding
Corium, Baggeridge's fast-track clay brick cladding system, has been used to create a two-storey penthouse apartment on top of an existing building in London's Porchester Gate. The apartment is designed by McCusker Storey McIntosh for BMB Investments and has 320 m2 of Corium tiles, in Buff and Red Multi in a Flemish Bond. The Corium system was specified for its light weight, because of the restricted access of the project, and because it matched the brickwork of the existing structure. Kavanah Construction was main contractor on the project, and PCE was the Corium installer.

Corium 914

Beam and block creates solid welsh floor

RMC Concrete Products’ Readyfloor beam and block flooring system helped overcome poor ground conditions on a 33-unit scheme for Glamorgan and Gwent Housing Association at Trowbridge Green, Cardiff. Design-and-build contractor Leadbitter Construction came up with the solution to place foundation piles under supporting walls and span a beam and block floor between them. RMC Concrete Products’ 225 mm deep floor beams were specified because the design required the beam and block floor to span 5.5 m. RMC Concrete Products 904


FinnForest’s I-beams have been used in floor systems many times – but as part of a wall? That’s what Century Homes is doing in the prefabricated panels of its new timber-framed executive home, currently on site in Monaghan, Ireland – and FinnForest reckons this is just the start. The timber products supplier says its I-beams are lightweight, significantly stronger than solid timber beams and because the wood is moisture-reduced, the risk of shrinkage is lessened. This means defects are cut down and there is much less risk of thermal bridging, so the product complies with new energy regulations. In a joint venture with the housebuilder, super-insulatable wall panels are now being manufactured off-site using the I-beams. The panels are said to be much lighter to handle than traditional timber panels, so installation time is reduced, and the reduced shrinkage and defects means that the panels are Part L-friendly, with a U-value of 0.2 W/m2K. What’s more, as I-beams are deeper than standard beams, there is more space to slot in insulating materials. The result, says Century Homes, is a house that needs minimal heating, even on the coldest days. The higher cost of the panels means it’s unlikely the executive home market will adopt them – even though the capital outlay would be recouped in saved energy bills, says Century Homes. But the panels are said to be ideal for social housing where the client has an interest in whole-life performance. FinnForest says it has now negotiated a major deal to supply I-beam panels to a housing association in the UK. 908