Masonry construction was chosen for the first phases of Project 80 to set a practical example for the future of UK construction.
Project 80, Midland Heart Housing Association’s scheme to provide a blueprint for the UK’s future homes, aims to build 80 homes that meet or exceed the 2025 Future Homes Standard.
At the Project 80 launch event in March, Tom Hall, Technical Design Manager at Tricas Construction, noted that the new masonry homes were designed with a “fabric first approach”. The performance characteristics of the materials chosen for Project 80 are such that, no matter what heating solutions were installed, the buildings would be able to function as efficiently as possible.
The first 12 masonry-built homes are now complete and will test different material and technology combinations. The performance of the homes are to be monitored by Birmingham City University who will investigate which combination(s) result in the most efficient and resilient homes.
H+H was happy to participate, always having maintained a “fabric first” approach to energy efficiency. Our aircrete blocks help create efficient, airtight structures that can enhance the performance of energy saving technologies like underfloor heating and air source heat pumps, the latter of which were used in most of the first 12 of Project 80’s homes.
Reassuringly, incorporating innovative design solutions and new technologies to the masonry structures, only resulted in a 15% cost increase on a traditional tender. Unsurprisingly, the cost of an all-electric scheme increased the cost of creating the sites electricity infrastructure by 300%. However, this also meant that no gas supply was needed for the properties, avoiding the cost of installing gas mains entirely.
The homes we build now need to be long lasting and sustainable, and when people talk about new technologies and sustainable housing, we assume modular construction or MMC. However, if the government is going to meet their target of building 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s, then more traditional building methods are going to be a part of it. This is why the initial phases of Midland Heart’s Project 80 combined new, sustainable technologies with brick and block masonry construction.
When planning Project 80 MMC methods like I-House were considered. But, given that brick and block construction is still more commonly used throughout the industry, it made sense to first try and understand how these homes can be optimised to meet, and even exceed, 2025’s Future Homes Standard.
However, MMC methods like I-House may be considered for later phases of the project. H+H would be keen to continue involvement in the project by supplying the Celcon Elements needed for the I-House system.