Bucking the Trend

We reveal the mysteries of how to design and build better homes.

The Racecourse Estate in Houghton le Spring is an anomaly. It is to say the least a very unusual housing development of 28 bungalows. To understand why this is the case you need to know a little more about the construction industry.

Back in about 2007 Leeds Beckett University were conducting some research at Stamford Brook. They were working on a housing development that was being designed to achieve an advanced standard of construction.

The results from their work, like other work they have conducted, demonstrated a significant gap between the theoretical design and the actual performance. The houses used 30% to 60% more energy than they should have done.

They determined the reason for this error was due to failings in the design and construction process. This means that whilst the houses that had been studied theoretically satisfied the design standards, in practice, they did not.

I don’t know about you, but I find this disconcerting.

If you go to a shop and purchase a birthday present for your daughter or your niece, and then find that it is defective, you have rights as a consumer. You are protected by the Consumer Protection Act (CPA). This means you can return the faulty good and get it replaced. Easily.

If a trader deliberately misleads you and causes you to make a different decision to the one that you might have made if you had all the facts, then they fall foul of the CPA.

What happens when you’ve bought a new house that you have been told complies with the Building Regulations, but in fact uses more energy than it should, not because you are using it inappropriately, but because the house has been designed or built incorrectly?

Nothing. Nada. Tipota. Because you, the unsuspecting owner, expects the house to perform as intended nothing happens at all. This is despite your rights as a consumer having been breached and the fact that the Consumer Protection Act is on your side.

…And this is where the Racecourse Estate comes in.

Bucking the Trend 2 Tracing Green Aug2015

You see, at the Raceourse Estate there are a number of irregularities that set it apart. Firstly, according to the research by Leeds Beckett University, the houses they studied actually perform as predicted.

That’s right, for the first time in over 10 years of research they finally found some houses that did exactly what they should do. Standing in contrast to the other 95% of properties that they have rigorously examined.

It’s worth dwelling on this for a moment longer because all the projects that Leeds Beckett had studies were meant to be the best example of good practice. Not the regular housing you find just anywhere. So if 95% of the best housing was failing, often significantly, what could this say about the other ‘industry standard’ housing? I shudder to think.

But it does not end here. Energy is not the only concern.

Maintaining fresh air within a house, or any building, is vital to maintaining the health and wellbeing of the people that live in and use the building.

Researcher Sterling Howieson has observed that guidance in the Building Regulations (Part F to be precise) poses a serious and insidious health risk. Why? Because the provision of ventilation slots in windows (trickle vents) does not provide sufficient ventilation.

Studies by the construction industry organisation BSRIA have shown that 95% of mechanically ventilated homes are not ventilated properly.Further research, conducted on behalf of the Technology Strategy Board (Innovate UK), has found that these vents, necessary for fresh air, get closed by residents in order to prevent drafts. It may not be a surprise that people elect to be comfortable, however it is unsettling to think that these actions can result in increased risks of blooming dust mite populations, mould growth and asthma attacks.

Studies by the construction industry organisation BSRIA have shown that 95% of mechanically ventilated homes are not ventilated properly. (By properly I mean in accordance with the Building Regulations.) As if this statistic were not damning enough, other research that has been conducted on behalf of the government has reached similar conclusions.

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Racecourse is in the top 5% of housing developmentsOkay. Back to Racecourse. I’m going to guess that you know what I’m going to tell you next. I’m going to guess that you are predicting that the Racecourse Estate is, once again, in the minority whereby the houses examined perform exactly as intended….

…Well …you’d be correct.

Not bad huh? Not bad at all.

Racecourse is in the top 5% of housing developments. The houses are provided with just the right amount of fresh air to provide good indoor air quality. If you are keeping score then you’ll notice Racecourse has achieved something special not once but twice.

Can it get better than this?

Sure it can.

After having done all these tests the boffins at Leeds Beckett went even deeper with their research. They conducted house by house surveys. Then they collated all that information and entered it into a database of other projects.

subscribe banner 225x200What they found was that the people living in the houses rated them so highly that the results were, almost, off the charts. That’s right. The people hands down love the houses more than any others on the database. A multitude of parameters were examined and almost every time it came out on top.

What this means is that not only are the scientific measurements showing the houses do EXACTLY what they should, the people living in them are thrilled with the end result.

…So here you have it. One weird housing project that bucks the trend. …massively.

It is one thing for a small one off house to buck the trend, but it is something completely different for a large project to achieve this.

So, how did Racecourse achieve this? Basically it used quality assurance measures that are unlike those used by the rest of the industry. These houses are deigned to achieve the Passivhaus Standard.

If you are an ethical developer, or a diligent professional, and you’d like to go deeper to find out how the Racecourse Estate bucked the trend and became such a success then why not read a free report that I’ve written for you. ….Or, if you don’t like reading then how about the informative video that I’ve prepared?

If you would like to discover how you can master Quality Assured Procurement for Large, Complex Building Projects, then look for the free report at www.PassivhausMastery.co.uk

About Mark Siddall

Passionate about enabling people to lead happier, healthier and more fulfilling lives, Mark Siddall created LEAP in order to design homes and workplaces where people can thrive. As an architect, Mark specialises in helping his clients create characterful, modern buildings and low impact communities that have a rich sense of place. Being one of the UK’s leading experts in quality assured, warm, healthy, sustainable, low energy design many of Mark's current projects satisfy the internationally renowned Passivhaus Standard. Following the success of the UK Passivhaus Award winning Steel Farm, he prepared a documentary revealing how to design and construct homes to the Passivhaus Standard …without breaking the bank. To get instant access to the in-depth 3-part video series go to www.PassivhausSecrets.co.uk To get instant access to FREE ‘how to guides’ and informative videos about building and renovating in the North of England go to www.MarkSiddall.co.uk

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