With energy prices continuing to rise, creating energy-efficient homes that are affordable to build and run is more vital now than it ever has been. However, housebuilders need to transform the way they develop their designs to deliver the step-change in efficiency that customers are demanding.
Only by monitoring and analysing the performance of our houses after they are occupied can we learn how they are performing in real-world scenarios. This will challenge our assumptions and identify areas for development.
As the technology within our homes becomes more complex and efficiency targets increase, there is the potential for the ‘performance gap’ – the gap between the theoretical design performance and what is actually delivered on site – to widen.
It is therefore important we measure and evaluate how our homes are performing and use that data to drive continuous improvement in our designs. This process of feedback and improvement is essential to provide the advances in efficiency that are needed.
In response to this challenge, St. Modwen Homes has recently completed two carbon-negative properties at its Heathy Wood development in Copthorne. The affordable homes are part of a trial delivering some of the most energy-efficient properties in the world. The three-bedroom homes produce more energy than they consume and could cut total energy bills by 66% when compared with a standard new-build house and 79% compared with the average UK home.
The homes are fitted with a wide range of sensors and meters that enable St. Modwen Homes to amass real-time data. We are able to monitor in extraordinary detail how energy is generated, stored and used, as well as temperature, humidity and air quality – and we can use this data to calculate how well the building fabric and systems are performing.
The results of this monitoring will inform our future plans and refine our approach to delivering carbon-negative houses at scale. We will be able to assess which technologies deliver the biggest efficiency improvements and which ones fall short.
With trials such as this, we aim to inspire a cultural shift in the industry, demonstrating the power of tech and data in developing better products and the positive impact we can have. By building super-efficient houses, we also hope to change buyers’ mindsets, so they consider how a home is built as much as where it is built.
As part of our Responsible Business Ambitions, which are six core areas where we strive to make a sustained difference to society and the environment, we’re committed to being an operationally net zero carbon business by 2025 and a fully net zero carbon business by 2040.
The industry needs to transform its way of working by innovating and developing instead of just building then selling. These changes don’t happen overnight, but we need to be faster in making them happen. We need to build, test, improve and repeat. That’s how you achieve better results – using technology and data to learn more, refine faster and develop more efficient products to enable a better future.
Chris Bailey is head of technical at developer St. Modwen Homes – South