Project 80: Building homes for the future

By Dr Tony Hopkin, Head of Construction, Quality and Innovation at Midland Heart

16th Feb 2022 - Developments
By  Dr Tony Hopkin

Introduction

Climate change and what we can do to address it, both individually and collectively, has become the defining issue of our age. The expectation from Government, consumers and future generations alike will be for organisations to significantly reduce their impact on the environment, reducing their carbon footprint and creating less waste. This is an expectation enshrined in the UK’s legal requirement to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.

The Future Homes Standard

The UK’s housing stock accounts for about 15% of the UK’s annual greenhouse gas emissions. Because of this significant contribution, the new-build housing sector is seeing a changing landscape in relation to the energy performance of the homes we produce in the future. The biggest challenge we face is ‘The Future Homes Standard’ (FHS), which will become a Building Regulation requirement from 2025.

The FHS will see the introduction of tougher low-carbon regulation for new homes built from 2025. In short, from 2025 new homes will have to: meet more stringent building fabric requirements; utilise a low-carbon form of heating and hot water (including the introduction of a ban on gas boilers in new-build homes); and generally, emit 75-80% less carbon than homes built under current regulations.

Challenges of FHS

Due to the tougher building fabric requirements and introduction of low-carbon forms of heating and hot water, we’re conscious that many of our residents will not be familiar with the technologies that will be used within properties built to the FHS, nor how to get the most out of their new more hi-tech homes. The combination of change for us (in the way we design and build these homes) and our residents (in the way they use and interact with these homes) is something we need to better understand to ensure success come 2025.

Project 80

To understand the Future Homes challenge, we’ve created ‘Project 80’ which is a research and development programme in collaboration with Birmingham City University (BCU), Tricas Construction Ltd, key product manufacturers and industry bodies, and contractors. Together, we’ll develop, monitor, and understand over 50 homes that meet the FHS before 2025. Project 80 will generate a significant body of knowledge to enable us to understand what works for us and our residents, including:

  • Identifying the information requirements of our residents
  • Evaluating the performance of different products and technologies
  • Understanding design principles that work well and should be adopted as standard
  • Limiting any unintended consequences to a controlled environment and establishing what changes need to be made to overcome them, to avoid them becoming the norm in 2025
  • Establishing methods to reduce cost whilst maintaining performance; and
  • Allowing us to make Future Homes decisions based on real life evidence.  

The first homes that will model the FHS will be our 12 homes on Eco Drive in Handsworth. The homes on Eco Drive have been designed to provide superior insulation, as well as incorporating low and zero carbon technologies such as air-source heat pumps, hot water heat pumps, and wastewater heat recovery. We’ve also started work on 12 Future Homes maisonettes on Elvetham Road in Edgbaston, where we’ll explore different methods of achieving the FHS.

Upon completion, researchers at Birmingham City University will be working closely with our residents to understand how easy the homes are to live in with the new technologies, how cost effective they are, and the living environment such as indoor air quality and temperature. All the evidence we gather will help to inform future policy on how we build new homes in a way that’s good for both the environment and for our residents.