BRE’s regular OFFSITE event has been rebranded INSITE.
• Three new houses are being added to the BRE Innovation Park.
• Timber-based construction is used in five of the seven existing buildings.
• Advanced Timber Structures is supplying the timber frame for the Renewables House.

Described as the “showcase event for sustainability and innovation”, INSITE09 is the latest incarnation of the BRE’s OFFSITE event – and promises to offer a valuable insight into the future of low carbon and sustainable buildings.

The event has been rebranded with a broader mission to raise awareness of the latest developments in design, technology, materials – especially certified timber – and build techniques that are contributing to the UK’s sustainable future.

BRE director Jaya Skandamoorthy explained: “The OFFSITE events have been introducing new developments and innovations to the construction industry since 2003, but with the rapid pace of change in the industry, the event itself is changing – new issues, new buildings, even a new name – INSITE09, Constructing the Future.”

Full-scale buildings

INSITE will showcase 10 “full-scale, real-life” buildings that incorporate a range of innovative technologies and products.

Three new houses are being added to the BRE Innovation Park for the event and two of the seven existing buildings are also being altered and refurbished to demonstrate low carbon community healthcare facilities of the future – one a health centre, the other a house featuring homecare technologies aimed at maintaining the health of the elderly in their own homes.

Timber-based construction is used in five out of the seven existing buildings, including the Kingspan Lighthouse, the EcoTech system-build home, the Stewart Milne Sigma House and the model school for the future devised by White Design and Eurban. The latter, which is based on solid cross-laminated timber panels, is the building being converted into a health centre.

The timber structure among the new builds is the Renewables House. This is based around using renewable materials to deliver a low-cost, affordable house that meets Level 4 of the Code for Sustainable Homes, with a build cost of £75,000, from groundworks up. While offering significantly minimised embodied CO2, the design also enables the easy enhancement to meet Levels 5 and 6. The timber frame is being supplied by Advanced Timber Structures, of Redhill.

The Renewables House is being delivered by the NNFCC, the national centre for renewable fuels, with funding from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC).

The key building material, Hemcrete, is being provided by product manufacturer Lime Technology. Other components in the design and build process include high performance triple-glazed timber window, a heat recovery ventilation system, air source heat pump and an underfloor heating system.

Low impact

Dr John Williams of NNFCC said that, while new homes must be built, they should be at low cost and low carbon footprint. “This house will show how innovation in the UK construction industry can meet all these aims by using renewable materials. What’s more, we can grow the crops here.”

Once completed, the house’s performance will be monitored over a three-year period to establish evidence of the performance characteristics and the sustainability profile of renewable building materials. It is anticipated the development will demonstrate that low costs and renewable building methods are compatible and together they provide a viable method of delivering sustainable, affordable homes.

The other building which will use timber, although not in its structure, is the Natural House, a low-energy home from the Prince of Wales’s architectural charity, the Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment.

The Natural House is expected to deliver significant energy savings, from its manufacture through to its daily use. It will also offer good indoor air quality, be simple and quick to construct, and appeal to the increasingly eco-aware homebuyer. Its floor and windows were all slated to be built from locally-sourced, FSC-certified timber.

“We tend to assume that low carbon must mean hi-tech, but that’s not the only option,” said Hank Dittmar, chief executive of The Prince’s Foundation. “We must deliver low carbon in a way that is appealing to homebuyers, and we must also address issues of indoor air quality, the use of natural materials and the creation of adaptable flexible buildings.”