‘Future Homes Standard can be delivered at scale’, UK research concludes

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Collaboration between the University of Salford and home builders to test materials and building design concepts aims to highlight opportunities to limit heat loss and ensure a high level of operational efficiency in a range of conditions  

Initial research from two UK trial homes concludes that the requirements of a proposed Future Homes Standard can be effectively delivered at scale from 2025.

Researchers from the University of Salford have made the claims after working housebuilding specialists Barratt Developments and Bellway, as well as construction group Saint-Gobain over the last year. The research has looked at the practicalities of delivering on incoming reforms of efficiency standards for all new build homes in England.

A consultation was launched late last year to finalise the proposals for two sperate standards that would apply to new homes and non-domestic buildings by outlining specific design requirements on heat sources and energy performance.  The deadline to respond to proposals for both the Future Homes Standard and Future Building Standard closes on March 6.

Early results from trials undertaken at the University of Salford said that efficiency requirements to meet these proposed standards can be met with sufficient development of the supply chain and ensuring readily available training for engineers.

The conclusions are based on research from two trial homes that were built within the University of Salford’s Energy House 2.0 climate chamber in January 2023.  Both of the homes have been put through “rigorous fabric testing” in the chamber, which is devised to be able to recreate environmental conditions that are experienced across 95 per cent of the earth’s inhabited land, according to the researchers. Conditions that can be recreated in the chamber, which was developed with funding from the Innovate UK Innovation Accelerator scheme, include temperatures of between -20 deg C and 40 deg C. It can also provide testing for how structures are impacted by rain, wind, snow and solar gain.

The two homes that have been involved in the research since January 2023 are the Future Home design concept from Bellway and the eHome2 project from Barratt and Saint-Gobain.  Both of the structures are three-bedroom homes that are designed with high performing and energy efficient fabrics intended to ensure compliance with the Future Homes Standard.

Both of the homes used different construction methods, but were found over the year to have a relatively small difference in operational performance with regards to considerations such as heat loss when compared to their original design intent.

The project researchers stated: “Initial findings from the testing of the fabric of the homes have shown how well the buildings have stood up to the kinds of extreme climates that we are experiencing now and are expected to happen more frequently in the future.”

Building fabric

The first results from the research into the trial homes has looked specifically at the fabric of the homes and how the design features might be used to provide a guidance and roadmap for other housebuilders to build homes that can be constructed to become zero carbon properties without need for further changes.

Additional research is expected to be published from the project later this year detailing the results of how different electrified heating systems have operated in the trial homes.

Professor Richard Fitton, a specialist working on the Energy House 2.0 at the University of Salford, described the project as a ‘ground-breaking trial’ based on working with specialists such as Saint Gobain, as well as Barratt Developments and Bellway. It noted that the latter two companies have been responsible for building over 28,000 homes last year.

Professor Fitton said that the research could provide important guidance and data for a sector that will be required to deliver properties that can meet the Future Homes Standard at scale from next year.

He said: “Both houses performed well on our fabric testing with valuable lessons that they can use when designing and building homes in the field and about the types of materials we need to create homes that lose only a very small amount of their heat. Typically, the performance of new build homes compared to the designed specification can vary between 5 per cent and 140 per cent. “

“The results have showed both homes have performance within the top end of this performance gap and with additional learnings, modifications can be made to further improve the performance of these homes. Without Energy House 2.0 this type of testing would take significantly longer to complete but thanks to the fact we can control temperature to within 0.5 deg C, we have been able to get meaningful data in a matter of months.”

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