30 innovations

that have

changed

the face of

the built

environment

Game Changing Products and Technology

Success in design and construction inevitably involves products and technology. When the industry is working well there is a dialogue between designers, product manufacturers, technology inventors and construction delivery.

We surveyed 11 specifiers and asked ‘Looking back over your time in practice, what have been the ‘game changing’ products and technologies that have influenced your work?’ From this we have compiled a list of 30 products that have changed the face of the Built Environment.

Game Changing innovations in energy

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Liv Andersson
Sustainability engineer, Buro Happold

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Hemp insulation

Hemp makes an excellent insulator that is both durable and low carbon.

Active Distribution Network (Smart Grids)

Capable of real-time monitoring of the whole grid, distributing energy to where its most needed.

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BHoM (Buildings and Habitats object Model)

BHoM is a collaborative, open source computational development project for the built environment.

Duncan Baker Brown

Duncan Baker-Brown
Co-Founder, BBM Sustainable Design Limited

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Thermal energy modelling

Thermal energy modelling allows us to insert all the relevant data about an existing or future building and understand the energy performance.

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Raw organic materials

Changing to organic materials gives designers the option to use non-toxic materials and continue to build low carbon homes with better air quality.

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Mycelium

These are thin root-like fibres from fungi that, when dried, can be used as a super strong, water, mould and fire resistant building material for insulation or construction.

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Tom Bennett
Architect, Studio Bark

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Expanded cork blocks

We started a project to create a “solid cork” building, eliminating the need for frames, linings, glues, tapes etc.

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Mycelium insulation

We are excited about the possibility of phasing out petrochemical based insulations.

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Software: Rhino/Grasshopper / Ladybug/honeybee

Grasshopper in Rhino is a robust development platform that you can use to design many components. 

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Chaline Church
Interiors Architect & Founder, Freespace design

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Cradle to Cradle Certified Products

This is a globally recognised measure for safer, more sustainable products made for the circular economy. In particular, Accoya Timber.

GraphenstonePaint

CO² absorbing paint

Graphenstone paint with its steel-strong graphene nanotechnology is a great product because it has the interior health benefits of not off gassing carcinogens.

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3D printing

3D printing of entire filled rooms with interior objects to scale was a very visual delivery that gave me the ability to abstract and explore, practical questions.

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Bill Dunster OBE
Architect and founder, Zedfactory

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Glass/ Glass mono BIPV

Solar electric silicon wafers laminated between two sheets of glass with 3 mm gaps that transmit daylight. 

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Lithium ion phosphate battery – LiPo4 

This compact, chemically stable and lightweight battery is interchangeable with personal electric transport. 

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Proctor Wraptite

Proctor Wraptite, a self-adhesive, vapour permeable air tightness membrane achieves energy efficiency.  

Mark Elton

Mark Elton
Associate Director, Cowan Architects

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Rockwool’s dual density insulation range

It ticks every box: very low thermal conductivity, excellent acoustic properties, vapour open; and has a Euroclass fire rating of A1 non-combustible.

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Pavatex’s PavaDry woodfibre insulation boards

Manufactured from waste timber (spruce and fir), the boards are designed to be fixed to the interior surface of solid walled buildings – a notoriously tricky environment.

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Q-Bot

Insulating floors at scale is incalculably disruptive – the Q-Bot solution brings a hitherto unheard of level of technology and smart working to the retrofit world.

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Chris Morgan
Director, John Gilbert Architects

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Breathable / natural / non-toxic insulations

Now we can solve all energy, maintenance, breathability / air quality / toxicity problems in one go, and that’s a big deal.

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‘Proper’ airtightness tapes

Seems old hat now but only 15 years ago you really had to mechanically fit battens over each join in an airtight membrane to make sure it didn’t unstick.

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MVHR (Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery)

A reason I got into Passivhaus was that the only way I could see through the ridiculous airtight / ventilation nonsense was MVHR!

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Robin Nicholson
Partner, Cullinan Studio

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Cross-laminated timber

I didn’t see the benefit when I first saw it. I bought one but don’t believe it really works!

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Glass mounted PV’s

I think that the integration of pvs and sunshading is yet to be fully realised.

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MVHR (Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery)

This prompted me to remember that we used MVHR in the student rooms in our UeL Docklands Campus.

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Robert prewett
Director, Prewett bizley

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Evacuated glass

Goodbye to massive frames, potentially making retrofit of windows that work with character as well as the energy performance targets. 

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Marmox

Once masonry construction guaranteed massive thermal bridges at junction and the base of walls. Marmox blocks are one of various ways of dealing with this.

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Lime

Lime is of course an ancient traditional material. I like thousands of others have rediscovered it as a material for mortars and renders.

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Chris Twinn 
Principal, Twinn Sustainability Innovation 

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Large Wind Turbines

Transformed the electrical grid from a coal based energy source to a future of clean and healthy renewable energy.

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Micro Heat Pumps  

Can harness very low grade waste heat in our buildings, and upgrade it for immediate reuse. 

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Advanced Buildings Physics Computer Modelling 

Provides understanding of how passive building material can do much of the effort instead of  ‘big’ technology. 

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Jane Wernick
Consultant structural engineer, engineershrw

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Continuing advances in computers / digital tech 

For design, analysis, construction methods and data gathering – it will probably be the most significant cause and enabler of change.

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Thermal break connections for reinforced concrete

A preformed set or cage of stainless steel reinforcing bars that pass through a strip of insulation – so we can now have cantilevered balconies without cold bridges.

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Cross-laminated timber

The development of the cross-laminated (CLT) timber industry has made it much easier to design timber buildings. 

Bill Dunster

<span style=”color:#000000″>Bill Dunster OBE</span> architect and founder, zedfactory

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Glass/ Glass mono BIPV

The mass production of monocrystalline solar electric silicon wafers laminated between two sheets of glass with 3 mm gaps that transmit daylight has been an influential technology. These products are often called glass or glass mono building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV).

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Lithium ion phosphate battery – LiPo4 

This compact, chemically stable and lightweight battery is interchangeable with personal electric transport and can store sufficient renewable energy in a building clad in BIPV to power most lifestyles and workstyles throughout night and day.

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Proctor Wraptite

Proctor has developed Wraptite, a self-adhesive, vapour permeable airtightness membrane, to achieve energy efficiency in buildings. This moves the air barrier to the outside of the building, so there are far fewer opportunities for air to penetrate the barrier.

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