THE METHODS DON'T COUNT, IT IS THE SKILLS OF THE PEOPLE USING THEM
Thermal mass may be the next big area of argument. It certainly will be if organisations such as the recently formed Modern Masonry Alliance have anything to do with it. It argues that the new EcoHomes standards are awed, as they take account neither of the really longterm issues of durability nor of thermal mass.
The durability question is interesting, since we now talk about designing for a 60-year life, although much of our existing housing stock is much older than that. And the argument to do with thermal mass becomes more pertinent with the threat of temperatures rising with climate change. Large temperature sinks will modulate temperatures in both winter and summer, a technology that is being taken further by engineering practices such as Atelier Ten at projects like its Luton office building, which is using earth ducts beneath the building to cool the air - effectively adding part of the external environment to the thermal mass of the building.
It is true that prefabrication tends to be lightweight, although this should no longer be associated with 'slender'. With the standards introduced under Part L, walls will become deeper to accommodate additional insulation - a problem for builders trying to squeeze as much as possible onto as small a plot as possible.
There is nothing new about special interest groups arguing with each other, but this time it may end up with an expansion of knowledge.
Manufacturer Kingspan Offsite, for example, which is offering complete prefabricated walls, has commissioned research into a number of areas, including thermal mass.
A growth in knowledge and skills will be to the benefit of all. As one industry expert commented, it is not the methods used that count, but the skills and knowledge of those applying them. With those attributes, anything from the most conventional brickwork to the most spaceage of solutions can achieve an impressive result.