Concrete Compass: Housing
Concrete and masonry are commonly used in the construction of housing, for both low-rise houses and higher-rise apartments. Their use brings many benefits for construction and the long-term performance of homes, and continues to evolve in response to wider environmental sustainability considerations such as whole life carbon emissions and resilience to climate change. This compass provides navigation to some of the most recent and relevant resources for those involved with the design, development, and construction of new homes.
The built-in benefits of masonry homes are presented in this webinar recording, with an overview of the benefits and construction of low rise residential and high rise residential on website pages.
A good source of residential case studies is Concrete Quarterly magazine. The archive of all editions can be found here. In addition, visit the Case Studies section and use a building type search for ‘Flat and Apartments’ or ‘Houses’ to provide links to numerous built example of residential development using concrete and masonry, as well as a map for their location in the UK.
Net zero carbon homes
Max Fordham house was the first residential building in the UK to be verified as net zero carbon (in line with the UKGBC’s Net Zero Carbon Buildings Framework). The use of masonry and concrete was fundamental to the comfort and energy performance of the building. Further details of the project are provided in a webinar recording by Ali Shaw, Max Fordham Associate Engineers.
He is joined on the webinar by Dr Jerry Harrell describing Howgate Close, a development of nine new rural homes in Nottinghamshire that utilise the thermal mass of concrete to dramatically cut heating energy consumption leading the development to subsequently be called ‘zero heated buildings’.
There remains useful information to be gleaned from the research carried out in 2012 in collaboration with A2 Dominion Homes, to provide practical, cost-effective specification for mainstream zero-carbon homes (as defined at the time).
Concrete and masonry can be used to construct highly energy efficient housing, and there are plenty of examples built to meet or exceed regulated thermal performance requirements, using a fabric first approach. Guidance is provided in the webinar: Energy-efficient design using concrete and masonry with specific guidance on meeting the current building regulations here (Concrete and masonry dwellings - Part L 2021.)
Exemplars of energy efficient design include:
- The Project 80 development demonstrates the effective use of masonry to meet Future Homes Standard requirements.
- The first Passivhaus accredited house in England, Underhill House was constructed using a precast concrete structure. A collection of subsequent developments, mostly housing, using a range of concrete construction techniques is presented in the webinar, Passivhaus projects in concrete.
The energy efficiency compass provides guidance on other useful resources.
Whole life carbon
There are many opportunities for reducing the whole life carbon emissions of concrete through material efficiency design and selection of lower carbon concrete options. Navigation to a wealth of guidance is provided through the low carbon concrete and material efficiency compasses. Resources specific to housing include the publication Life cycle carbon analysis of a six-storey residential building which compares results of different structural and specification solutions a subsequent webinar Learning from life cycle analysis shares lessons learnt from the project.
Resilience to climate change
Designing resilient homes provides an overview of guidance on the inherent climate change resilience concrete and masonry provide for housing to the growing environmental risks of flooding overheating and fire. A range of articles related to the topic are also available in the publication Building Resilience in a Changing Climate.
Recent years have seen an increased risk of overheating in many new homes, and the situation is predicted to increase with changes in our climate. Mitigation is now a requirement in the Building regulations through Part O. Design strategies for tackling overheating include the use of thermal mass with night cooling. Resources for guidance on the use of thermal mass to reduce overheating and meeting Part O include the publication Overheating and webinar Overheating and Part O.
Further guidance on thermal mass in general and its benefits in housing are available on the pages of this website dedicated to different aspects of thermal mass including links to further publications including Thermal Mass Explained and Thermal Mass for Housing.
Masonry and concrete can be used to enhance the flood resilience of new properties. Their structural integrity is typically retained in the presence of water, thus limiting the extent of damage occurring in from leaking pipes etc, but also from other flood events.
They are used successfully to lift properties above the predicted flood levels, and concrete pontoons are a common method of supporting floating houses, but concrete walls and floors can also be designed to resist the entry of water into a home below flood waters. There are many concrete products designed to be used with SUDS, including permeable concrete paving, an established strategy for reducing potential flood damage.
An overview of masonry and concrete construction for homes can be found here with a recent case study here Insert link to CQ technical article on flooding.
The regulation, guidance and requirements related to fire in residential development has changed considerably in recent years. A significant and fundamental performance benefit of concrete for all residential construction is its non-combustibility and slow rate of heat transfer.
Concrete ensures that structural integrity remains, fire compartmentation is not compromised and shielding from heat can be relied upon. The extent of damage after a fire is also significantly reduced. Read here for more information.
Understanding the evolving concepts behind health and wellbeing in homes is explored in the article ‘How we want to live’ and the webinar Healthy resilient homes and buildings. Guidance on concretes role in biophilic design can be found here.
Intensive green roofs, and planted podium decks offer opportunity to support the inclusion of planting in new developments, providing access to nature, but also contribution to the biodiversity rating of a project.
The Green Roof Code of Best Practice for the UK states that where a flat roof is to act as a roof terrace or roof garden, in other words an intensive green roof, they should only be used in conjunction with concrete decks. Innovative concrete products are also evolving to create habitat for flora and fauna.
As performance requirements for housing evolves, so does the way in which concrete products are used in construction, most specifically with regarding to junctions with other materials. The following resources provide guidance for detailing and construction using concrete and masonry relevant to new housing.
Recognised Construction Details ™ - A new online tool, funded by the masonry industry, provides coordinated and verified details for the design of key thermal junctions in new housing. Each with a pre-calculated Psi value for use in SAP calculations.
How to achieve good levels of airtightness in masonry homes - This guide gives an introduction to the topics of airtightness and air leakage and discusses the basic principles of airtightness.
U-values for concrete and masonry external walling systems and materials - a selection of over 80 insulated concrete and masonry wall construction options with their expected U values, and thermal mass performance, for use in early design development
Easy Guide: Cavity walls - practical introduction to the characteristics, performance benefits and latest design guidance for insulated cavity walls in construction.
Easy Guide: Concrete Blocks - practical introduction to the characteristics, performance benefits and latest design guidance for concrete blocks in construction.
Easy Guide: Beam and Block Ground Floors - practical introduction to the characteristics, performance benefits and latest design guidance for beam and block ground floors.
How to design masonry structures to Eurocode 6 - This suite of three publications includes the documents 'Introduction'; 'Vertical Stability' and 'Lateral Stability'. Their aim is to make the use of Eurocode 6, Design of masonry structures as easy as possible by drawing together in one place key information and commentary required for the structural design of typical masonry elements.
How to achieve acoustic performance in masonry homes - information relating to the acoustic design of attached masonry homes, to assist home builders, developers, architects and specifiers in improving sound insulation and achieving good levels of acoustic performance in attached houses and apartments.
Webinar event: High Performance Masonry Housing - This session considers the ways in which detailed design and specification is evolving to help new housing to meet current regulations and carbon targets, and look forward to the Future Homes Standard 2025.
Basements for housing - Guidance on the benefits of basements for housing and principles of construction and design.
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