Now that the glamour of being photographed beside the latest renewable technology of wind turbines and solar farms has worn off, the principle of Fabric First is being recognised as a more immediate and reliable process of improving energy efficiency in buildings.
Even without the subsidies and grants awarded for generating energy, the benefits and long term economy of improving the performance of building fabric has at last been recognised as more significant in the equation of balancing our environmental impact.
FABRIC FIRST has become the strapline for sustainable construction. After all, if you build a decent stable with a well fitted door, the horse (i.e. energy) wouldn’t be able to bolt and, given the improved comfort levels in the building, probably wouldn’t want to anyway!
Retaining energy in the building reduces energy demand and the detrimental effect of lost energy on the ice caps. Reducing energy demand reduces energy costs and environmental impact. The more passive buildings are in terms of energy needs, the more the environmental impact is reduced – permanently.
Insulation is the Key Ingredient
By improving the performance of building fabric – thermal insulation, air tightness, elimination of cold bridges – energy demand is reduced. ICF (Insulating Concrete Formwork) building systems do just that, as a complete formwork system to contain the concrete structure they are also a complete insulation system to contain the energy. ICF (Insulation Comes First) is a primary means of reducing energy demand in buildings, and the Wallform ICF system has been designed and detailed to maximise the efficiency of the building envelope.
The simple logic of ICF construction enhances the overall performance of the building – insulation on the face of the wall where it is most effective, complete insulation with good airtightness and no thermal bridging. With nothing to rot, corrode or deteriorate over time, a Wallform structure will last significantly longer than other forms of construction.
Although build costs are increasingly competitive as ICF becomes more popular, long life expectancy places Wallform ICF ahead of alternative building methods in terms of both Total Life Costing and carbon footprint.
AND – should the building reach the end of its useful life, the materials can be recycled into a new generation of building materials.
Fabric First – Productivity Next
While ICF construction is a practical route to raising performance standards, UK construction still has to overcome the problem of productivity which has not improved in recent years. Efforts to upgrade the performance of traditional building methods have complicated the building process and constrained output.
Wallform ICF, on the other hand, actually simplifies the building process, speeding up the rate of build at the same time as producing a strong structure which is fully insulated and airtight in its basic format. Other than use of a concrete pump to place the concrete, the building process does not require any specialist tools or equipment to achieve high rates of productivity.
Quality of construction is also improved as the materials’ functions overlap – no leakage of concrete through the formwork means no leakage of energy as there are no gaps in the insulation. Similarly as the structure is built, the concrete seals it with a high level of airtightness. First fix services are then recessed easily into the insulation substrate, with no effect on airtightness.
The practical building technique means that upskilling the existing workforce is a relatively smooth process of transition. The introduction of ICF methods causes minimal disruption and is an opportunity for the existing workforce to raise levels of output in the process of adopting a Modern Method of Construction. Site performance is improved and the processes of procurement and management made easier as a consequence of a simpler building method.