Blog: SECBE Awards 2021 finalist - TopHat

31 May 2021

sponsored by Willmott Dixon


Sustainability SECBE Award 2021 finalist

TopHat has quietly set about creating one of the lowest carbon impact homes in the UK, with an initial focus on the South East of England. 

Their standard home is one of the lowest carbon homes available in the UK, without the use of offsetting.

To test this statement, they commissioned BLP to undertake an assessment and they concluded:

  1. A TopHat home will save 61,828 kg C02 over the life of the house. This is a 55% reduction in the amount of the C02 when compared to a traditional masonry-built house, or a saving equivalent to living car free for over 30 years1.
  2. The actual embodied C02 in the TopHat home, when compared to a traditional home is 1/27th, being 729 kg C02 v 19,692 kg C02. This means that 1 traditional house has the same embodied carbon of 27 TopHat homes!2 It is also worth noting that planting one tree in the garden of each home will offset all the carbon.
  3. Without the use of PVs, the same TopHat home will also have all its lighting, heating and hot water delivered for less than 90p/day3. With PVs installed, this figure reduces to c.10p/day.

These incredible figures are achieved because:

  • They use timber for their core structure, creating a positive environmental impact.
  • They eliminated the use of bricks and have developed a 3D printed brick system, which emits c.10% of the carbon of bricks.
  • They produce homes that are incredibly airtight, with their Kitchener Barracks homes achieving 0.94m3/hr/m2@50pa.
  • They use ASHPs as standard for heating, reducing running costs and emissions. These basic principles are common across all their standard homes, and typically delivered at a cost of around £1,600m2.

With a few enhancements, such as the addition of integral, NuLok PVs instead of roof tiles, their standard home can be upgraded to a zero embodied and zero in operations carbon home, at a cost of less than £5,000 per home.

Where they have found themselves with carbon-heavy products, such as bricks and brick slips, they have developed new products that meet the same performance and aesthetic at a fraction of the impact on the environment. This ethos lives strong within TopHat and drives them to continually challenge their accepted wisdom of what is possible within the built environment.

Key facts:

  • The embodied carbon of a standard TopHat home is 1/27th of that of a traditional masonry-built home and can be offset by planting a single tree in the garden of that home.
  • The whole life carbon of a standard TopHat home is 55% less than that of a traditional masonry-built home.
  • TopHat has developed new products that address the carbon agenda, where a suitable product does not already exist, such as their 3D printed brick solution. They will innovate where they cannot find a solution.

1(61,828 kgC02 ÷ 2,000 kgC02 (average car consumption p.a.) = 30.9 years)

2(19,692 kgC02 ÷ 729 kgC02 = 27)

3(2,330kWh x 14p/kWh = £326.20 / 365 = 89.4p)

About the Sustainability Award: 

High environmental and climate performance in construction aims to meet present day needs for housing, working environments and infrastructure without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs in times to come. It seeks to limit impact on the natural environment and demonstrate whole life sustainability. It is most effective when organisational culture, high design quality, technical innovation and transferability are abundant. More info.

Find out who wins at the Constructing Excellence SECBE Awards 2021 Summit & Awards Ceremony on Thurs 1st July 2021. Free attendance.

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