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Interbuild 2008

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Sustainability at the Birmingham expo: the award-winning EcoWall is worth a look, but the EcoHouse is worthy but dull

♦ Designed by Woodward Smith Architects, The EcoHouse is the main attraction in ‘The Village’ - a feature new to Interbuild this year. The house ambitiously targets Code for Sustainable Homes Level 5 and is part of a 295 unit project currently going through planning in Barnstaple, Devon. Yet the house’s cramped plan and pseudo-vernacular appearance do not match its environmental aspirations. In a show where design driven products are few and far between, the SVP Special Projects stand by Satellite Architects is a refreshing change. What a shame that the EcoHouse does not reflect this quality of design.

♦ The EcoHouse is clad in Extrudawood, an imitation timber product made entirely of recycled polystyrene. Unfortunately its profile and colour bear little resemblance to the real thing. Yet the market for Extrudawood has exploded in America, where sales for hot tub surrounds alone have increased from $750,000 to $35million over the last four years, according to managing director GB House. The Extrudawood range runs from fencing and decking to kitchen cupboards and flooring. None of it fooled me, though it clearly has a future in exterior applications.

♦ Eco Product Award winner EcoWall, developed by Irish based company Ecological Building Systems,combines high thermal performance, breathability and low embodied energy in a wall assembly for offsite construction using a number of components by German manufacturer ProClima. Notable is the Intello Plus vapour barrier which responds to changes in temperature and humidity becoming up to 50x more porous in summer than in winter. Intello Plus has been specified by Architype for St Luke’s Primary School in Wolverhampton, currently on site.

♦ Worthwhile seminars include Bill Dunster on PortZed, various BRE seminars on the GreenGuide, BREEAM 2008, and lessons from Innovation Park, as well as those in the ‘Timber Zone’ on specifying certified timber and airtightness. For a better understanding of the energy calculations used in EPCs and DECs and energy in buildings generally, try one of the seminars by Elmhurst Energy, which has trained 4,500 energy assessors to date.

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