Fo­cus on:

We have a chat with sus­tain­abil­ity ex­pert Nigel Grif­fiths about his role at the Build It Live shows and our new Heat­ing Ad­vice Clinic for 2019

Build It - - EXTERIOR PRODUCTS -

As one of Build It Live’s ex­perts, what’s your spe­cialty?

I’m the show’s sus­tain­abil­ity and heat­ing ad­vi­sor. I was a builder for 15 years, and then a de­vel­oper for about 10 years. I’ve writ­ten a cou­ple of books on the topic, and I now run the Sus­tain­able Build­ings Al­liance, so I’ve had a whole host of ex­pe­ri­ence of the sub­ject from all an­gles.

My role in­volves ad­vis­ing those who come to the shows about their projects and I do a daily sem­i­nar on sus­tain­able build­ing op­tions. This cov­ers ev­ery­thing from ma­te­rial se­lec­tion to wa­ter usage, drainage sys­tems and the im­por­tance of nat­u­ral light. I also deal with en­ergy use, look­ing at both the build­ing’s fab­ric and heat­ing sys­tems.

Ul­ti­mately, the years I spent work­ing as a builder mean there’s a very prac­ti­cal ba­sis to the ad­vice I give. I’m not try­ing to tell any­one else how to live – I just give per­son­alised ad­vice that’s tai­lored to meet peo­ple’s own pri­or­i­ties as ef­fec­tively as pos­si­ble.

Are you go­ing to be telling vis­i­tors about any new trends or de­vel­op­ments within the sus­tain­abil­ity sec­tor? Some­thing I get asked about a lot is what kind of heat­ing sys­tem peo­ple should put into their self build prop­erty, be­cause in most houses, space heat­ing is the largest source of en­ergy con­sump­tion.

One thing start­ing to emerge is hy­brid heat pumps. These use elec­tri­cal power when the heat source is rea­son­ably good, like in the spring and au­tumn when the air tem­per­a­ture is slightly higher, but in win­ter when it is very low, they switch to a fos­sil fuel en­ergy source. They’re ob­vi­ously more ex­pen­sive than a stan­dard boiler or heat pump, but they do make best use of the re­new­able side of the re­source, be­cause an air source heat pump isn’t very ef­fi­cient dur­ing the colder months in the mid­dle of win­ter.

An­other thing that’s ris­ing up the agenda is the overuse of plas­tics and the per­ma­nent pol­lu­tion they cause. We only in­tro­duced these ma­te­ri­als in the 20th cen­tury, but we’re still go­ing to be dig­ging that stuff up in around a thou­sand years’ time.

So do you think that ma­te­rial usage is go­ing to be a big dis­cus­sion point at Build It Live?

This is one of the core points of the sem­i­nar talks I give. Be­ing truly sus­tain­able is about more than just the en­ergy we con­sume. I’m equally con­cerned about the type of ma­te­ri­als we use and the way we use them in our build­ings. If we get the ap­proach to con­struc­tion right, we will min­imise the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact of new build­ings.

Even think­ing about the tragedy at Gren­fell, it ap­pears to be the oil­based in­su­la­tion that pro­vided the fuel for the fire to take hold.

So in light of that har­row­ing event, plus what we’re dis­cov­er­ing that we’ve done to our beaches and oceans, I think we re­ally ought to be pri­ori­tis­ing a re­duc­tion in plas­tic usage in the build­ing in­dus­try. I’m glad peo­ple are start­ing to think more about how to do this and what can be achieved if we start to think dif­fer­ently.

How can self builders cre­ate a more sus­tain­able home? Get the ori­en­ta­tion and the fab­ric of the prop­erty right. In my sem­i­nar, I give an in-depth ex­pla­na­tion of the six prin­ci­ples of pas­sive so­lar de­sign, which are: ori­en­ta­tion, glaz­ing, ther­mal mass in con­struc­tion, su­per-in­su­la­tion, air tight­ness and so­lar shad­ing. If you can get all of that right, you cre­ate a build­ing that doesn’t need much heat­ing at all.

I get the oc­ca­sional per­son com­ing to see me who says they’re build­ing with straw bales, hemp or some­thing else un­com­mon. I think us­ing waste prod­ucts to build with is ab­so­lutely ideal – in my mind, this is how to be truly sus­tain­able.

How can home­own­ers best go about choos­ing their new home’s heat­ing sys­tem?

Whether you’re cre­at­ing a house from scratch or up­dat­ing an ex­ist­ing prop­erty, the best heat­ing setup will be down to your fam­ily’s needs and the na­ture of the build­ing. For in­stance, if you have got a su­perin­su­lated prop­erty then the most cost-ef­fec­tive and sus­tain­able op­tion might be a small gas combi boiler, which will have a far lower en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact than in­stalling a ground source heat pump. But if the house is off-grid, then re­new­able sys­tems may well be a bet­ter fit. You also need to think about the type of emit­ter you plan to in­stall.

New for 2019, we’re launch­ing a Heat­ing Ad­vice Clinic at Build It Live, where ex­perts will be on hand to talk about var­i­ous so­lu­tions and pro­vide in­sight into what might work best for you – this is an­other fan­tas­tic re­source to help you get the most out of your pro­ject.

Plus, be sure to at­tend my sem­i­nar for an over­view of the key op­tions when it comes to cre­at­ing and run­ning a sus­tain­able home. We will open the floor up for ques­tions, so if you want clar­i­fi­ca­tion on some­thing, that’s a good op­por­tu­nity.

The rest of the week­end, I’ll be based in the Ask Our Ex­perts area, where you can book a 10-minute slot to chat with me about your heat­ing and sus­tain­abil­ity queries one-on-one.

Don’t miss our 2-for-1 ticket of­fer to Build It Live on page 34!

The first Build It Live show of the year will be head­ing to the Kent Event Cen­tre on the 8th - 9th of Fe­bru­ary

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