Sustainability

As UK cost-of-living concerns soar, is energy efficient building design a key aspect in easing the burden?

When the Office of National Statistics recently updated its Opinions and Lifestyle survey through to mid-February, over three-quarters of adults reported that their cost of living had increased – up 14% from November 2021.

Alongside the cost of food, 77% stated that this was due to an increase in gas or electricity bills, and whilst half of these people were looking to tackle this by cutting back on non-essentials, 35% of people were actively looking to cut the amount of electricity and gas they are using and 31% were driven to cutting back on spending in food and essentials.

Government action in energy efficiency

At the start of 2021, the UK’s Housing Minister announced that all new homes must be more energy-efficient and “zero-carbon ready” by 2025, and a consultation on higher performance targets for non-domestic buildings with the objective of them to be zero-carbon within the same time scale.

However, when this proposal was at the planning stage, campaigners in this area warned that this would mask the actual energy efficiency itself and that whilst this might make the building look like it is performing better, the reality is it could be worse.

This month the government has also stated that whilst they are looking at launching a boiler upgrade scheme and investing in helping to stimulate the production of ‘British heat pumps’ which can reduce demand for gas, they will not ‘impose’ measures to improve energy efficiency in existing homes. RIBA president Simon Allford said the government ‘must realise that we will not ease the burden on vulnerable households unless we improve the energy efficiency.’

Building designers, engineers and specifiers looking to go beyond the recommended standards

Whatever the minimum requirements are, the great news is that building designers, structural engineers, and specifiers are looking to exceed regulating body expectations and go beyond the recommended standards both for new builds and retrofitting older buildings.

In addition to the construction industry’s ethical commitment to reducing the amount of energy needed to power homes and businesses, the significant increase of the energy price cap, the associated jump in household bills, and the threat of further increases in autumn, are driving energy efficiency to the front of both buyers’ and renters’ minds.

New research carried out by the Home Builders Federation has shown that being ‘eco-friendly’ and ‘having a good Energy Performance Certificate’ were rated as the second and third most important factors respectively, beaten only by having ‘private outdoor space’.

Nearly three quarters of respondents stated that they are worried about the energy performance of their current home, and nearly a quarter said that energy efficiency will be a ‘crucial’ factor in their next home move.

In short, if building designers and developers want to future proof their investment and attract buyers or renters, being able to demonstrate energy efficient that doesn’t just meet legislations, but also reduces the current cost of living could be essential.

Energy efficient building design

The role of Structural Thermal Breaks in energy efficiency

Structural Thermal Breaks are widely considered to be the most efficient way to thermally separate structural connections and prevent heat loss in the building envelope. This includes external to internal structural connections, façade system connections, structural columns and exoskeleton structures, linear steel and masonry connections, roof penetrations, and concrete frame to steel connections.

With the increase in demand for private outside space, growing demand for Structural Thermal Breaks is in preventing thermal bridging where balconies are installed.

When using Structural Thermal Breaks with thermal efficiency credentials such as BRE (Building Research Establishment) and Passive House, alongside a generally proactive approach to insulation, this can ensure a significantly higher level of energy efficiency, without compromising structural integrity.

Thermal Bridging Model

Summary

Building designers, engineers, and specifiers are facing a huge challenge in taking a holistic approach to energy efficiency to help tackle climate change, but also reduce the impact of the growing cost of living due to energy prices.

For more information on integrating thermal break solutions into structural connections as part of an energy efficiency strategy, visit our Structural Thermal Break hub or one of our dedicated portals:

Architects Portal

Structural Engineers Portal

Buyers Portal

Upcoming Webinar: The significance of Structural Thermal Breaks in high rise fire design and Building energy performance

Farrat is partnering with iStruct this June to produce a new webinar on the significance of Structural Thermal Breaks in high rise fire design and building energy performance. This webinar is ideal for designers, architects, engineers, and specifiers, who are looking to go beyond the standard in fire design and energy efficiency.

Since the tragic circumstances of the Grenfell disaster, designing for fire construction material choice in all its facets has become a focus of design teams across the world. In balance, the global demand for energy efficiency and net-zero carbon pulls designers in an equally important direction.

This webinar with Farrat looks through the lens of Structural Thermal Breaks at the multi-role demands of building components to deliver best-in-class performance in sustainable credentials and building physics without compromising on fire safety.

The webinar will assist designers in understanding:

  • The latest developments in UK Fire and Building Safety regulations
  • Current requirements for specifying safety-critical building products
  • Up to date thought on the UK standards for construction material performance information
  • Current direction and time frame for Structural ‘Green’ Steel and the journey towards Net Zero
high rise fire design

Date: Tuesday 21st June

Time: 9 – 10am BST

Presenter: Chris Lister. Commercial Manager – Structural Thermal Breaks

Chris Lister is the Commercial Manager for Farrat Structural Thermal Breaks and British Construction Steel Association BCSA National Council Member. Having studied both Engineering and Architecture he has worked exclusively in the construction and building product design sector, in both senior technical and commercial roles.

At Farrat he is principal in the development of Farrat Structural Thermal Break products and facade design solutions. He’s a passionate contributor to the global discussion on fire safety in high-rise structures and building physics research and advocate for achieving the highest level of energy efficiency in building design.

Chris is a dedicated father, diehard Rugby player, and fair-weather motorcyclist.

Making Positive impacts on beverage can production through vibration investigation and control.

Aluminium cans are one of the best forms of packaging when it comes to sustainability. The key reason for this is that aluminum as a material retains its quality each time it is reprocessed which means it can be transformed back into itself an infinite number of times, unlike plastic.

As both companies and individuals work to reduce their impact on the environment, can making factories are looking to maximise efficiency to meet demand, and the Farrat team has been at a beverage can production factory in Turkey to investigate excessive machine vibrations that are creating production challenges.

In this instance, the bodymakers were transmitting excessive vibrations to the surrounding factory floor, and this in turn was causing quality issues in nearby machines. Whilst the quality of manufacturing was the key issue to address, the vibrations were also affecting the work environment for those working on-site, with excessive noise in the office area.

A member of our Industrial Vibration Control team went across to the factory to investigate behaviour of machines under vibrations and the wider applications engineering team is now analysing the results to propose corrective action.

Corrective action that resolves issues long term is vital not just for the immediate problem, but also to prevent premature wear of tooling and significantly improve life span of the machinery.

Find out more about industrial vibration control

To find out more about the types of industrial vibrations found in factories and manufacturing plants, and some of the ways in which you can control vibrations to maximise efficiency and minimise disruption, watch our 10-minute digital CPD module on Vibration Control of Machinery.

For more information on how we add value in beverage can production, visit Farrat’s can making hub, dedicated to the can making industry, vibration control solutions that help achieve operational excellence in beverage can manufacturing, and recent case studies within the industry.

beverage can production
beverage can production

Project Showcase – Structural Thermal Breaks for energy efficiency and fire safety

Over the last few months, we have witnessed a growing public interest in energy efficiency in parallel to increasing numbers of building designers who are looking to go beyond the standard when it comes to insulating building connections in a wide range of building types. As a result, we remain busy with a large number of Structural Thermal Breaks projects as we head into Q2. Take a look at a few of our most recent thermal bridging projects below.

Primark Belfast, Northern Ireland

The Primark store in Belfast was previously based in the Bank Building in central Belfast, however, it was tragically destroyed in a fire in 2018, with firefighters taking 4 days to totally extinguish the flames.

The COVID19 outbreak also meant significant delays to the starting of the rebuild and renovation of the building, but now works are well and truly underway. Fire safety is a priority for the redevelopment project, alongside structural integrity and retrofitting the historic Grade B1-listed five-story building with modern insulation.

Farrat A2 fire- Structural Thermal Break material Farrat TBF has been selected for use across the project, to provide premium-grade protection against thermal bridging, with non-combustible properties.

Primark Belfast

Hockliffe Road Care Home, Leighton Buzzard, England

Hockliffe Road Care Home

Fire safety is often a key concern when looking to house those who would find evacuation in the instance of a fire a challenge.

Hockliffe Road Care Home is currently being constructed on the site of a former police station, and will deliver a modern 63-bedrooms development built to the highest sustainable standards using Passivhaus criteria.

The scheme will also integrate Farrat TBF Structural thermal breaks, as Passivhaus certified building components.

Golden Jubilee Hospital Clydebank, Scotland

The three-story expansion of the NHS Golden Jubilee in Clydebank, Scotland, is set to include theatre suites, orthopaedic facilities, outpatient and pre-operative spaces, a surgical admissions and recovery unit, a new endoscopy unity, and a sterilising and processing department.

Farrat is working with developers on the dramatic entrance steelwork, ensuring that structural thermal bridges are eradicated to enable the hospital to maintain its high energy efficiency.

Projections involving steel, including balconies, outside shelters, façades, and entrance features, create additional challenges when it comes to ensuring cold external temperatures do not affect the environment inside, and using Farrat Structural Thermal Breaks in this growing health facility will do that.

Energy efficiency in modern building design

Energy efficiency is front and centre in the news at the moment, with increasing utility bills creating a major concern for both individuals and businesses. Building designers are now looking to go beyond following the mandatory regulatory requirements and future proof the use of the buildings at an affordable rate.

Golden Jubilee Hospital Clydebank, Scotland

Whether buildings are using the increasingly specified steel structure or using concrete, Farrat Structural Thermal Breaks are an essential component for any energy-efficient building.

For more information on integrating thermal break solutions into structural connections, visit our Structural Thermal Break hub or one of our dedicated portals:

#onamission

The role of sustainable building materials in the race to net-zero

It has been widely shared that buildings and construction are responsible for almost 40% of global carbon emissions driving rapid climate change.

But, did you know that at the current rate of construction, the world is forecast to build more than 2 trillion square feet of floor space in the next 40 years? In their current form, a considerable proportion of these buildings will be constructed out of concrete, with cement as its main ingredient (a notorious greenhouse gas emitter).

A simple route to reducing carbon emissions in the race to net-zero is to design and build smarter. By this, we mean reducing the volume of materials required in construction, reusing/repurposing where possible, and opting for high-performance materials with superior efficiency credentials at the point of the specification.

This sentiment is echoed in a recent report published by the Royal Academy of Engineering on ‘Decarbonising Construction’, which notes that the following aspects will be vital in achieving net-zero transformation in the construction sector:

  • availability and specification of low-carbon materials,
  • reusing materials as standard,
  • and low-carbon procurement.

In our latest insight below, we further explore the role of sustainable building materials in the built environment to understand how our Structural Thermal Break solutions align with the agenda.

Utilising sustainable building materials in construction

Reduce, recycle and reuse

Structural steelwork and lightweight gauge steel can be recycled and reused multiple times. As a result, steel is increasingly selected as a reliable material for constructing robust structures that meet the low carbon demands of the future without compromising on design, practicality, or cost-efficiency.

The recovery rates from demolition sites in the UK are 99% for structural steelwork and 96% for all steel construction products – figures that far exceed those for any other construction material. And the superior strength-to-weight ratio of steel as a construction material, also means that a little goes a long way. This unique characteristic gives steel a high economic value at all stages of its life cycle.

By utilising more recyclable building materials, the industry contributes to more sustainable development by reducing waste and by saving primary resources. Recycling materials such as steel and other metals also save energy and reduce carbon emissions, since it requires less energy to re-melt scrap than it does to produce new metal from primary resources, i.e., iron ore.

The primary benefits of recycling sustainable building materials are well understood and include:

  • Reducing waste, i.e., diverting waste from landfill
  • Saving primary resources, i.e., substituting primary production
  • Saving energy and associated greenhouse gas emissions through less energy-intensive reprocessing.

Although these benefits apply to many commonly recycled materials, there are some significant differences in the properties of materials that influence the environmental benefit of recycling and particularly how these benefits are quantified.

Metals, for example, are infinitely recyclable, i.e., they can be recycled repeatedly into functionally equivalent products – this is the most environmentally beneficial form of recycling.

Other products are ‘down-cycled’ into new products that are only suitable for lower grade applications because the recycled product has different, usually lower, material properties. Although waste is diverted from landfills by down-cycling, only lower-grade primary resources are saved.

For example, crushing bricks and concrete for hardcore, sub-base, or general fill saves aggregates but does not save the resources required to make new bricks or new concrete.

BHC Steelwork - Cineworld Hounslow starts on site

BHC steelwork erection at Cineworld Hounslow in 2019

For recycling to be sustainable in the long term, it is important that the recycling process is financially viable. This is frequently the biggest hurdle to recycling, particularly for products and materials that are downcycled into lower grade, low-value applications.

Current end-of-life scenarios for three of the most common construction materials; concrete, timber and steel are shown below. The illustration describes the end-of-life outcomes of these materials against the established UK Waste Hierarchy:

end of life scenarios
Source: steelconstruction.info from the British Constructional Steelwork Association (BCSA)

Moving towards more sustainable procurement

Steel production is currently a source of greenhouse gas emissions (7% in 2020); however, the good news is that a revolution in steel production is now within reach.

The amount of energy used in steel manufacture has fallen by some 61% since the 1960s, according to World Steel Association data (2020), and further improvements are being sought from steel sector research and development investments.

In 2020, 1.8 gigatons (GT) of steel were produced, accounting for 90% of all metals globally. Major steel-producing countries, including China, Japan, the EU, and now the US, have set ambitious targets to reach net-zero economies. Achieving these demands will further advance the material efficiency of steel and the greater recycling of scrap steel.

In 2005, the British Constructional Steelwork Association (BCSA) became the first steel representative organisation in the UK to launch a Sustainability Charter. This was updated and strengthened in 2021 in response to the climate emergency. The objective of the Charter is to further advance steel as a sustainable form of construction in terms of carbon reduction, reuse and efficiency, economic viability, social progress, and environmental responsibility.

Similarly, leading manufacturers and suppliers of structural steel in the UK, British Steel, and Tata Steel, are certified under the BRE Environmental & Sustainability Standard BES 6001, a responsible sourcing certification for the UK construction market.

For these companies, sustainable procurement is part of wider corporate responsibility.

Severfield installing steel connections with Farrat TBK Structural Thermal Breaks at 22 Bishopsgate, London

Thermal efficiency in modern steel design

In respect of the energy efficiency of buildings constructed with steel, low and zero-carbon buildings, and buildings with high BREEAM ratings are readily achievable using steel construction.

Structural Thermal Breaks are commonly integrated into primary and secondary steel connections as high-performance thermal insulators that provide a robust solution to minimising energy loss in steel construction.

Performance characteristics of Farrat thermal break materials include low thermal conductivity, high compressive strength, and limited creep under load, which provides Steel Contractors and Structural Engineers with complete flexibility to modify typical structural steel details with confidence, without compromising thermal efficiency or conformance.

And unlike general thermal insulation materials on the market, Farrat Structural Thermal Breaks are suitable to mitigate against planar, linear, and point load thermal bridging whilst carrying structural loads, which means that they can be used anywhere a penetration or transition exists in a building envelope, helping Architects and designers to achieve the highest levels of building performance and energy standards.

Thermal efficiency credentials

Passive House is one of the highest standards for energy efficiency, granting certification to structures, components, and professionals who have achieved and designed the best in quality, efficiency, and sustainability. The criteria to gain the title of ‘Certified Passive House Component’ is based on two categories: living health and comfort (‘Comfort criteria’) and energy balance during practical application (‘Energy criteria’).

In 2019, Farrat’s high-strength Structural Thermal Break material Farrat TBK, was listed as a Certified Passive House Component by the Passive House Institute in recognition of its low thermal conductivity and superior energy efficiency performance.

Following this in 2020, Farrat’s A2 non-combustible fire-rated Structural Thermal Break material, Farrat TBF, was entered as an approved product into the BRE (Building Research Establishment) Certified Thermal Details and Products Scheme and was also awarded BBA (British Board of Agreement) certification.

The BRE is an international independent certification body, operating with the highest standards in the certification of fire, security, and environmental products and services, management processes, and other products and systems. Details provided within the BRE scheme are invaluable to building design professionals committed to creating energy-efficient structures and are especially useful for architects and structural engineers at the specification stage.

BRE Certified Thermal Details for both Farrat TBK and Farrat TBF thermal breaks are available online here.

“We have always placed a strong emphasis on impartial assessment and certification for our structural thermal break materials,” says Chris Lister, Commercial Manager of Structural Thermal Breaks at Farrat.

“It enables us to back up our commitment to creating cutting edge materials with practical value and sustainability, for buildings and structures of the future.”

Summary

Specifiers and contractors are responsible for addressing some of the biggest challenges facing the building construction industry in the race to net-zero.

Meeting these challenges head-on in terms of innovative energy efficiency, intelligent building design, and responsible sustainable building materials choices will be a key driver in reaching sustainability targets and safeguarding the future of the world.

For more information on integrating thermal break solutions into typical, or bespoke, structural steel connections, visit our Structural Thermal Break hub or one of our dedicated portals:

 

#onamission

Structural Thermal Breaks – a showcase of energy efficiency projects

We are pleased to share a few of our recent and upcoming projects, which highlight where Structural Thermal Breaks are commonly utilised across the building  construction industry to maximise energy efficiency.

Medius House, central London

As part of the redevelopment and refurbishment of Castlewood House and Medius House on New Oxford Street, this scheme will deliver 20 new affordable homes built over retail units in a central location, without losing the Grade II-listed façade of the existing building.

Farrat are working with Skanska to achieve the highest standard of structural and thermal insulation, with the supply of our high-strength, fire-rated Structural Thermal Break material Farrat TBF.  In a densely populated area such as central London, energy efficiency and fire safety are both vital considerations. Using an A2 Non-combustible thermal break not only achieved energy reducing thermal performance at the structural penetrations but also ensured the highest levels of building envelope fire safety.

The £83M design and build project is still in progress and we look forward to it’s completion in the future.

Medius House Farrrat FTB
Millford Green
Millford Green - image from Open Doors Construction

Millford Green

Farrat are supporting Willmott Dixon to deliver their first net-zero carbon project, with the supply of our low thermal conductivity and high compressive strength Structural Thermal Break material: Farrat TBK. Farrat TBK is the optimum balance of thermal and structural performance being as strong as steel but with over 100% better insulation performance.

The state-of-the-art carbon-neutral retirement living village will compromise of 80 apartments and one assisted living block at the centre of a sustainable village complex. Additional facilities will include a restaurant, swimming pool, yoga deck, library, craft room, and bike and buggy stores.

Gorton Community Hub

Gorton Community Hub is a new £22m community hub recently approved by Manchester Council for construction on a brownfield site in the previous location of a suburban pub.

Farrat is supplying A2 fire-rated Structural Thermal Breaks for integration into the steel-to-steel connections, to ensure structural integrity whilst assisting in achieving the highest levels of thermal performance.

The facility is set to be a ‘one-stop shop’ at the heart of the local community, which will enable residents to access much-needed services – bringing together doctor’s surgeries, mental health care services, and a library in one centre.

Farrat will supply A2 fire-rated Structural Thermal Breaks for integration between steel connections, to ensure structural integrity and provide high-performance thermal insulation.

Gorton Community Hub - image from Manchester Council

Travel Lodge Est Docklands

Farrat are supporting PTSG Access to deliver a new build contemporary Travelodge in the East India Dock area of London Docklands, on an undeveloped nearby brownfield site.

As well as allowing solid structural connections between external elements and the main structure, Farrat Structural Thermal Breaks reduce the heat sapping effects of thermal bridges making it possible for designs to meet the stringent energy performance requirements of a modern building.

The design is further reflective of the hospitality industry’s new focus on reducing their impact on the environment, with 40 percent of all parking spaces assigned as electric charging points. The hotel will also feature a ‘pocket park’ with enhanced landscaping to the perimeter with planting designed to mitigate air pollution.

Engineers on a mission for 2022

Farrat supports clients to deliver a wide range of projects across the world, with an increasing focus on social usefulness, energy efficiency, and sustainability. This might include bringing integrated services to regions that need them, working around issues surrounding utilising brownfield sites over greenfield, the promotion of the most reusable and recyclable materials such as steel, and superior insulation.

We are dedicated to continuing to work alongside forward-thinking partners and clients in 2022 to create the most energy-efficient and sustainable buildings, without compromising on design.

#onamission

Mission 2022: Support the world to a net-zero future

As companies and individuals, we have a responsibility to address the global environmental crisis with climate action.

Earlier this year, we learned that buildings and construction are now responsible for almost 40% of global carbon emissions driving rapid climate change. Based on the current rate of construction, the world is forecast to build more than 2t square feet of floor space in the next 40 years. This is the equivalent of adding an entire New York City every month. And in their current form, a large proportion of these buildings will be constructed out of concrete, with cement as its main ingredient. If the cement industry were a country, it would be the third-largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world, behind China and the US.

At Farrat, we’re dedicated to being an industry leader in the fight to work towards Net Zero by 2050.

In our 2022 mission video below, we explain our commitments for the year ahead and beyond.

Farrat commits to supporting the world towards a Net Zero future by placing the environment at the center of our decision-making. In addition to minimising the environmental footprint of our own business and manufacturing operations, we intend to use our technical expertise to support our clients and wider industries to deliver on their own Net Zero pledges.

 

Sustainability in manufacturing

Within the manufacturing industry, Farrat will support the growth of ‘recyclable’ metal industries and work with our clients to champion the manufacture of aluminum cans over PET bottles.

Through our Univib and IMPACT services, we will support sheet metal and can making manufacturers maximise OEE productivity and reduce waste and energy usage. And in our products and systems, we will advise our clients on how to control machine vibrations with minimal mass.

 

Sustainability in building and construction

Within the building construction industry, we will support the transition to lightweight structures across our markets, championing the use of steel instead of concrete. Through our full range of construction services and solutions, we will support the entire value chain – from developers and designers to specialist consultants and contractors – to control noise, vibration, and thermal bridging within buildings.

Our technical expertise will be tuned to engineer more sustainable solutions in a wide range of buildings, from high-rise towers to universities, hotels, airports, cinemas, theatres, and landmark concert halls. As we will help our clients to unlock the full potential of steel-framed buildings, building components, and secondary steelwork structures.

 

Social and environmental impact

As a result, our industrial clients will build leaner and more efficient manufacturing facilities that produce less waste and our construction clients will build with less material.

We will help to facilitate the repurposing of buildings, to create safe and more energy efficient structures where people can live, work and sleep comfortably, and we will push for the development of more connected and sustainable urban centers, with homes, offices, schools, universities and leisure facilities all located closer to each other and public transport networks.

Our end-users – the people who utilise all of these spaces – will live healthier, more fulfilling, and more sustainable lives where they can enjoy truly immersive entertainment venues, thanks to the tangible contributions that we have made along the way.

 

Our Mission in 2022 is to delight our customers, wherever they are in the world, with the best technical solutions to their engineering challenges whilst also making a tangible contribution to minimising the environmental impact of construction, manufacturing, and our own business operations.

 

#onamission