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BRE launches new open air test facility
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The BRE Centre for Innovative Construction Materials recently launched a new facility funded by the EPSRC to test low carbon construction materials and systems in realistic open-air conditions. The HIVE, based at the University of Bath’s Building Research Park, Swindon, is the first facility of its kind in the UK.

The project was officially opened by the University’s Chancellor, HRH The Earl of Wessex on Thursday 25 September. Research planned at the Building Research Park will analyse the environmental impact of construction materials in the future – including their energy efficiency, flood resilience, structural capability and internal air quality.

The building has eight individual cells which are carefully constructed to be completely insulated from each other, each with a single face left exposed to the external environment. The faces are used to install walls made from a whole range of materials and construction systems, and the performance of these walls is evaluated in real life conditions – creating a more accurate picture of environmental performance than the u-value assessments currently used in building regulations.

The HIVE is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and is located at a site used by The Science Museum – their storage facility at the site built from Hempcrete, itself an innovative construction material.

Speaking at the launch, BRE Group Chief Executive Dr Peter Bonfield said “this new facility will foster the innovation solutions for the benefit of the UK and other countries around the world. I have no doubt that the Hive will become a national asset, an exemplar of world class Britain: forward looking, forward thinking and leading the charge for better more sustainable and resilient construction in the UK and worldwide. “

The BRE Centre for Innovative Construction Materials at the University of Bath is one of five University centres of excellence in the UK supported by the BRE Trust, the research and education charity that owns the BRE Group. A sixth Centre of Excellence recently opened at the University of Brasilia in Brazil.

Lesley Thompson, EPSRC’s Director of Science and Engineering, said: “Our investment in the HIVE will allow researchers to study the carbon emissions and environmental impact of construction materials and will make a real difference to the future of construction both in the UK and worldwide..”

Dr Mike Lawrence, Director of the Building Research Park said: “Finding new, sustainable methods of construction – properly tested in a real building such as the HIVE – is essential if the UK is to lead the way in low carbon homes and meet challenging emissions targets.”

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