Vote for the best green innovation of the year from our nine-strong shortlist

Times may be hard but the construction industry continues to embrace innovation and improvement and this is especially true when it comes to sustainability.

Increasingly tough targets for cutting carbon emissions and reducing the environmental impact of buildings means the role of product innovation, while not a silver bullet, is more crucial than ever. This is why we are launching the ‘Green Innovation Award’ as part of our Sustainability Now virtual event.

So what are the biggest product developments that are going to help the construction sector meet their sustainability goals? We’ve picked out nine recent developments which we think could make a difference. It’s by no means a definitive list, but it demonstrates the broad mix of ideas being embraced - from the embodied energy of building materials to more efficient ways of generating heat and power.

Below is a brief description of each product plus a website if you want to find out more. You have until Wednesday 28 April to vote for which product you think deserves to win.

>>Click here to cast your winning vote<<

Baxi Ecogen CHP unit

Generating free electricity while you heat your home sounds like a good deal. Not only could it save you money, but it also might reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Last month Baxi Group officially unveiled its long awaited micro combined heat and power (CHP) unit – the Baxi Ecogen. Similar in size to a conventional wall hung boiler, it’s claimed to be the first commercially available micro CHP unit for the home.

The gas fired appliance can simultaneously generate up to 1kWh of electricity and 6kW of heat, offering lower carbon emissions and cost savings.

Find out more at the Baxi Ecogen web site.

Viking House passivhaus certified foundations

The German Passivhaus standard has been winning plenty of admirers in the UK, the tricky part for specifier’s is coming up with the details to achieve the well insulated air tight envelope and importantly the elimination of thermal bridges. Dublin based Viking House who has developed a patented PassivHaus certified foundation system, which is made from structural expanded polystyrene and delivers U-values down to 0.08W/m2K and eliminates the critical wall-floor cold bridge.

Find out more at the Passive House Foundations web site

Kingspan Insulated panels Energipanel, solar air heating system

Kingspan EnergiPanel is an insulated solar air heating system designed for roof and wall applications as a supplement to the main heating system. When in contact with the suns rays the external profile of the EnergiPanel heats up and transfers this heat to the airflow that is induced through the profiled hollows of the corrugated panel. This warm air can then be used to help provde space heating. The key benefits of the system is that it is low cost and reliable renewable energy source which is also claimed to provide rapid payback on investment and can cut heating costs and the building’s carbon emissions. It can also help the building secure BREEAM credits.

Find out more at the Kingspan EnergiPanel web site

RockTron cement substitute

Five percent of all global carbon dioxide emissions emitted every year come from the global production of cement – that’s more than the aviation. Now, after two decades of development, RockTron has launched what it terms an “eco-substitute” to cement. This is based on PFA that has undergone a purification process. The main advantage of doing this is that it enables a higher substitution of clinker than conventional PFA – more than 50% – so results in concrete with even lower embodied carbon. Cement made with RockTron Alpha eco-substitute will conform fully to BSEN 197 – the standard for the composition of cement and the time the formwork needs to stay in place for concrete made using this eco-substitute are the same as for traditional concrete. Another advantage of the RockTron purification process is that it can re-use PFA that has already been sent to landfill, reducing concerns over lack of supply and landfill.

Find out more at the RockTron web site

Pilkington EnergiKare Legacy vacuum glazing

Imagine glazing with the thickness of a single pane of glass but which offers the same thermal properties as a 24mm double insulated glazed unit. This is what Pilkington has developed with its energiKare Legacy vacuum glazing. Each unit is made up of one pane of clear float glass and another of low-emissivity glass, with a vacuum rather than air or another gas in between. The overall unit thickness is around 6mm which, together with its lightweight, means it can be used as a like-for-like replacement for single panes in windows such as box sashes without modifying the frames. This makes it just the ticket for improving the thermal performance of windows in historic buildings. It is claimed to provide a U-value of 1.4W/m2K.

Find out more at the Pilkington EnergiKare web site

Fakro - FTT U5 Thermo, rooflights

Achieving good daylighting while minimising heat loss through windows is a tricky balance and this is especially so when it comes to rooflights – there simply aren’t that many around with the requisite low U-values. But Fakro has developed the FTT U5 Thermo Window which is suitable for roofs with pitches between 15° and 90°. It achieves a whole window U-value of 0.94 W/m2K which it claims delivers significant energy savings. The centre pivot window has a specially designed 30% thicker sash into which the glazing unit with a U-value of 0.5 W/m2K is placed, this increases durability and the thermo-insulating properties of the whole product.

Find out more at the Fakro web site

Clayworks – unfired clay blocks and plasters

With the embodied energy of materials is rising up the agenda it’s timely that Clayworks has developed a range of unfired clay blocks and plain clay plasters and pigmented clay plasters. As a material, unfired clay has an exceptionally low ‘embodied energy’ and the company’s low carbon clay-walling system, comprising blocks and plaster does away with the need for cement, gypsum, plasterboard or paint.

As well as the low energy manufacturing process it also has the ability to help regulate both internal room temperatures and humidity levels via its thermal mass, which can help with energy conservation in completed buildings. On top of this, clay plasters are tactile and pretty unique.

Find out more at the Clayworks web site

Viessmann Vitocal heat pump towers

Viessmann has come up with a system that should overcome the age-old problem of how to integrate different heating technologies in the form of its Vitocal 222-G and Vitocal 242-G heat pump towers. Designed for new build applications where space is at a premium, they integrate a heat pump, cylinder, secondary heating circuit pump, optional electric flow heater and connection to the firm’s flat panel solar collectors or vacuum tube collectors. The heat pump and cylinder are separable for ease of access. Heat pump outputs of 6kW, 8kW and 10 kW are available.

Find out more at the Viessmann web site

Natural Building Technologies Pavawall woodfibre insulation board

It might be hard to get excited about insulation but Natural Building Technologies has unveiled a new addition to its portfolio of insulation products: Pavawall woodfibre insulation board. Manufactured entirely from wood waste, the company claims the material locks up more carbon than is used throughout its manufacture and delivery to site – the carbon locked in is around one tonne of CO2 per tonne of product from ‘cradle to site’.

The insulation board is designed to be used with a rendered finish on retrofit or new build masonry applications and is supplied in batts up to 160mm thick. Crucially it offers a thermal conductivity performance (K-value) of just 0.040 W/mK and is vapour permeable and hygroscopic to make it breathable.

Find out more at the Natural Building Technologies web site

On Thursday 13 May as part of Sustainability Now there will be an audio webinar where the three finalists will discuss their innovations after which the winner will be revealed.