Black Architecture scoured ExCel for innovative products
Black Architecture’s Paul Hinkin reports
So Ecobuild has rolled around again, and the entire construction industry, it would appear, has relocated to the Excel Centre. For me, Ecobuild provides a clear illustration of all that is dysfunctional in the construction sector; every product or service is rebranded as “green” or “eco” or “sustainable” but in the vast majority of cases remains fundamentally unchanged.
In putting together the highlights of the products on show, we have specifically sought out the small, emerging and wherever possible, UK-manufactured, because this is where the interesting innovation is occurring and where the jobs and growth in our economy will come from.
Chop-cloc is a simple idea that claims to pay for itself within 12 months! To achieve this remarkable payback, it simply switches off the thermostat and therefore the boiler of your central heating system for between 5 and 45 minutes every hour, depending on external temperatures. Internal temperatures are maintained by heat being reradiated back into the interior from the exposed thermal mass.
Holedeck, “the lean structure” as it is described, is an alternative structural floor system for multi-storey buildings. It uses complex reusable shuttering to cast a space frame and integrated floor slab in concrete, using half the concrete of a traditional waffle slab. Because the deck is formed with continuous voids in two directions, services can be run though it, removing the need for services voids, reducing external envelope of each floor by 20%, and creating an addition floor of accommodation for every five floors of traditional space.
Muckbuster is a small, easy- to-install anaerobic digester system housed in a standard shipping container. It is available in units capable of digesting between 200 and 1,000 tonnes of food and bio-waste per annum, creating between 8 and 55kW of renewable electricity via a combined heat and power plant (CHP). The unit also produces organic digestate that can be sold as fertilizer or mulch. The advantage of these small scale units is that they can be installed within the community, processing waste, to provide electricity and heat where it can be harnessed, preventing the 30% transmission losses associated with remote centralised systems.
Technamation, working with the Technical University in Cottbus, Germany, develops techniques and machines to replace products which were previously made from resources stemming from the oil industry. On display at their stand were a number of Wood Plastic Composites (WPC), some with up to 90% natural fibre content, as well as the more traditional wood composites we have seen in garden furniture and decking. A range of extruded and moulded building components were illustrated, assembled into an emergency shelter for disaster relief operations. With a bit more imagination and some assistance from the university, there may be more potential for these products.
The EGO CLT MIX panel seemed like a more intelligent way of using timber compared to the solid blocks of CLT we have grown accustomed to seeing in ‘green’ buildings. The panels sandwich thermo-acoustic insulation between thin CLT sheets – rock wool, sheep’s wool and wood fibre are on offer – with a claim they are better thermally and acoustically than standard CLT panels. The words ‘fire resistant’ appear on the literatur; this needs some investigation as there is no supporting technical data. If they perform well, they may be able to resolve the problems that standard foam filled SIPS panels have in terms of fire and acoustic performance.
Hidden amongst Datum’s vegetable-derived phase change boarding products and ceiling tiles was a ceiling panel piped up with tubing used by most manufacturers in underfloor heating systems. The representative was keen to talk about the benefits of the plant-derived molecules that replace the wax paraffins used in earlier phase change boards, but we were drawn to the ceiling panel that was not yet in production. The pipes worked in conjunction with the board to purge the heat absorbed after a hard day’s work in a hot office environment. As embodied energy becomes a greater focus, this may be an option to combine with refined lightweight timber construction.
We first came across Propelair back in 2010 as one of our products of the month, so it was good to actually see this product making it to market. The key component of this toilet is the unique ‘displaced-air’ flushing system that reduces water consumption to 1.5 Litres per flush, using 84% less water and 80% less energy than an average WC. It can be installed in existing drainage runs or as a new installation with small-bore pipes laid without gradients. As water use is minimised, it allows more flexibility in the specification of other water products whilst complying with Part G, CfSH and BREEAM water use calculations.
Hybrid is a new range of insulation products from Actis, launched at Ecobuild this week. The photo shows their Hybris product, a reflective insulation with a honeycomb structure, which incorporates a large number of low emissivity internal cavities which results in a very high thermal performance available in thickness from 30mm to 300mm and R values from 0.90 to 9.05m2/kW.
Concreate is a mineral-based flooring solution made from magnesium oxide. Designed for installation in domestic and commercial interiors, Concreate provides an environmental and economic alternative to poured concrete floors. The boards are fully biodegradable and constructed by pressing magnesium oxide and natural fibres, which are then air-cured giving each board a unique surface patination, fired and coated in oil.
To liven up our time at Ecobuild, Steve, Tony and I had a competition to find the “Best Freebie”. I am pleased to announce that the award goes to Finnlog for their branded wooden butter spreader. We are not sure how sustainable juniper wood is, but it sure does smell great!
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