Flood-resilient construction materials put to the test

Low-carbon sustainable building materials can now be tested in realistic open-air conditions before being incorporated into buildings thanks to a new facility in the University of Bath's Building Research Park.

The £1m HIVE building aims to tackle the fact that 50% of all UK emissions come from the construction industry, by offering a ‘plug and play’ facility to test and evaluate facades, walls and panels on their energy efficiency, flood resilience and structural capability.

The building has eight individual cells each with a single face left exposed to the external environment. The faces are used to install walls made from a variety of materials and systems, which creates a more accurate picture of environmental performance than the u-value assessments currently used in building regulations.

Director of the Building Research Park Dr Mike Lawrence said: “Finding new, sustainable methods of construction – properly tested in a real building such as the HIVE – is essential if the UK is to lead the way in low carbon homes and meet challenging emissions targets.”

Trial run

The test centre, which is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), will also help constructions firms tackle the ever-important issue of climate change. The HIVE has a purpose-built flood cell that can be used to test the flood resilience and structural integrity of timber walls to help flood-proof future homes.

Testing is also underway for the thermal retention of hemp-lined wall panels, compared with timber, and wool-lined panels.

“Our investment in the HIVE will allow researchers to study the carbon emissions and environmental impact of construction materials and will make a real difference to the future of construction both in the UK and worldwide,” said EPSRC director of science and engineering Lesley Thompson.

An edie feature earlier this year considered how low-carbon construction was leaping into the mainstream.Read how far sustainable construction has come in the past decade.

Brad Allen

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