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RESSEEPE Project – Sustainable Building Innovations at Coventry University – PCM

Coventry University and the RESSEEPE partners have been very busy over the past few months progressing the RESSEEPE research into the demo site activities phase.  It’s at this point where the practical end of the demonstrations is coming into action and the really exciting work is happening. Having been a part of the project since its initial practical kick off its great to see the technologies explored as a part of the project actually gong onto the buildings. Over the next few weeks a number of articles will be released discussing each of the technologies installed at Coventry University.

IMG_2928

PCM – Sample of the tube form unfixed and loose

The first major works at Coventry consisted of the installation of Phase Change Materials (PCM).  PCM is a passive system, which behaves similar to ice, in that the material ‘freezes’ and melts at a fixed temperature.  The PCM installed in Coventry is a S27 phase change material, which is a salt hydrate that peaks at 27oC.  In reality, the PCM may start the melting process at 25oC and be completely liquid at 29oC.  In reverse, the PCM may show signs of solidification at 29oC and be completely solid at 25oC. 

 

 

The PCM Tubes are installed and respond to the surrounding temperature of the room.  At the beginning of the day, the TubeICE are frozen.  As the room heats up due to body heat, and heat from the sun, the PCM Tubes passively cool the room by absorbing the heat until completely melted. 

PCM Passive System Throughout Day

PCM Passive System Throughout Day

The duration of the cooling effect is dependent on the intensity of the heat being absorbed.  I.e. the PCM will melt quicker if the ambient temperature in the room is 40oC compared to if the temperature is 35oC, much like a block of ice would.  As the temperature cools over night, so does the PCM.  The PCM effectively looses energy to the immediate surroundings, charging for the next day. 

 

PCM - Overnight

PCM Overnight

IMG_2927

PCM bracket System

One of the challenges with installation was due to the unknown entity of the PCM. A number of local contractors were approached to install but were put off by the increased risk factor when dealing with a technology which is very new. Contractors rightly so have to consider the increased level of risk and liability that they will take on when dealing with something they have little precedent or experience in handling. In reality once a contractor had been identified the installation was fairly straight forward. Certain protocols had to be adhered to such as a structural assessment of the space and an asbestos survey, both to ensure that firstly the structure could hold the increased loading of the PCM tubes and secondly to ensure that no surprises were found in regards to asbestos. Both were cleared and the installation was quick and uneventful. As can be seen from the image the PCM tubes were fixed using a standard tube fixing bracket system which was fixed to the underside of the ceiling.

PCM technology was installed within the Architecture Studio and 2 offices within the John Laing Building at Coventry University. The spaces and tubes will be energy monitored over the next year to gather full performance data, which will be objectively compared to controls rooms neighbouring the spaces. Below the PCM tube can be seen in-situ.

IMG_2558

PCM tube in-situ

 

PCM tube in-situ

PCM tube in-situ

Contributors – Danny McGough and PCMproducts

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Whole Life Approach to BIM part 1

This is a short video I created aimed at providing an introductory awareness of BIM, from zero forwards. This particular video focus on Whole Life performance and sustainability. The video was created in 2014. The work has been supported by multiple existing research and statements made by industry and academic individuals which I’ve then collated and interpreted into my own perspective.

Links to Coventry University, where we have a selection of courses that include BIM and Construction – Coventry University – School of Energy, Construction and Environment

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Sustainable Building Conference 2013 – CIOB

This article is part of a series of articles which will reflect back on my recent experiences at the Sustainable Building and Construction Conference 2013 (SB13) held at Coventry University. Questions arose on; Is there enough social housing available today?   Also with much  of the 26 million UK housing stock built before the concept of sustainability was even envisaged will it be possible to  upgrade the 9 million homes in need of upgrade in the near future?

 

Sourced from - Coventry University

Coventry University

One of the keynote speakers which addressed the Sustainable Building and Construction Conference 2013 at Coventry University was Chris Blythe representing the CIOB. The focus of Blythe’s presentation was on issues found within the UK housing market. In particular Blythe raised concerns with the “lack of social housing within the UK. Yet counter to this empty private houses or rooms.”  Blythe also highlighted the “issue that house prices are far more than the average salary than 30 years ago. (With) Stamp duty preventing home-owners from progressing up the ladder.”

 

Moving onto the sustainability of UK housing stock with much of it being built before the concept of sustainability was even conceived, 26 million homes in fact which has had a knock on effect to what state our housing is in today. Blythe highlighted that within that stock  “9 million (of those) homes are now in most need of upgrade.” Questions arose on whether this was possible with the confusion that existed over leadership and the lack of clarity of the direction that housing should be or is heading in. Within the presentation issues came to mind with the multiple false starts and ‘initiatives’ of new schemes which are going to revitalise and revolutionise the industry. The question is how many of these ‘initiatives’ are truly useful to the industry and possibly more important the consumer?

 

http://www.nfrc.co.uk/

http://www.nfrc.co.uk/

One of these initiatives is the green deal…..is it viable? Recently at Ecobuild 2013 many concerns were raised within various seminar sessions on the future of the green deal in particular the SLOW…….  uptake, at last count 36 out of 26,000,000 homes have taken up the offer!  Blythe highlighted that a lack of branding to the green deal and the lack of existing trusted brands involved could hinder its progress. Unless the larger manufactures jump in will the trust in the scheme develop to the level that is needed for it to succeed or even survive!  Loan schemes rates were also questioned by Chris Blythe when compared to other standard interest rates.  One other aspect which Blythe discussed was what happens during the sale of a house involved in green deal scheme, will the new proposed purchaser be happy to take on the green deal contract? Selling a house today is difficult enough with a heap of paperwork to process, potential buyers may be scared off with the additional green deal contracts to add to the pile!

 

Blythe showed figures of housing completion rates in recent years. The images showed that housing completion rates have dropped from 140,000 per year to around 90,000 per year, 2007-2012 period, yet at the same time the HBF satisfaction rate has gone up. The point raised by Blythe questioned whether the rise in HBF was due to statistical survey massage or in part down to the fact that quality is now more important in such a competitive period of housing. The current targets for housing is set for 250,000 new homes to be built each year, looking at the previously discussed figures are these targets even remotely realistic or possible with today’s tight budgeted industry?

 

In regards to training apprenticeships have dramatically rose since 06/07 from 184,400 to 520,600 in 2012.  However as promising as these figures look could it be claimed that the rise in apprenticeships are a replacement for standing in the unemployment line, which in turn makes the unemployment figures look a lot better for current Government!  Although one good factor in the schemes is that the completion rates of the apprenticeships are also rising in relation to the take up rates.

 

www.constructionlawsignal.com

www.constructionlawsignal.com

Now back to the core theme of the conference, sustainability. Many discussions were raised expressing concerns over not only on how do or should we measure sustainability but also, what risks or accountability exists for the targets which are often referenced and set in regards to it.  One quote from Chris Blythe that I really enjoyed as many present did w was, “what legal obligations do politicians have to ensure that targets or policies are met, it’s not like anyone would go to jail if not!” It’s a statement in jest but at the heart of it there are some really points to discuss. Such as what accountability exists for the contractor or design teams? What measures are there or should be in place to ensure that those parties responsible ensure that there is a closer relation between building performance predictions and actual building performance. Could there be more nominal levels of risk/reward be applied to this criteria in future to improve building performance.

 

That concludes my first reflections on the conference with particular focus on Chris Blythe’s keynote speech this week. Thanks for reading this week, over the next few weeks there will be more exerts and reflections on the SB13 conference.

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Sustainable Drainage Systems for Green Roofs – SUDS

This week’s article is a follow up to the previous article on green roofs looking at SUDS. Within the ‘To Green or Not to Green?’ article I mainly asked the question of why are we not using green roofs more often within our urban landscapes, the main focus was on the aesthetics qualities of green roof as well as the benefits in regards to well-being. This time around I will be focusing more on the technical aspects, in particular the Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems, otherwise known as SUDS.

Sustainable drainage systems can be incorporated into our urban landscape in a multiple of ways such as through green roofs, permeable pavements, rainwater harvesting, infiltration trenches, infiltration basins and many more. Green roofs can be extremely useful in reducing the amount of rainwater run-off especially in urban environments where much of the area is often hard surfaced which in consequence creates stormwater management issues within our urban landscapes. One solution to this issue can be through specifying and installing SUDS into our urban systems. If SUDS are is integrated into a green roof the benefits are numerous. Not only can it improve the aesthetics of an area as discussed in my previous article on green roofs, it can also brighten up the grey drab urban landscapes many of us are subjected too. Further benefits can be gained through improving environmental and drainage system management in technical terms as the plant species and substrate held on a green roof will naturally absorb rainfall thus reducing run-off into man made drainage systems considerably.

www.gardenvisit.com green roof suds

www.gardenvisit.com

As there are on occasion, limited or no natural stormwater management systems in urban areas most if not all of the rainwater runoff has to be managed by manmade systems, these systems can become overloaded at times of small and large events (storms or heavy rain). Green roofs can provide a double edged solution to help reduce this issue.  As stated in the Green Roof Guidelines (2012) “Once a green roof has established, both peak flow rates and total runoff volume of rainwater from the roof are significantly reduced compared to a conventional roof.”

Green roofs are particularly efficient at reducing rainwater run-off when encountering small events (light rain) but are less effective at times of larger events (heavy rain/storms).  According to CIRIA in (2007), green roofs will reduce the annual volume of rainwater run-off by between 50% and 85%! The variation in the percentages is down to the variations which can be found in the construction of the SUDS green roof, which as you can imagine are vast.  But if were to take those figures as an average that’s a reduction of 67.5% in rainwater run-off! That’s a significant amount.  Even when a SUDS green roof becomes saturated it still has beneficial affects as the run-off is at least slowed down through having to pass through the drainage systems, vegetation and substrate.

To understand exactly how a green roof can reduce rainwater run-off it is important to understand the process of evapotranspiration in SUDS systems. When a green roof is exposed to a small event, much of the rainfall which falls on the roof is captured by the substrate, the drainage layer and also upon the surface of the plants and vegetation.  A large amount of the rainfall which is held on the green roof, through the process of evapotranspiration is generally removed.  The rainwater that is absorbed and passes through the vegetation and substrate layer and then runs off will have reduced pollutants as much of it will be removed through the natural filtration process as it passes through the layers of the roofs. That nature and passive design at its best doing all the work for you!

Sourced form- Google Images

Sourced form- Google Images

So as I talked about earlier a green roof can significantly help to reduce rainwater run-off and thus reduce the pressure on man-made drainage systems which in turn reduces the peak flow rates by reducing the volume of total rainwater run-off.  The amount of rainwater which will run-off a SUDS green roof is dependent on the construction type used which as touched on earlier can have many variables such as; the depth of the substrate, the type of vegetation, the specification of the drainage layer and of course the local weather. According to the Green Roof Centre of research (2012), run-off can be prevented from all rainfall events up to 5mm. Further figures from the same source state that, “In summer, green roofs can retain 70–80% of rainfall and in winter they retain 10–35% depending on their build-up”. The variation between the two seasonal periods is due to the higher intensity of winter rainfall and the reduction in evapotranspiration by the vegetation, which in essence is the process when the water retained in the SUDS systems and evaporates as I discussed earlier.

Now believe me many lucky people may not see this factor as an issue, which in many cases it may not, however when you live in a built up urban area and you leave your front door to casually make your way to work, with a well thought out length of time allocated for your morning journey only to realise that with a shock the whole walkway is blocked due to the ‘gentle’ waterway that usually presides 50 metres from you path has now burst its banks and completely flooded your route the issue become a more pressing concern!

www.susdrain.org.jpg SUDS green roof

www.susdrain.org.jpg

Now over the last two articles I’m not out right stating that green roofs are perfect for every case, what I’m eluding to is that under the right circumstances green roofs are a viable if not extremely beneficial specification.  Some of the concerns or issues which should be understood when fully assessing the viability of green roofs and SUDS include the on-going maintenance which a green roof will require. For extensive green roofs it would be minimal, annual maintenance would suffice after the first few years bedding in period has passed (which many companies generally provide as part of the installation costs). However intensive green roofs do require some more regular maintenance, such as planting bedding plants and maintaining the removal of weeds etc. so additional costs have to be accounted for over the whole life of the roof. If the right vegetation is selected the maintenance levels can be reduced as many types such as wildflowers will naturally look after themselves.

Looking at the whole picture there are multiple benefits to green roofs and SUDS such as reducing the rainwater run-off, improving the energy performance of buildings and improving the biodiversity of our habitats. Yes there may be additional costs through increased set up and maintenance costs but much of that can be offset if you look at the whole lifecycle cost of the roof.  Aiming for a reduction in pollution and an improved low impact and sustainable environment, in spite of the recent recession should still be a topic that we as responsible inhabitants of our landscape should continue to drive towards.  My hope is that with the obviously needed cutbacks and austerity measures that this ethos isn’t cast aside for cheap, bottom line construction. 

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Why should we bother with Renewable Technologies?

This week’s article is a guest article from Gary O’Neill BSc(Hons) MRICS, Chartered Building Surveyor, Senior University Lecturer and RICS APC Assessor

If you are hoping that in the future fuel costs will reach a peak and then start to reduce then I am afraid you are going to be bitterly disappointed.  There may well be short term reductions, however  it is inevitable that fuel cost will not only continue to rise, but rise significantly.
 
http://www.kilmacenergy.co.uk/Environmental+Impact+Assessment/

http://www.kilmacenergy.co.uk/Environmental+Impact+Assessment/

There is no shortage of media coverage in respect of the impact of global warming, climate change, energy conservation, sustainability, greenhouse gas emissions an so on…….. An individual’s understanding and concern about these issues will vary significantly from those who have a genuine concern about protecting our planet for future generations to those who’s work may be directly related to these issues, right through to those who know very little and even those who make a conscious choice to ignore them!   The problem is however that even if you are one of those who fall into the latter categories, it does not change the fact that you are effected in exactly the same way as everyone else.  This is no more starkly demonstrated than in the increased cost of energy over recent years, which have soared to record levels.

Over the last two hundred years we have become dependent on fossil fuels such as gas, oil and coal, which have allowed us to develop our world at a staggering pace.  All of this development in terms of infrastructure, buildings and the like requires large amount of energy, to heat, cool, ventilate, provide light and power etc.  If we are to maintain or more than likely going to increase the rate of development around the world then we also need to consider alternative ways of creating this energy.  The problem with fossil fuels is that it is a depleting resource and at some point in the future it will run out.  Now this is unlikely to be in our generation or possibly even a number of generations in the future, but one thing is for certain in that it will actually run out.  If you are under the impression that we should not be concerned about this now, as it will not have any major impact on us in our lifetime then think again!
 
The problem with anything that is in short supply is that basic economical principles come into play.  Fossil fuels are a prime example of this.  Remember they are a depleting resource and therefore a commodity in short supply.  The impact of this is that when demand is high (which it always is) and supply is limited (which it is), then market conditions allow energy providers to increase costs as they know that they are providing something that people actually need.  The market then adjusts to these increased costs.  The graph below demonstrates the cost increase of oil, gas and electricity over the next twenty years:
 

www.castlecover.co.uk

www.castlecover.co.uk


Rather unsurprisingly, all four demonstrate price hikes over the period, though some are more dramatic than others. Electricity and gas – the two most-used household energies – have nearly doubled over the last seven years of the index, owing to their ties with oil prices, as well as a number of other factors. The industrialisation of foreign nations, plus growing international prices for the commodity, has forced coal costs higher for UK citizen’ 
If you are hoping that in the future fuel costs will reach a peak and then start to reduce then I am afraid you are going to be bitterly disappointed.  There may well be short term reductions, however due to the economical principles described above it is inevitable that fuel cost will not only continue to rise, but rise significantly. Of course, the majority of articles that you will see in the media focus on the damage to the environment caused by greenhouse gas emissions, particularly carbon, from the burning of fossil fuels.  This is something that we need to deal with immediately, however I would suggest that if you were to talk to most people on the high street they would be more concerned about the increase in fuel cost rather than the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  The positive thing however, is that if we can create energy by using alternative renewable technologies then we can deal with both issues at the same time!
 

http://www.link2portal.com/no-more-pv-subsidy-energy-inefficient-buildings-greg-barker

http://www.link2portal.com/no-more-pv-subsidy-energy-inefficient-buildings-greg-barker


For the remainder of this article I will continue to demonstrate the financial effect of creating and using energy from fossil fuels, which is happening and impacting on us all right now!  The Fuel Property Advisory Group’s 2011-12 annual report, in its executive summary states (link): ‘The average domestic dual fuel bill is now at a record high of £1,365 per annum creating severe additional hardship for some six million UK fuel poor households. The problem is even more acute for many living off the gas grid using Oil or LPG, where average fuel bills are circa £2,100 per annum. The reference to ‘fuel poor’ is more widely described as fuel poverty, which is defined by Poverty.org.uk (Link) as: ‘Households are considered by the Government to be in ‘fuel poverty’ if they would have to spend more than 10% of their household income on fuel to keep their home in a ‘satisfactory’ condition.  It is thus a measure which compares income with what the fuel costs ‘should be’ rather than what they actually are.  Whether a household is in fuel poverty or not is determined by the interaction of a number of factors, but the three obvious ones are: The cost of energy, The energy efficiency of the property (and therefore, the energy required to heat and power the home) and Household income’
It is abundantly clear that many in the UK are already suffering financial hardship as a result of increasing energy costs, and unless we can find alternative ways of creating our energy, then this situation is likely to become critical.  Increased demand of a depleting resource is a recipe for disaster.  We therefore have to introduce alternatives, which is now a necessity not a choice.  If you are in one of those categories described at the beginning of this article who have not really paid much attention to these global issues, perhaps it is now time to think very carefully about how you individually and all of us collectively can save energy and also be open new technologies. This will not only provide benefits from a financial viewpoint, which may not be immediate (although costs associated with enhancements is an article in its own right!), but also from an environmental viewpoint, where we can start to have a real impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. 
 
Danny McGough– A big thank you this week to Gary O’Neill for this guest article. You can follow Gary over at his personal blog ‘Surveying Property’ where he posts articles on a weekly basis on topical issues in Surveying and Property related areas and also within the wider Construction Industry at – http://surveyingproperty.blogspot.co.uk/
Information/opinions posted on this site are the personal views of the author and should not be relied upon by any person or any third party without first seeking further professional advice. Also, please scroll down and read the copyright notice at the end of the blog.

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