The Future of Homebuilding & Meeting New Standards 

Posted 07.09.2021

A lot has happened since January 2021 when the government published the outcome of the Future Homes Standard consultation. But with changes imminent, Trevor Richards, Operations Director of VOLUMETRIC™ outlines the challenges involved and what is coming down the track.

The Future Homes Standard outlines changes to Building Regulations Part L (conservation of fuel and power) and F (ventilation) that will ultimately come into effect in 2025, to ensure that all new homes in England are future-proofed with low-carbon heating systems and high levels of energy efficiency. These standards should ensure that all new homes will produce 75-80% less carbon emissions than houses delivered under current regulations.

As an interim step, announcements surrounding changes to Part L are expected later this year, which will come into force next year to ensure new homes built from 2022 will produce 31% less carbon emissions. Full technical specification for the Future Homes Standard will be consulted on in 2023, with the necessary legislation introduced ahead of implementation in 2025. So, change is happening and happening at pace.

Here at VOLUMETRIC™ we adopt a partnership approach and have worked in close collaboration with Foundation200, a charity established by housing developer Hill Group to gift 200 interim homes for rough sleepers to homeless charities and local authorities to mark the company’s 20th anniversary. The team behind Foundation200 required specialist support to design and manufacture a bespoke solution – MODULHAUS™ was the outcome of much research and an extensive testing regime. 

Right from the initial concept stages, the decision was reached to develop a modular solution that would exceed the Future Homes Standard to relieve the burden on local authorities of ongoing expenses associated with traditional temporary accommodation.

As ever, the devil is in the detailing, and there is a lot more to achieving the Future Homes Standard than we initially considered. Not willing to compromise on our client’s expected performance for the intended application, our team modelled and re-modelled our designs, with countless materials and technologies assessed and evaluated to ensure we achieved our optimum position.

Achieving the right balance was challenging. Sometimes the benefits of one solution counter-act the benefits of another, making you feel like it was one step forward, and one back. Whether it is insulating our lightweight structure to ensure the best envelope was attained, whilst arresting any potential overheating that the relative lack of thermal mass in the same lightweight structure brings, or understanding which renewable technologies to use given the variability of potential site locations and restrictions. It was essential that we invested time up front to resolve these issues.

The embodied carbon assessment for MODULHAUS™ has been undertaken based on RICS and British Standard guidance and includes information from relevant Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) and publicly available carbon data.

At all stages of the MODULHAUS™ system development these criteria have been assessed for the forecast 60-year whole-life embodied carbon, along with system energy use and full SAP calculations.  This analysis has also considered ‘cradle to factory gate’ raw material extraction, transport and processing into product, ‘construction’ processes and in-use raw material extraction maintenance. We are currently also assessing the potential for carbon offsetting or balancing to achieve our zero carbon target by the beginning of 2022.

The futureproof energy strategy for MODULHAUS™ is designed to exceed the Future Homes Standard with Environment B and A rating and emissions as low as 229.5KG CO2/year. Modules are factory-fitted with sustainable technologies, low energy lighting and white goods together with controlled flow shower mixers and dual flush cisterns to minimise energy and water consumption.

Renewable energy technology is built into every module including air source heat pumps (ASHP), and mechanical ventilation and heat recovery (MVHR) systems. Combined with a highly airtight and well insulated structure, U-values as low as 0.09W/m²K are achieved. In addition, the airtightness achieved in using a volumetric modular approach enhances in-use energy efficiency and reduces carbon emissions for the lifetime of the building.  Results of 3m³/hr/m² air loss at a 50 Pa are being routinely achieved during factory testing as part of our QA procedures.

This has been a massive learning curve and reaching the Future Homes Standard is simply not just a case of adding more insulation. It is far more complex than that. So, although 2025 may seem a way off, after experiencing the challenges involved first-hand, it is better to take time now and get your design and testing protocols right, than taking a risk and failing to meet the complexities involved.

A Rapid & Affordable Solution to the Homeless Crisis

To meet the needs of local authorities battling to find a cost-effective solution to address rough sleeping, the MODULHAUS™ single person interim housing solution has been developed and launched after a rigorous 18-month Research and Development Programme.

A finalist in the Offsite Awards in the Best Building Performance – MODULHAUS™ will be on show at Offsite Expo on the 21-22 September at Coventry Building Society Arena. Offsite Expo delegates will have the opportunity to meet the design, engineering and manufacturing team on stand B7 and see the MODULHAUS™ two-storey feature build.

Reducing ongoing energy costs to circa £5 per week, this solution provides greater dignity and independence to the most vulnerable members of society whilst also relieving the burden on local authorities of ongoing expenses associated with traditional temporary accommodation.