05 June 2019
Sponsored by Temple Group
Max Fordham House - submitted by bere:architects
Max Fordham House is a pathfinder project that demonstrates how a skilled, proud and motivated workforce can produce high-quality, beautifully-crafted buildings; Max Fordham House is exemplary in technical performance, the collaborative way it was delivered, and its construction quality.
The environmental engineer Max Fordham’s new home is an ultra-low energy, all-electric, contemporary home - one of the most advanced high-performance houses in the UK. Max has designed it to be capable of working as a zero-heat house on the coldest day of a typical year.
In 2004, Max Fordham helped shape Justin Bere’s approach to environmental design. In 2015, Max invited Justin to design a new house for him and his wife, blending Passive House expertise with Max’s own personal approach to environmental design, centred around Max’s concept of ‘building metabolism’; i.e utilising internal gains to compensate for heat losses, to minimise heating and cooling needs.
The key technical innovation is to demonstrate the enhanced winter heat demand reduction achieved by the development of a unique concept of insulated sliding shutters that, if successful, might be a prototype for future new build and retrofit projects alike.
The key process innovation was to create a new form of design and construction team collaboration to minimise the risks of dispute caused by expecting a contractor to deliver exemplary technical quality and a challenging innovation, while also requiring them to tender and perform to ‘top-down’ requirements. What was also needed was a multi-skilled and genuinely innovative contractor, rather than simply a delivery vehicle.
Sustainability in focus
Max Fordham House builds on renowned physicist and environmental engineer Max Fordham’s life’s work in sustainable construction. The balanced ‘building metabolism’ approach is ground-breaking; combining Passive House with carefully sized glazing and innovative insulated shutters in order to harness internal gains to compensate for heat losses to create a near-zero-heating home.
Max Fordham House’s fabric-first, Passive House approach results in a building that is comfortable and healthy year-round but requires only a tiny fraction of the energy required by a similar size home built to the minimum requirements of UK Building Regulations (for all uses including heating).
It utilises super-insulation without cold-bridges, draught-free construction using a continuous airtightness layer, high-performance triple glazing with insulated frames, and a heat recovery ventilation system. This is combined with specially designed, automated, insulated shutters on windows close during periods when windows would be net loosing heat (e.g. cold winter nights). They were the innovation of client, Max Fordham, and were extensively prototyped and developed by Bow Tie Construction with input from bere:architects and Max Fordham LLP.
The project demonstrates the benefits of investing in skills and how respectful, collaborative working between skilled people with aligned objectives creates a positive working environment and the best possible result for clients. It brings together client Max Fordham’s knowledge and design philosophy, bere:architects’ synthesis of architectural design performance, Max Fordham LLP’s services design experience, and is testament to Bow Tie Construction’s investment in skills. It demonstrates how good team processes, information sharing tools, and cooperative team culture can deliver for clients and for the environment.
Early outcome meetings with all design and construction team members and collaborative pre-contract value engineering and buildability reviews ensured sustainability objectives were supported across the team and were deliverable on budget. A very detailed set of construction drawings, 3D BIM model, and bills of quantities helped the contractor order ‘just-enough’ as well as ‘just-in-time’, reducing management time and site waste and easing pressure for material storage on the tight site.
A collaborative manner to running the contract and ‘no blame’ culture enabled queries or unexpected site discoveries to be resolved smoothly and without delay and ensured issues were discussed and learnt from. This was assisted by the use of a cloud-based construction site management platform – an unusual innovation on a project of this size – enabling instant sharing and instructing of drawings, site photographs, and cost information, building trust and streamline the process of agreeing on variations.
Even with the range of challenges (including the ambitious brief, developing a completely new shutter product, and the logistics of a tight site) the project completed within a few hundred pounds of the budget – a notable achievement on such a challenging building site.
As part of the whole team’s commitment to dissemination and ongoing learning, the monitoring results from the building will be used to improve future projects and share learning with the wider industry
By demonstrating and prototyping (including monitoring and sharing learning) and streamlining the delivery of low-energy homes, bere:architects hope to make the sustainable construction sector more scalable and more profitable. They note that if this became the norm for UK homes, the environmental, social (e.g. reducing fuel poverty), and health benefits would be enormous; in addition to major benefits to the UK economy and significant numbers of attractive new ‘green’ jobs.
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The SECBE 2019 Sustainability Award is sponsored by Temple Group.