Changing the way we build homes
At the start of December, a packed out conference room at Mitsubishi Electric’s Hatfield headquarters heard the forthright views of TV presenter, George Clarke on housebuilding, as part of an event called ‘Transforming the Housing Technology Mindset’.
“We wanted to showcase the need for increased building standards and more use of renewable technologies,” explained Max Halliwell who chaired the seminar, which brought together architects, specifiers, housing associations and heating engineers.
In an entertaining and engaging presentation, George Clarke spoke earnestly about the need to change the mindset and reject the traditional way of building homes as there are now much better and quicker ways using factory-built, modular technology: “There's no point in building 300,000 crap houses,” he told the attendees.
Pointing out that for the first time in history, the majority of us now live in towns and cities, George also referred to the Mark Farmer Report, which he called ‘damning’. It’s title is ‘Modernize or Die’ and George saw this as a clarion call to think differently about how we do everything in the industry.
“As radical as it might be we should be changing the Building Regulations to increase insulation standards so that every single new build house has an air source heat pump as standard and everyone has triple glazing,” he explained.
Speaking on behalf of Build Offsite, the campaigning organisation promoting greater uptake of offsite techniques, Professor Nick Whitehouse highlighted how modular building can lower costs by 33%, increase delivery speeds by 50% and halve carbon emissions.
George Clarke was equally enthusiastic about modular build: “You wouldn’t build a car out in the backyard, you’d build it in a factory and then you can ensure precision engineering in a way that is simply not possible outdoors,” he explained.
“Why can’t the same be true of building houses, where we can ensure the highest quality of materials and construction and then ship individual modules to site? This removes the timely wet processes such as bricklaying and plastering and means homes can be put together in days, rather than months.”
Mitsubishi Electric’s own experts examined the state of the renewable heating market and pointed to the significant growth opportunities presented by the government’s recognition of heat pumps as a major part of the move towards a much more sustainable and energy efficient housing sector.
Martin Fahey, Head of Sustainable for the company, highlighted how we are heading for an electric economy and demonstrated why the days of simply ‘burning stuff’ are rapidly coming to an end.
“75% of emissions reductions since 2012 have come from the power sector as we green the grid and this makes the case for electric forms of heating, such as heat pumps, much, much stronger,” he explained.
National Specification Manager, Stuart Bell talked about how everything is now in place to quickly deliver renewable heat to homes using air source heat pumps, and also highlighted the huge number of case studies on heat pump installations around the country, in a wide variety of situations from tower blocks, restored Victorian brick-buildings, single apartments and individual houses of almost every type.
It’s time to start now
George Clarke called for the industry to stop thinking short-term: “We know the pressure is on the construction companies to build more energy efficient homes but they are not doing enough and not quickly enough,” he said, explaining that in essence, we are broadly building homes in similar ways to the Romans.
Explaining how modern methods of construction and renewable technologies such as air source heat pumps mean we can deliver both healthy and energy efficient homes, George also highlighted how more power from the sun hits the Earth in a single hour than humanity uses in an entire year, and that this is renewed every single day.
“It has taken us a long time to change our mindset with regards to cars, fossil fuels and emissions and we are getting there,” he explained. “When it comes to our homes, we have hardly started and we need to now!”
Communications Manager for Renewable Heating, Max Halliwell, spoke about how people have changed the way they look at major purchases such as houses with more people asking for evidence of the sustainability and long term thinking that has gone into their home.
“Heat pumps have been recognised by government as a large part of the solution because of the ease of installation and the army of installers that are ready to meet the growing demand,” he ended.
George Clarke’s presentation is available on Mitsubishi Electric’s Youtbe channel www.youtube.com/watch?v=vGUTpcC89Gc
Further details on the range of Ecodan heat pumps can be found at http://ecodan.co.uk