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Stewart Milne research leads way to sustainable housing

As the result of a real-life family living the low carbon life in a prototype home, the Stewart Milne Group is creating the blueprint for the future of eco-housing.

Following an in-depth research initiative focusing on the practicality of building to meet the Code for Sustainable Homes, and the effect on consumers of low to zero carbon homes, the Stewart Milne Group has concluded that renewables alone are not the answer. The findings are already informing the company’s programme of innovation and are being put into practice to design a new homes solution that is both energy efficient and cost-effective for the future.

The research was conducted over the last year at Stewart Milne Group’s Sigma® prototype home at the Building Research Establishment (BRE) in Watford and four periods of evaluation when the home was occupied by a real-life family. As a result, Stewart Milne Group has embarked on an innovative second generation build system, Sigma II, which both responds to the requirement of low energy, low carbon homes and provides a robust and practical solution, easy to build and maintain.

The evaluation clearly indicates that if the Code for Sustainable Homes is to be met on a mass market basis, there is a need to concentrate on low energy homes before zero carbon. Add-ons, in the form of micro renewable technology such as wind turbines, photovoltaic panels and solar thermal, do not consistently deliver the required performance levels and the cost savings that would make them viable. Equally, in order to achieve the ultimate aim of a low energy use society, consumers themselves need to change their behaviours in terms of how they use their homes to make a positive impact on reducing their energy consumption. 

As a result, Stewart Milne has concluded that the answer lies in delivering innovative integrated ‘fit and forget’ fabric solutions, that are proven to deliver results, require minimum aftercare and provide straightforward and efficient whole-life solutions. The company has also recognised the need for simple and very detailed induction processes and demonstrations for homeowners at handover stage to ensure new homeowners have both understanding of and confidence in living in low energy/low carbon environments.

Commenting on the outcomes, Stewart Dalgarno, Director of Product Development, Stewart Milne Group, said: “This is the first time a home like this has been the subject of such in-depth research, particularly in terms of the real-life experience of occupants. The results are fascinating and challenge much current thinking and perceived wisdom. It is clear that the answer lies in improving future build systems, with a focus on airtight solutions, heating and ventilation systems and taking a ‘heart and lungs’ approach to the installation of services at the concept stage. 

John Slater, Group Managing Director - Homes added “Once we achieve homes that are consumer-friendly in terms of operation, we know that people will find the step-change towards low carbon easier and they will naturally adapt their behaviours and the way they use their homes to fit with a low energy society”

Through the Sigma® prototype, Stewart Milne Group is at the forefront of innovation in this respect and these research results provide what they require to move forward with design and build solutions that meet the demand for cost engineered sustainable homes.

The research focused on a number of performance areas: energy performance, including energy consumption, water consumption and acoustic performance; micro renewable technology, including solar thermal, micro wind and photovoltaics; thermal comfort and health, including automatic venting and relative humidity; home user induction and interfaces; and build complexity, particularly with regard to multiple technologies and suppliers.

The full findings of the Sigma® research will be available at Insite ’09 (1 – 4 June) at BRE Innovation Park, Watford.

 

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